I had a few of my local vegan pals over for a candy-making party, and we had SO much fun! Although there are many store-bought candies that are vegan, I thought it was high-time to begin learning the fine art of homemade candy... just in time for Candy Season.
We decided to make Melisser's Vegan Candy Corn recipe and also Emilie's Salted Espresso & Nutmeg Caramel recipe. Except we couldn't find espresso salt or espresso extract - so we made Salted Hazelnut & Nutmeg Caramels, by using hazelnut extract in place of espresso extract. Really, who can argue with hazelnut caramel? Only a crazy person!
First up, we got to work on the caramels. Here is Sophia, dealing with the supreme stickiness that is Golden Syrup.
And Melissa is grating our nutmeg for the caramels. We all agreed that the nutmeg was a really nice addition to the flavor of these treats.
This is a big pot of boiling sugar and golden syrup. Mmmm, health food!
So, once we got the caramel going on the stovetop (under Josh's careful supervision!) others of us got started with the candy corn recipe. You can see, we had all hands on deck!
Except for one vegan, who was keeping us company and offering moral support, while taking care of her sweet little bug. Little Bug was a very well-behaved party attendee! (rumor has it that the screaming & crying came later)
Here we are pouring the creamer into the sugar mixture. Look at the boiling mass of yumminess!
Once the caramel mixture finally (!!) came to the right temperature (265 F).... we poured the mixture into the prepared pans. We made a 1 1/2 batch, which turned out to be a good amount for all of us.
Now they were set aside to cool at room temperature for 4 hours (though, luckily, it didn't really take that long)... Doesn't it look amazing?! I have to say, I love love love caramels. When I first went vegan, I thought I was agreeing to sign up for a life free of caramel. Imagine my delight when I discovered vegan caramels! And now, learning that I can make them for myself... trouble ahead!
Meanwhile, back on project #2, here's our candy corn dough. It's a bit gritty... and that turned out to be a little bit of a problem. The dough is supposed to rest for a little while before you begin kneading it. Next time I try this recipe, I'll make an effort to work on the dough a little more before I let it rest.
So, then, the hard work began. Kneading the candy corn dough is NOT for the faint of heart! Melisser says it will be hard, and she is not kidding. We were all so incredibly grateful that there were three of us : one for orange, one for yellow and one for the white... I think we may have done something a little wrong with our recipe, because it was really a struggle. Sophia and I cheated by adding some moisture to our lumps of dough, which did eventually make it smooth and workable, but also meant that it never perfectly hardened up the way candy corn should. Melissa had a heck of a time with that orange - it was un.work.able. Big Time. So, I microwaved a little bit of it, thinking that might make it more pliable, and accidentally over-microwaved it. But by the good graces of Culinary Fortune, when I mixed the melted bit with the rock-hard bits, somehow it all turned out perfectly. Against the odds, the orange turned out to be our most perfect of the 3 colors (texture-wise). Unfortunately, this odd combination of efforts isn't really repeatable for next time. It's a tough recipe to be sure, though I'm eager to try it again and work out some of the kinks.
Once we had some victory on the 3 lumps of dough, we started rolling out our ropes.
Pretty! It reminds me of those old OP (OceanPacific) tee-shirts we all wore during the 80's.
After some simple criss-cross cutting, we ended up with (sound your horns!) CANDY CORN! So exciting. Isn't it beautiful? Despite our travails with the recipe, the candy corn turned out really delicious and so pretty. Like childbirth, I have already forgotten the pain of candy corn labor, and all I can remember is the joy of candy corn creation. I couldn't believe how much the taste and the texture (especially of the orange parts) was *perfectly* candy-corn-ish. Well done, Melisser!
So, now our caramels were ready and so we cut them up into pieces. The caramel was pretty stiff, and cutting it up wasn't too easy. I think next time, I'll cook the caramel to a slightly lower temperature for a softer, more chewy, less sticky caramel.
Some of the caramels got a half of a hazelnut put on them.
Then everyone was dipped in chocolate and set out to cool. Following Emilie's example, I even bought special transfer sheets online, so that we could have fancy designs on our chocolates. How exciting!
Unfortunately, my chocolate didn't quite set up right. I left it out to cool, and I think our house was too warm... so the chocolate got spotted. I need to read up and learn more about why that happened. Apparently those who put the chocolates in the fridge didn't have this problem. Anyhow, I still think they look pretty (a face only a mother could love!)... and either way, they taste totally freaking amazing good. And really, when it comes to candy, that's what counts.
I even picked up some cute little boxes at the party store, and wrapped up some caramels for a few different special friends. I love how official they look in their silver boxes with the cellophane windows!
In the end everyone took home a LOT of candy corn, and about 20 caramels each. It was so much fun. This experience definitely whet my appetite for more candy making... it's a whole new culinary world to explore - and it was a super fun way to spend the afternoon with friends!