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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,
the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Candy

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


Tonja’s Toffee. Photo by Hannah Kaminsky |


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




    RECIPE: Make Your Own Gummies


    Fun project: Make your own gummies. Photo


    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, via


    Ingredients For 128 Pieces

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


    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.



    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.



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




    RECIPE: Chocolate-Dipped Figs

    One of the earliest foods cultivated by man, figs, the sacred biblical fruit of ancient times, are cherished in some cultures as a symbol of peace and prosperity.

    Most U.S.-grown figs are available from June through September, but you may find imports in the stores.

    If you do, cut them into grains or stuffing; serve them sliced on ham or turkey sandwiches; stuff them with cream cheese, goat cheese or mascarpone; served on a cheese plate; chop and bake them in muffins; cook them with meat dishes (great with pork); make a fig tart or fig ice cream for dessert.

    And the easiest way…dip them in chocolate!

    Serve them on Christmas Eve with a sparkling or dessert wine; bring them as a gift; serve them on New Year’s Eve.

    Select figs that are fresh-smelling and fairly soft—avoid hard figs. You can ripen them at room temperature or lay them on a layer of paper towels, cover with plastic and refrigerate for a few days.



    Chocolate-dipped figsPhoto courtesy




  • 3.5-ounce quality chocolate bar*
  • 12 dried figs
  • Optional: spirit of choice
    *You can use your favorite chocolate, be it dark, milk or white.


    1. BREAK the chocolate into pieces and melt in a double boiler.

    2. PLUMP the figs. You can actually dip them in your favorite spirit (and of course, drink the leftover “fig spirit.”

    3. DIP each fig into the melted chocolate and transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment or wax paper. Allow the chocolate to cool and harden completely.

    4. STORE in an airtight cookie tin. The figs will keep at room temperature for 3-4 weeks.

    Or, buy the figs in the photo from Mackenzie Limited. They’re filled with a chocolate truffle, kissed with a hint of brandy, and enrobed with a delicate layer of chocolate. Delicious!




    GIFT: Mrs. Prindable’s Caramel Apples


    The Nutcracker, a keepsake toy, stays with
    you after the apple has been enjoyed. There are teddy bears and other seasonal options. Photo courtesy Mrs. Prindable.


    We recently recommended a stocking stuffer of Mrs. Prindable’s caramels. For 25 years, Mrs. P. used that caramel to coat scrumptious jumbo apples, with a top layer of chocolate.

    We love these apples, great gifts for individuals or families. In addition to the half-inch-thick coating of delectable chocolate and caramel, you get lots of crunchy Granny Smith apple. The combination of indulgent and healthful is a delicious treat.

    The extra-fancy apples are crisp, juicy and jumbo: an impressive 4.5 inches tall, 3.5 inches wide and 1.5 pounds. They’re available in eleven flavors* and can be sliced to serve up to 10 people.

    If you want a bit less, there are Petite Apples, still sizeable at 3.5 inches tall and half a pound, serving two people. They’re available in seven flavors.

    Jumbo apples are $23.99 to $29.99 each, the higher price for apples decorated for the season, which includes a novelty keepsake like the Nutcracker and Champagne bottle in the photos here.


    Each apple is hand-dipped in the day’s fresh batch of wonderfully flavorful caramel and chocolate. Depending on the flavor chosen, the apple is then hand-rolled in the finest nuts and toppings.

    Order your apples at They’ll arrive in a couple of days, nicely gift boxed and much nicer to eat.



    We’d like Santa to give us an Apple of the Month Program. An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but an apple a month will live in memory for a long, long time.

    The program is available in six-month and 12-month subscriptions, $169.99 and $399.99, respectively.

    Each month, the lucky recipient will receive one of the best-selling flavors.

    Are you listening, Santa?
    *Choices include dark chocolate caramel apples, mlk chocolate caramel apples and white chocolate caramel apples, with or without nuts—almonds, cashews, pecans or walnuts.



    Celebrate New Year’s Eve with your choice of apple, topped with a keepsake Champagne bottle novelty. (Shown: the Toffee Walnut apple, one of our favorites.) Photo courtesy Mrs. Prindable.




    GIFT: Fika Gourmet Malted Milk Balls


    Gourmet malted milk balls with a seasonal look. Photo courtesy Fika New York.


    Forget Whoppers: Lovers of malted milk balls know how to search out the best malted milk balls. Our reigning favorites are the Mint Chip Maltballs from Marich, malt centers encased in dark chocolate and a mint cookie coating.

    But there’s a new entry for your consideration from Fika. Under the snowy surface of confectioners’ sugar are sweet milk chocolate-covered malt balls. The malted milk balls are handmade in Fika’s New york City facility.

    At $12 for a clear gift box of 10 ounces, they’re available, along with many other treats.

    For a respite, drop in at one of Fika’s 10 locations in New York City for coffee, pastry or a light repast.




    STOCKING STUFFER: Cowboy Toffee Co. S’Mores Toffee

    For toffee lovers, here’s a delightful variation: S’mores Toffee from the Cowboy Toffee Company of Oakdale, California.

    There are classic toffees we like better. Our gold standard is the uber-buttery Enstrom’s, which also is made in a sugar-free version. (It has so much butter, you’re advised to store it in the fridge! It’s also certified kosher)

    We’ve never seen s’mores toffee flavor before. Enhanced with mini marshmallows, mini graham cracker squares and a cover of milk chocolate, it’s something new, different and fun.

    A four-ounce rustic gift box is $9.99. Get yours at

    (Note that the toffee photo on the website isn’t too attractive. We devoured our sample before it could be photographed. The toffee looks much tastier in person.)



    Inside the box: S’mores Toffee! Photo courtesy Cowboy Toffee.



    Toffee is a hard but chewable candy made by caramelizing sugar with water and butter. American recipes can add vanilla and other flavorings, plus milk or cream. The ingredients are boiled together at a high temperature until the mixture is golden brown and stiff.

    The hot toffee is spread onto a shallow pan or countertop to thicken and cool. The slab is then broken into smaller, irregular pieces. Some toffees are poured into individual molds to create individual square or round pieces.

    Here’s more about toffee, including English-style toffee and the difference between toffee, buttercrunch and caramel.



    STOCKING STUFFERS & MORE: Mrs. Prindable’s Caramels


    A gourmet stocking stuffer. Photo courtesy Mrs. Prindable’s.


    We taste many caramels each year, looking for those that are very buttery, easy to chew and bursting with natural flavor.

    Mrs. Prindable’s, the queen of gourmet caramel apples, has applied the company’s knowledge of making fine caramel to bite-size candies, available in sizes from stocking stuffer to principal gift.

    The company’s new confections include:

  • Aleppo Chili Caramels, with a touch of heat from Aleppo chilies.
  • Hawaiian Red Sea Salt Caramels, enhanced by Alaea sea salt, a red/pink salt harvested off the Hawaiian island of Molokai that provides a light crunch along with the salty-sweet counterpoint.
  • Vietnamese Cinnamon Apple Caramel, delivering tart apple flavor paired with sweet cinnamon.
    Each cube-shaped gift box contains 12 individually wrapped pieces for $9.95. There’s also a box of mixed flavors ($19.99), chocolate-covered caramels ($19.99), and a stocking stuffer of four chocolate-covered caramels ($5.99).

    The line is certified kosher (dairy) by CRC. Get yours at



    RECIPE: Pumpkin Spice Fudge

    Here’s something special to make for work colleagues, friends, family and Thanksgiving hosts: Pumpkin Spice Fudge.

    It’s an easy recipe from Nestlé. In fact, you can let kids old enough to work with hot liquids make it as their contribution. Prep time is 10 minutes, cooking time is 20 minutes.


    Ingredients For 48 Pieces (About 3 Pounds)

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 2/3 cup (5 fluid ounces can) evaporated milk
  • 1/2 cup canned pumpkin (pure pumpkin, not pie filling)*
  • 2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice†
  • 2 cups (12-ounce package) white chocolate chips
  • 1 jar (7 ounces) marshmallow creme
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract


    Pumpkin Spice Fudge. Photo and recipe courtesy Nestlé.

    *Pumpkin pie filling has spices blended in. Pumpkin purée is not seasoned; the appropriate spices are added separately as the recipe requires.
    †Pumpkin pie spice is simply a blend of the traditional spices that go into pumpkin pie. If you don’t want to buy a pre-mixed container, it’s easy to make your own. Combine 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger and 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves.



    First marketed in 1857 as a safe milk drinking option, evaporated milk and its sibling, sweetened condensed milk, have become an asset in cooking as well. Photo and recipe courtesy Nestlé.



    1. LINE 13 x 9-inch baking pan with foil, letting the foil drape over two ends of the pan to serve as handles.

    2. COMBINE the sugar, brown sugar, evaporated milk, pumpkin, butter and spice in medium, heavy-duty saucepan. Bring the mixture to a full rolling boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil, stirring constantly, for 10 to 12 minutes or until a candy thermometer reaches 234°F to 240°F (soft-ball stage).

    3. QUICKLY STIR in the chocolate chips, marshmallow creme, nuts and vanilla extract. Stir vigorously for 1 minute or until the chips are melted. Immediately pour into the prepared pan.

    4. COOL on a wire rack for 2 hours or until completely cooled. Refrigerate the pan, tightly covered. When ready to serve…

    5. LIFT the fudge from pan using the foil handles; remove the foil. Cut into 1-inch pieces.



    Evaporated milk, also known as dehydrated milk, is a shelf-stable canned milk product. Approximately 60% of the water is removed from fresh milk.

    Prior to the 19th century and refrigeration, milk was highly perishable. In the summer heat, it spoiled in a matter of hours. In addition, there were sanitation problems: Milk straight from the cow was contaminated harmful with bacteria.

    Gail Borden conceived of a shelf stable canned milk product in 1852. His first condensed milk product, launched in 1854, lasted three days without souring. Borden was granted a patent for sweetened condensed milk in 1854. Commercial production began in 1857.

    In Borden’s early product, sugar was added to inhibit bacterial growth. Competitors perfected the technique of sterilizing the product to vastly improve shelf life. Today, evaporated milk has no added sugar; a separate product, sweetened condensed milk, is evaporated milk that contains sugar. [Source]

    While not a hit right out of the gate, evaporated milk soon became popular as a safe and reliable substitute for fresh milk. It could be shipped easily to locations lacking the safe dairy production and/or refrigerated storage.

    The Florida Keys were an example of a hot and remote area that had no dairying. Evaporated milk made it possible for residents to finally enjoy milk in coffee and in cooking. Key Lime Pie, initially made with evaporated milk and now with sweetened condensed milk, is a legacy of Mr. Borden’s vision.

    The shelf life of canned evaporated milk will vary from months to years, depending on the sugar content and its proportion of fat. Carnation Brand makes evaporated milk from whole milk, nonfat milk and 2% milk.



    STOCKING STUFFER: Justin’s White Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups


    Get them while you can! Photo courtesy Justin’s.


    Justin’s makes delicious organic peanut butter cups in dark, milk and white chocolate. The salty peanut butter is a tasty counterpoint to the creamy, quality white chocolate. We’re hooked!

    The white chocolate cups are available at Whole Foods Markets and other major retailers, as well as at

    Learn more about Justin’s line of organic nut butters and PB cups at Peanut butter flavors include:
    Almond Butter

  • Maple Almond Butter
  • Classic Almond Butter
  • Chocolate Almond Butter
  • Honey Almond Butter
  • Vanilla Almond Butter
    Hazelnut Butter

  • Chocolate Hazelnut Butter
    Peanut Butter

  • Classic Peanut Butter
  • Honey Peanut Butter

    The line is gluten-free and certified kosher by OU.



    TIP OF THE DAY: Candied Chestnuts

    Let us at them! Photo of marrons glacés


    Oh, do we love marrons glacés, candied chestnuts. They have been a favorite confection from our first childhood bite, atop a scoop of vanilla ice cream in a fancy silver dish in the tea room of a long-departed department store.

    Then, relatives visiting France would return with boxes of them, an annual treat. Sometime later, we discovered them in local specialty stores and we began to buy our own—until they became so pricey that we learned to make them. With today’s tip, you can, too.

    Following the fall harvest in France and Italy, local confectioners as well as large companies prepare marrons glacés, a popular holiday gift. They can be individually wrapped in gold foil or sold in a jar covered with sugar syrup.

    If you read the novel La dame aux Camélias (The Lady of The Camellias) by Alexandre Dumas fils, you’ll discover that marrons glacés are the only type of confection eaten by the heroine, courtesan Marguerite Gautier. Her clients were expected to keep her in good supply.

    But you don’t need admirers. Create your own supply with this recipe:



    Although it takes 1-2 days to complete the recipe, actual cooking time is less than 30 minutes. For the rest of the time, the candied chestnuts soak in their sugar syrup.

    Ingredients For 2 Pounds

  • 2 pounds chestnuts, shelled
  • 2 pounds granulated sugar
  • 2-1/2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or a vanilla bean


    1. PLACE the chestnuts in a large pot with just enough water to cover the tops. Bring the water to a boil and cook the for 15 minutes; drain and discard the water. Remove the chestnuts one at a time with a slotted spoon.

    2. RUB the thin, bitter membrane off the cooked chestnuts, using a clean towel or your fingers). The chestnuts will be soft, so be careful not to damage them.

    3. BRING the water, sugar, and vanilla/vanilla bean to a boil in a medium pot, stirring constantly until it boils. Continue to cook the mixture for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. The syrup will thicken.

    4. ADD the prepared chestnuts to the boiling sugar syrup and stir until the syrup returns to a boil. Continue cooking, stirring frequently (and gently!), for 10 minutes.

    5. POUR the candied chestnuts and syrup into a large, wide-mouth container; cover when cooled. Let the chestnuts soak in the syrup for 12 to 18 hours.

    6. REMOVE the vanilla bean; the chestnuts are ready to use. You can spoon them into dessert dishes and top with whipped cream; or in shot glasses with some of the syrup.



    Before cooking, cut an X into each chestnut. Photo courtesy



    Marrons glacés are an ingredient in many desserts and are also eaten on their own. Most fans agree that the best way to enjoy a candied chestnut is plain, with a cup of tea, as you might enjoy a bonbon or a macaron. But that’s just the beginning of a menu of delights:

    • As an ice cream topper, with the syrup. In fact, if the pieces break in the preparation, this is an ideal use for them.
    • In a “faux” Mont Blanc, atop a mound of whipped cream with some plain cookies or shortbread on the side. (Actual Mont Blanc uses sweetened chestnut purée instead of candied chestnuts.)
    • In ice cream. Mix chopped pieces and the syrup into a pint of softened vanilla ice cream and return it to the freezer to harden. (In France, you can buy it in pints, ready to eat.) Chestnut ice cream is delicious, but you don’t need marrons glacés to make it. Regular cooked chestnuts plus sugar do nicely, either chopped and mixed in or blended in as purée.
    • As sophisticated cupcake toppers, sliced or cut in half to make the delicacies go farther.
    • With fresh goat cheese or Brie. Serve candied chestnuts and your favorite mild bread or crackers (we like it best with toasted raisin semolina bread).
    • In holiday cakes and cookies. Add chopped candied chestnuts to cake batter or cookie dough. Try a batch with crystallized ginger or chocolate chips. Consider muffins, loaf cakes, bundts and other opportunities. Our grandmother used to add them to her coffee cake recipe.
    • The chestnut-infused sugar syrup can be used on ice cream, pancakes, toast, etc., with or without the chestnuts.


    The seasonal confection originated in southern France and northern Italy, where chestnut trees are plentiful. Prior to the Crusades (1095-1291 C.E.) there was no sugar in Europe. Sugar cane is native to Southeast Asia, from which it made its way to the Middle East, where it was discovered by the European crusaders. So the process of candying fruits in sugar syrup—and all of the other wonderful things we do with sugar—had to wait for the return of the crusaders to Europe.

    The first candied chestnut confections seem to appear at the beginning of the 15th century in the Piedmont region of Italy, among other places. The earliest written recipe is from the court of Louis XIV at the end of 17th century.

    In 1882 in the Ardèche département of south-central France, the first factory was built with the technology to produce marrons glacés industrially. However, many of the nearly twenty steps necessary from harvest to finished product are still performed manually, which is one reason why the treats are so pricey. [Source]



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