Do you have Hallowe’en candy left? We did. But then we had houseguests. But while we didhave leftover candy, I made these sweet somethings. I forgot to photograph the middle part but I’m trusting you to know what I’m talking about.
Start with some hardshelled chocolate candy. You want the stuff with shells otherwise the chocolate will just melt out of your cookie and ruin the structure. Here I have M&Ms, regular and peanut, Reese’s Pieces, and Smarties. For you Americans reading this, these are more like M&Ms – not the chalky discs we call Rockets.
Gather up about 1 1/2 cups of candy. Try to avoid eating it all as you empty the little tiny packets.
Grab 2 1/2 cups flour, and whisk it together with 3/4 teaspoon baking soda, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Set that aside.
With a mixer, cream together 1 cup softened butter, 3/4 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup granulated sugar (I only had white in the photo but brown makes it excellent).
Tip in 3 egg yolks and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and mix away.
Add in your flour mixer and mix on low until just combined. You want this still to be a little crumbly.
Dump in all your happy candy and stir it in.
Preheat your oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Scoop a golf ball-sized lump of dough and form it into a ball. Roll the ball in granulated sugar and flatten slightly onto the baking sheet. Bake for about 16 minutes, rotating the baking sheets halfway through, until the tops of the cookies start to crack. Allow them to cool on the baking sheet a little bit before you move them to a wire rack to cool – that way they’ll stay together better.
Then all you need to do is eat them – easy enough!
I actually made this project LAST year, but because I never get my holiday stuff organized in time to publish it any time before the holiday it’s for, I decided to set this up so I would look timely and well-prepared this year.
Anyway, last year, back when the Pie and I were still in St. John’s (weird that we’re not there anymore), Fussellette organized a mixer for the geographical society at MUN and she decided on having a candy bar for everyone to snack on while they got jiggy (do people even say that in the far-off future of 2013? Better question: do people even say that NOW?). I volunteered to make a stand for the suckers Fussellette insisted on having, along with our FORTY POUNDS of other candy that we bought.
You might like to make something like this for your own Hallowe’en party.
At first I thought I would just do something plain, like a store display, but maybe with some sparkly skulls we’d picked up from Dollarama. But then, I was looking at a shoe box and I was struck dumb with inspiration (not true: I immediately texted Fussellette about my genius and then told the Pie all about it, despite him not wanting to know). So here’s what I came up with.
I’m going to make a grave yard — well, part of one. It will have a freshly covered grave with headstone and some nice grass all about, and little holes for holding all the suckers. That will be the top of the box. Then the extra suckers (there were 100 in the bag) can be stored inside the box itself.
So first, on the shoe box I drew where I wanted the grave to go.
Then I used a punch to make some evenly spaced holes where the suckers would eventually fit.
In order to make it so the suckers didn’t just slide all the way through the holes until they were stopped by their candy tops, I had to construct a little hanging platform on the underside of the box lid that would prevent their sliding around and also not interfere with the opening and closing of the box itself. I just taped a few pieces of spare cardboard in strategic places and there we go.
Now I got to do the fun stuff.
I had a package of Model Magic lying around that I didn’t yet have a project connected to, so I figured its lightweight nature would be perfect to make a gravestone. A bit of shaping (not too much, as I wanted the stone to look old and cracked) and some choice words (stamped in with the same punch I used for the holes) and I set that aside for the requisite 72 hours to dry. I’m going to paint it later.
To ensure that the surface of my gravesite didn’t end up accidentally filling in the holes I punched, I marked their places with wooden skewers.
Then I went outside. This moss I hauled up from the path next door and the dirt is from my garden. This explains why I can’t grow anything. I keep taking all the dirt.
Spread some Mod Podge. Attach some moss (I snipped off only the tops of the moss, and replanted it when I was done). Repeat.
For the grave dirt, I mixed my garden dirt with some Mod Podge to make mud of sorts, and spooned it onto the area. I added a few rocks for visual interest, and then sprinkled some un-glued dirt on top to get the colour right. Then I left THAT for 48 hours to dry. You can still see the box through some of the moss but honestly, I don’t think anyone else would look this closely at a candy dispenser. Mostly they are probably just thinking “Free candy! Gimme!”
Once you’ve got all the stuff glued and set, you can take away the skewers.
While it was drying I tacked on some black construction paper with tape as a sort of border to the whole thing, and to cover the shoe box-ness of the shoe box. Then I used craft paint to freehand a picket fence all around (you can see it in the finished shots).
Then, much later, I painted the headstone, filling in the text with black craft paint and adding a bit of texture here and there.
Hot glue that sucker (ha) onto the dried Mod Podge mud and we’re good to go.
Insert suckers. You can store extras underneath, inside the box.
I got this recipe from Inquiring Chef, who in turn modified it from Bakerella. I think it’s awesome. Challenge accepted.
Inquiring Chef came up with four batches of different flavours: blueberry, raspberry, lemon, and mint. She tried kiwi but apparently it didn’t gel, so I left my kiwi purée in the freezer for the time being. I did whip out my frozen fruit from Costco and came up with six different flavours: blueberry, mixed berry (raspberry, blackberry, blueberry), strawberry, mango, and raspberry. I planned to turn whatever was left into a mélange and call that one “fruit salad”. I left those to defrost in the sun while I made The Un-Cola.
You only need 3 tablespoons of purée per flavour, but I wasn’t sure how much would be left over after I finished straining out the seeds and skins, so I kind of eyeballed it.
So, in a food processor, purée those fruits all up.
Strain them to remove the seeds and skins and whatever else is in there.
Push the stuff against the sides of the strainer with a spoon to get ’em to go. Some are easier than others.
Some are downright lurid.
Now we’re ready to go. Five flavours here.
And my “fruit salad” here.
The recipe below will give you two flavours. I obviously multiplied it by three to match my six flavours.
Grease or spray 2 5″x 6″ pans for the gelatinizing of them there gum drops. I used 8″ pie plates and cake tins, because that was what I had on hand.
So. Plop 3 tablespoons purée of one flavour into the bottom of one large heat-proof bowl, and then another 3 tablespoons of another flavour into another.
In a large pot, sprinkle 4 tablespoons unflavoured gelatin (sorry, this isn’t a vegetarian recipe) over 1 cup cold water. Leave that to soften for 5 minutes.
Pour 1 1/2 cups boiling water over the gelatin and stir to dissolve.
Pour in 4 cups sugar and bring that to a boil over medium heat. You will need to stir this constantly so it doesn’t boil over. And you will need to do this for 25 minutes straight. No, you can’t run to change the radio station or answer the phone. I managed to do this while talking on Skype with my parents, but they’re an indulgent sort and Skype is hands-free after all. They only stuck around for one batch of the stuff, though. I had to do that three times.
Pour half the boiling sugar-gelatin foam over the purée in one bowl and the rest into the other. Working quickly, stir to mix the purée completely into the sugar syrup.
Pour the mixtures into the sprayed pans.
Shove those suckers in the refrigerator overnight (or up to 2 days). See how nice and firm that is?
Pour about a cup of sugar onto a baking sheet. Then run a knife around the edges of the nice firm gelatin and gently release it from the pan.
This will take a bit of persuasion, and I found a metal spatula to be very handy here. Don’t worry about damaging the gelatin — it’s pretty resilient.
Place it in the sugar. When I’d done this I almost felt like I’d done some sort of organ transplant, and this was the one waiting for donation. It looks like a lung or something …
Then flip it to coat both sides — this will keep things from getting super sticky. You’ll get sticky enough as it is.
Put the gelatin on a cutting board and use a long knife to cut strips from it.
I then used scissors to cut the strips into 3/4″ cubes, or close enough approximates. You can use a knife for this if you want to get straighter lines, but seeing as I was making squares out of something that was originally a circle, I wasn’t that concerned. Plus as things get stickier, scissors are way easier.
Cut the strips into the sugar.
Then get in there with your hands and toss them to coat.
A just-tossed gum drop, up close and personal:
Transfer the finished gumdrops to parchment paper and leave, at room temperature, for 2 days to crystallize and get all good. This is my dining room table, completely covered in candy.
Then give them all away — or save a few for yourself! It always amazes me how simple candy always turns out to be — and that’s probably why it’s so good!
You can see more pictures of the gum drop adventure on my Flickr page.