When I was a kid, I had chicken pox on Halloween one year. I was ensconced on the foldout couch in front of the TV covered in calamine lotion and unable to wear a costume or go trick-or-treating. That stunk. But I remember that Halloween more than all the others, not because I was itchy and alone, but because my older brother shared his candy with me, which at that point in our lives, was a rare occasion. A good memory was created out of a bad situation. Things are different this year, there is no doubt. But I hold on to that little tale to get through.
All this to say, Halloween will be different this year and trick-or-treating, at least in the form we’ve become used to, will not be the same. So I propose making a new memory, and maybe starting a new tradition, by making your own candy at home. It can be prettily packaged and shared with friends, in a safe way, or enjoyed at home as a family.
I’ve chosen some simple recipes – things that don’t involve candy thermometers or excess equipment. And these ideas have room for creativity in decoration and flavoring for the season. Depending on age and comfort level, kids can participate in making these and certainly have fun packing them up for friends – anything from ziptop sandwich bags decorated with stickers or seasonal specialty wrapping.
1 ¼ cup dark brown sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup (1 stick) butter, cut into small pieces
2 Tablespoons water
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
Line a rimmed sheet pan with nonstick foil or parchment paper. To make a thicker toffee, I like to fold a long piece of foil in half then mold it into a little mold, about 8 by 7 inches with high foil sides. Rub the empty butter wrapper over the bottom of the foil to lightly grease
Rub the rest of the butter wrapper around a 2-quart microwave safe glass bowl to lightly grease. Make sure you are using a bowl that will withstand heat and is safe in the microwave. Put the sugar, cinnamon and salt and stir with a fork to combine. Sprinkle the butter cubes over the sugar then pour the water over. Do NOT stir. Microwave at high for 6 – 8 minutes (my microwave is 1300 watts and takes six minutes, lower wattage will take more time). The mixture should be boiling completely. Immediately remove the bowl from the microwave wearing oven mitts and pour onto the prepared foil. Scrape the bowl to release the last of the toffee, but do not spread it out on the pan. Let sit for 1 minute, then sprinkle over the chocolate chips. Leave to sit for a minute until soft, then use an offset spatula or the back of the spoon to spread the chocolate into an even layer. Let rest on the counter for 10 minutes, then transfer to the fridge for 30 minutes. Break into bite size shards and store in an airtight container.
When you have spread the chocolate out, you may sprinkle over finely chopped pecans, almonds or peanuts, flaky sea salt or colored sprinkles.
Halloween Candy Bark
I used Reese’s Pieces, miniature peanut butter cups, halved Halloween Junior Mints, candy corn and Halloween sprinkles. I also use bittersweet chocolate because the candy adds a lot of sweetness, but you can use milk chocolate.
1 ( 12 ounce) bag bittersweet chocolate chips
About 2 cups assorted candies and sprinkles for topping, larger buts cut into small slices
Line a small rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or nonstick foil.
Melt the chocolate, either in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water or in 30 second bursts in the microwave. Stir until the chocolate is melted and smooth, then pour it onto the prepared baking sheet. Immediately begin placing the candy on top of the chocolate and add the sprinkles. Press down lightly to adhere. Leave to cool for ten minutes, then place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to harden. Break into pieces and store in an airtight container in the fridge.
Maple Hokey Pokey
Candy of this type goes by many names – honeycomb, yellow man, cinder toffee and hokey pokey. Usually made with honey (which you could certainly do), this airy treat is an English classic. I use maple syrup to add a fall flavor. And it must be pure maple syrup, not maple flavored syrup.
½ cup granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon pure maple syrup
¼ teaspoon baking soda
Line a small rimmed baking sheet with non-stick foil or a silicone pan liner and set near the stove.
In a medium sized heavy saucepan, stir together the sugar, maple syrup and 4 Tablespoons of water. Slowly bring to a boil medium high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Continue to boil steadily until the mixture becomes an amber honey color. Working quickly and carefully, thoroughly stir in the baking soda. The mixture will foam up and bubble. Immediately scrape the honeycomb onto the prepared pan. It will spread out on its own, don’t try to help it. Leave the honey comb to cool, then break it into pieces.
These South American style truffles are simple to make and so rich and delicious. Traditionally they are covered in chocolate sprinkles, but I’ve used Halloween colors. And that’s great – make them for Christmas or with rainbow sprinkles at any time. Or roll them in cocoa powder or shredded coconut.
1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 Tablespoon butter
¼ cup cocoa powder
about 1 ½ cups sprinkles of your choice
Pour the condensed milk into a saucepan (I like to use a nonstick) and add the butter and cocoa powder. Heat over medium high heat, stirring constantly until the cocoa powder is blended in and the butter is melted. Keep stirring constantly until the mixture is thickened – when you drag a spoon across the bottom of the pan, the sides of the mixture should not run together right away. This can take anywhere from 5 – 10 minutes, so stir constantly and watch carefully. Scrape the mixture into a bowl to get it out of the hot pan, then refrigerate for an hour or so until chilled.
Put the sprinkles in a flat bowl. Spray your hands lightly with cooking spray to keep the mixture from sticking (you may need to do this a couple of times). Scoop out about a Tablespoon of mixture at a time and roll into a ball. Drop the brigadeiro into the sprinkles and roll to coat completely. Place the brigadeiros in an airtight container and store in the fridge for up to a week. You can place each brigadeiro in a mini paper muffin liner if you like.