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THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Candy

PRODUCT: Annie B’s Caramels

annie-b-caramel-box-230

Buy them in a bag or a gift box. Photo courtesy Annie B’s.

 

Annie B’s caramels aren’t the usual square or rectangular affairs. They’re shaped like the salt water taffy we enjoyed as a kid.

The all natural caramels come in more flavors than most:

  • Amaretto Caramels
  • Black Licorice Caramels
  • Black Raspberry Caramels
  • Blueberry Caramels
  • Butter Rum Caramels
  • Cherry Caramels
  • Chocolate Caramels
  • Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels
  • Huckleberry Caramels
  • Maple Caramels
  • Original Caramels
  • Sea Salt Caramels
  •  

    Our favorites: Original, Cappuccino, Chocolate and Sea Salt.

    Original is a buttery caramel, and Cappuccino adds strong coffee flavor. Chocolate has a mild chocolate flavor.

    Sea Salt is unlike any other salted caramel we’ve had. It’s made with large crystals of coarse sea salt, delivering lots of salt in every bite.

    It was too much salt for us, but it might become the favorite flavor of salt lovers.

    Options include bags of 10 and 16 pieces, gift boxes and bulk boxes.

    The bags are just $5.00 each: great for party favors and stocking stuffers (you can never plan too far in advance!). Nautical-themed gift boxes are currently 20% off and there’s free shipping on orders over $49.00.

    Get yours at AnnieBsCandy.com.

     
      

    Comments

    FOOD HOLIDAY: National Jelly Bean Day

    April 22 is National Jelly Bean Day. If you’re craving a sugar fix, Jelly Belly’s jelly beans have just 4 calories apiece.

    While there are numerous producers of tasty jelly beans, Jelly Belly, launched in 1976, was the first to sell them in single flavors (as opposed to mixed). The original flavors: Cream Soda, Grape, Green Apple, Lemon, Licorice, Root Beer, Tangerine and Very Cherry (today there are 50 flavors).

    The company also invented the “gourmet jelly bean.” The difference: gourmet jelly beans tend to be softer and smaller than traditional jelly beans, and are flavored in both the shell and the middle (traditional jelly beans typically contain flavor only in the shell).

    There are pronounced flavor preferences the world over. The number one flavors by region:

  • Americas: Very Cherry*
  • Asia: Lemon Lime
  • Australia: Bubble Gum (what’s up with that, Australia?)
  • Europe: Tutti-Frutti mix
  • Middle East: Berry Blue
  •  
    *In 1998, Buttered Popcorn moved into first place. In 2003 Very Cherry moved back into top position by a mere 8 million beans.

       

    jelly-bean-bark-tasteofhome-230

    Make jelly bean bark with this recipe. Or, use jelly beans to top a cupcake. Photo courtesy Taste Of Home.

     
    You can tour the Jelly Belly factories in Fairfield, California and Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin. The two locations produce 362,880 pounds of jelly beans per day, equivalent to the weight of 24 elephants.

     

    jelly-beans-paper-cup-WS-230

    For the sweet-toothed, jelly beans are made
    mostly from sugar. Photo courtesy Williams-
    Sonoma.

     

    WHO INVENTED THE JELLY BEAN?

    The modern jelly bean is believed to have been invented in the U.S., sometime after 1850. The earliest recorded advertisement for jelly beans is from Boston confectioner William Schrafft, who may have also been the creator. The ad promoted sending jelly beans to Union Soldiers engaged in the Civil War (1861-1865).

    By the early 1900s, jelly beans had become a staple penny candy. Possibly, they were the first bulk candy. They became part of the Easter tradition in the 1930s, when somebody connected their egg shape with the eggs symbolic of the spiritual rebirth of Easter. Their festive colors made them a perfect celebratory candy.

    During World War II, much of the chocolate produced in the U.S. was sent overseas to soldiers. Americans focused on other sweets; flavorful, colorful jelly beans became popular.

     
    And, if you’re old enough to remember, they were the favorite candy of president Ronald Regan. He persuaded the Jelly Belly company to make a blueberry jelly bean so that he could serve red, white and blue jelly beans in the Oval Office.

    Here’s more on the history of jelly beans.
     
    JELLY BEAN TRIVIA

    Each year, U.S. manufacturers produce more than 16 billion jelly beans for Easter, enough to completely fill a plastic Easter egg 89 feet high and 60 feet wide—about the height of a nine-story office building.

    Christmas is the second largest jelly-bean-eating holiday. Who knew?

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Uses For Marshmallows

    chocolate-vanilla-dice-230

    They may be delicious, but what if you have
    too many for straight snacking? Photo | THE
    NIBBLE.

     

    If you received marshmallows for Easter and are looking to do more than snack from the box, you can make hot chocolate, s’mores or rocky road brownies, cookies or ice cream.

    You can add them to peanut butter sandwiches and pancake batter, sliced or cut to size. You can make fruit and marshmallow skewers, or recipes with marshmallows from ambrosia salad to sweet potatoes.

    You can dip them in chocolate fondue. Add them hot or cold cereal. Toss coffee-flavored marshmallows into hot coffee.

    Use them as a pie topper: Bake the pie at 400°F for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the marshmallows are toasted.

    Or, try these less obvious uses for marshmallows:

  • Brown Sugar Softener: After you open a bag of brown sugar, add a few large marshmallows before you reseal it (we further double-bag the bag brown sugar in self-sealing freezer bags). The marshmallows will provide moisture that helps keep the sugar soft.
  • Candle Holder: For birthday cakes or cupcakes, place each candle into a marshmallow before placing on the cake. When you remove the candles, there are no wax dripping on the cake or holes in the cake.
  • Cone Drip Stopper: Place a small marshmallow (or cut a larger one) in the bottom of an ice cream cone to stop melted ice cream from pouring out the bottom.
  • Icing Protector: To keep foil or plastic wrap from touching the icing when you transport a cake, place a few large marshmallows on the tops and side of the cake.
  •  
    HOW TO KEEP MARSHMALLOWS SOFT

    Marshmallows should be stored in an airtight container. But if they begin to harden, you can:

  • Pop them in the microwave for five seconds (not longer or they will begin to melt).
  • Toss them into hot chocolate.
  • Place them in a resealable freezer-weight plastic storage bag with a slice or two of fresh bread. Depending on how hard they are, they can take one or two days to soften.
  •  
    IF YOU HAVE TOO MANY MARSHMALLOWS

    Stick them in the freezer, in the storage bag with the fresh bread.
     
    TO UNSTICK MARSHMALLOWS

    If your marshmallows have clumped together, unstick them by placing them in a plastic bag and adding a teaspoon or two of cornstarch or powdered sugar. Seal the bag and shake it vigorously to evenly coat the marshmallows. They should begin to come apart in a few minutes.
     
    Check out the history of marshmallows and much more about these sweet pillows.
     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: The Easiest Chocolate Bark

    white-pistachio-bark-pan-blogerikarax-230

    It couldn’t be easier to make chocolate bark. Photo courtesy Erika Rax.

     

    We found this tip from Erika Rax, a home baker living in Sydney, Australia.

    “I have a little secret to make really pretty and quick bark,” she says.

    Forget the chopping and melting of chocolate, ladies and gents. Erika’s technique will give you almost instant bark for special family treats or gifting. In the conventional technique, the inclusions get mixed into the chocolate. Here, they sit on top—an even prettier presentation, with no dimunition of flavor.

    Erika’s pistachio and rosemary bark, green ingredients on a white chocolate background, is perfect for St. Patrick’s Day. For Christmas, add some dried cherries or cranberries.

    RECIPE: THE EASIEST CHOCOLATE BARK

    Ingredients

  • White chocolate bar(s)
  • Chopped pistachio nuts
  • Fresh rosemary
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 170°F/75°C. Line a baking sheet with parchment and place the bar(s) on the parchment.

    2. ARRANGE the toppings over the bar. Place the sheet in the oven for 3-5 minutes until it just starts to soften. Take care not to overbake or the bar will lose shape.

    3. REMOVE from the oven. We lifted the parchment from the pan to cool on the counter, so the bars would not continue to get heat from the pan.
     
    Erika wrapped her gift bars in parchment paper, tied with a piece of kitchen string and a sprig of fresh rosemary. It’s charming! Here’s the photo.

    Find more of Erika’s tips at Blog.ErikaRax.com.

     
      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Peanut Butter Fudge

    peanut-butter-fudge-horizon-230

    Mmm, peanut butter fudge. Photo courtesy Horizon.

     

    March 1 is National Peanut Butter Lover’s Day. Fudge a recipe so easy to make that we urge you to try it. You most likely have the ingredients on hand, and it will take less than 15 minutes to prepare.

    There are different ways to make fudge, using butter, cream, whole milk or sweetened condensed milk. This recipe, adapted from one by Alton Brown, uses butter.

    Prep time is 10 minutes, cook time is 4 minutes, plus two hours in the fridge.

    RECIPE: PEANUT BUTTER FUDGE

    Ingredients For 64 Pieces

  • 8 ounces unsalted butter, plus more for greasing pan
  • 1 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 16 ounces confectioners’ sugar
  • Optional: chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, honey roasted peanuts
  •  

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the butter and peanut butter in a 4-quart microwave-safe bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave for 2 minutes on high. Stir and microwave on high for 2 more minutes. Use caution when removing this mixture from the microwave, it will be very hot.

    2. ADD the vanilla and sugar to the peanut butter mixture and stir with a wooden spoon to combine. The mixture will become hard to stir and lose its sheen. Add optional inclusions.

    3. SPREAD into a buttered 8 x 8-inch pan lined with parchment paper. Fold the excess parchment paper so it covers the surface of the fudge and refrigerate until cool, about 2 hours.

    4. CUT into 1-inch pieces and store in an airtight container at room temperature for a week.

     
      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Homemade Peppermint Patties

    February 11th is National Peppermint Patty Day. Whip up a batch today, and make extras to hand out on Valentine’s Day. (For Valentine patties, top with heart-shaped sprinkles or Conversation Hearts.)

    IS IT PATTY OR PATTIE?

    Whether it’s candy, meat or veggies, to be perfectly correct, the spelling is patty. Patties is the plural form, so many folks assumed the singular to be pattie.

    The word first appeared in English around 1700-1710, derived from the French pâté (paste in English), a mix of finely-ground ingredients. Pasta is the Italian word for paste; and in modern French cuisine, pâté refers to a meat loaf as well as the more finely ground goose or duck liver pâté.

    Perhaps America’s most famous patty is the [incorrectly spelled] York Peppermint Pattie. According to a company history in Wikipedia, the York Peppermint Pattie was first produced by Henry C. Kessler, owner of the York Cone Company, in 1940. The company was named for its location: York, Pennsylvania. (Today the company is owned by Hershey and the production is in Monterey, Mexico.)

       

    peppermint-patties-safeeggs-230

    Homemade peppermint patties. Photo courtesy SafeEggs.com.

     
    Sure, you could run out and get a York Peppermint Pattie. Or, you could spend 40 minutes of prep time making your own (plus 9 hours of drying time).

    Because the recipe uses uncooked egg whites, you may wish to consider Safest Choice pasteurized egg whites.

    And if you’re not in a candy mood, how about a Peppermint Patty Martini?

     

    deBrand-230

    Semisweet (50% cacao or more) or bittersweet chocolate (70% cacao or more) are a better counterpoint to the lively mint than milk chocolate. Photo courtesy Debrand.

     

    RECIPE: HOMEMADE PEPPERMINT PATTIES

    Ingredients For 30 Pieces

  • 3-1/2 cups powdered sugar, plus extra as needed
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon water, plus extra as needed
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
  • 4 four-ounce dark chocolate bars, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
  •  
    Preparation

    1. LINE two baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut a separate 2-inch square of parchment paper. Set aside.

    2. COMBINE the powdered sugar, egg whites, water and peppermint extract in stand mixer on low speed until smooth. Increase the speed gradually to high, to form a stiff, smooth dough, adding ½ teaspoon of water at a time if mixture becomes too stiff.

    3. DUST a clean surface with powdered sugar and roll the dough into a log, approximately 12-inches long and 1-1/4-inches in diameter. Slice the log into 1/4 to 1/2-inch pieces, rolling the pieces into balls as you go. Arrange them on lined baking sheets, about an inch apart.

     
    4. PLACE the square of parchment paper on top of each dough ball and flatten it into a a disk, using the bottom of shot glass. Repeat. Let the candies dry, uncovered, at room temperature for at least six hours. After the patties have dried…

    5. COMBINE the chocolate and vegetable oil in a small bowl over a pan of barely simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is smooth and melted. Allow the chocolate to cool slightly. Dip each candy into the melted chocolate, coating both sides.

    6. RETURN the candies to the parchment paper until the chocolate has set, about 3 hours. To set faster, place the candies in the refrigerator.

      

    Comments

    GIFT: Red Rocker Cashew Toffee

    red-rocker-cashew-toffee-plated-230

    Delicious toffee made with cashews instead of conventional almonds. Photo courtesy Red
    Rocker Candy.

     

    Red Rocker Candy, of Troy, Virginia, makes one of our favorite toffees: Cashew Toffee with White Chocolate. Every batch is hand-made using only the finest ingredients: pure butter, the best nuts money can buy and fine chocolate couverture.

    The result is just the way we like it: oh so buttery, with the different twists of roasted cashew instead of almonds, and white chocolate (although dark chocolate and milk chocolate versions are available).

    The toffee is a best-seller year-round; but in its bright red packaging, it makes a delicious Valentine gift.

  • Red foil package, 8 ounces, $12.00
  • Red gift box, 16 ounces, $24.00
  • Jumbo box, 5 pounds, $72.00
  •  
    Get yours at Red Rocker Candy.com.

    And get some for your Valentine, too.

     

     
      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Make Marshmallows

    As a treat for friends and family, try your hand at making marshmallows for Valentine’s Day. These chocolate marshmallows, by Christina Lane of DessertForTwo.com, are dipped in melted chocolate for a double-chocolate treat. They take only 15 minutes to make!

    Since this is “dessert for two,” the recipe makes 12 mini marshmallows. Make the first batch to see how you like them, and then make a larger batch

    RECIPE: CHOCOLATE MARSHMALLOWS

    Ingredients For 12 Mini Marshmallows

  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1/3 cup light (clear) corn syrup
  • Pinch of salt
  • 6 tablespoons cool water, divided
  • 1 packet unflavored gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons special dark cocoa powder*
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  •  
    For Dipping

  • ½ cup dark chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
  • 1½ teaspoons coconut oil
  •  

    Chocolate-Marshmallows-dessertfortwo-230

    Dipped chocolate marshmallows. Photo courtesy DessertForTwo.com.

     
    *You can substitute regular cocoa powder. A darker, more intense cocoa powder delivers more chocolate flavor.
     

    Preparation

    1. LINE a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper or foil. Spray with cooking spray.

    2. COMBINE the granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt and 2 tablespoons of the water in a medium sauce pan. Clip on a candy thermometer, and turn the heat to medium-high. Bring the mixture to a boil without stirring and continue to cook until it reaches 238°F. Meanwhile…

    3. PLACE another 2 tablespoons of the water in a medium bowl, and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Let sit to dissolve for 5 minutes.

    4. ADD the last 2 tablespoons of water to a small dish and microwave for 25 seconds, until hot. Remove from the microwave carefully, and whisk in the cocoa powder. Stir the cocoa powder mixture into the dissolved gelatin.

    5. SLOWLY STREAM the hot sugar (238°F) into the gelatin mixture while continuously beating with a hand mixer on medium-high. Be careful not to pour the hot sugar near the sides of the bowl because it will stick and harden immediately. Beat the mixture for 10 minutes, until light and fluffy; then beat in the vanilla.

    6. POUR the mixture into the loaf pan, and let set for at least 3 hours. Then lift the parchment paper or foil out of the pan, and cut the marshmallows into squares with a well-greased knife. Grease the knife between each cut. If the marshmallows are too sticky, roll them in extra cocoa powder.

    7. DIP the marshmallows: First place the marshmallows in the freezer for 5 minutes, on a baking sheet. While they are chilling, combine the chocolate chips and coconut oil in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on medium heat in 30-second pulses until melted, stirring between each pulse. Stir until chocolate is evenly melted and smooth.

    8. REMOVE the marshmallows from the freezer and dunk half of each marshmallow in the melted chocolate. Place each marshmallow back on the sheet, and refrigerate until the chocolate sets, about 5 minutes.

      

    Comments

    VALENTINE GIFT: Tonja’s Toffee, With Or Without Nuts

    tonjas-toffee-2-kaminsky-230

    Tonja’s Toffee. Photo by Hannah Kaminsky |
    THE NIBBLE.

     

    Not everyone wants a box of bonbons or chocolate hearts for Valentine’s Day. Some of us would love the buttery crunch of toffee.

    When we received samples of Tonja’s Toffee, we were happy, happy, happy. The style is very buttery, which is how we like it. And, this considerate family business makes nut-free varieties too.

    Choices include:

  • Almond Toffee: topped in dark, milk or white chocolate with a fine dusting of almonds.
  • Butter Toffee: nut-free, also in dark, milk or white chocolate.
  •  
    The toffee is sold in quarter-pound, half-pound and one-pound bags. The small bags make great stocking stuffers or party favors.

    The company also makes peanut butter bon bons and peanut brittle. We haven’t tried them yet, but as soon as we finish eating all our Valentine candy, they’re on our list.

    Get yours at TonjasToffee.com.

     

     
      

    Comments

    RECIPE: Make Your Own Gummies

    tart_cherry_gummies-choosecherries-230

    Fun project: Make your own gummies. Photo
    courtesy ChooseCherries.com.

     

    Gummy fan? We admit to a gummy habit.

    We were happy to discover that in 15 minutes, we could make our own gummies, with top-quality ingredients (including honey instead of refined sugar) and for less expense than purchasing them.

    It’s easy, so try it—perhaps inviting your favorite child to participate in the joy of making sweets. Prep time is just 5 minutes, cook time is 10 minutes.

    The only thing you need to do is buy a candy mold—although you could use a sheet pan/jelly roll pan and cut the solid rectangle into squares. You also can try a mini ice cube tray. This recipe used a sheet mold tray with 64 molds of 3/4″ x 1″.

    This recipe is made with tart cherry juice. If you like the result, you can try it with other juice flavors–apple, cranberry, grape, etc.

    This recipe is courtesy of Mitzi Dulan, RD, of NutritionExpert.com, via ChooseCherries.com.

    RECIPE: HOMEMADE GUMMIES

    Ingredients For 128 Pieces

  • 1-1/4 cups tart cherry juice
  • 1/4 cup unflavored gelatin
  • 1/3 cup honey
  •  

    Preparation

    1. COMBINE the juice and gelatin in a small bowl, stirring until the gelatin is fully dissolved. Pour the mixture into a small saucepan over low-medium heat and add the honey. Continue stirring until well mixed. Be sure not to boil!

    2. REMOVE from the heat, allowing the mixture to slightly cool before pouring into the mold.

    3. LET cool for about 10 minutes or until it begins to gel before transferring into the refrigerator. Place in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes to allow it to set.

     

    WOW: A GUMMY-MAKING MACHINE!

    As we were looking for candy molds online, we came across this Gummy Candy Maker, $29.75.

    It includes the silicone molds to make gummy fish, worms and small bears—as well as a jumbo bear—with easy-to-use silicone molds. The central heated base holds the gelatin pot with a spout for easy pouring; the entire unit disassembles for easy cleaning.

    Reviews from 60 customers gave it 4.4 out of five stars, with many giving it five stars. If we can convince ourselves that this is an important appliance to bring into our small kitchen, we may be buying one soon.

    We think it makes a great Valentine gift.

     

    gummy-candy-maker-amz

    This gummy maker has molds of favorite shapes. Photo courtesy Nostalgia Electrics.

     

      

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