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The Best Recipes for Homemade Candy

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The Best Recipes for Homemade Candy

The Bittersweet Backstory of the World’s Most Addictive Toffee

I’ve basked in the sweet shower of compliments from friends and family — even a few chefs — when I’ve gifted them this brilliant homemade toffee. It’s super easy to DIY, as long as you’re comfortable working with molten hot sugar, and a bargain to boot. But the backstory of this heavenly treat is truly bittersweet.

My friend Jim Baymiller, a food enthusiast from Memphis, Tennessee, recently shared the juicy details about how this recipe might have caused the end of a friendship. You see, Jim’s father was the master candymaker in their family, whipping up huge batches of fudge, divinity, and toffee every Christmas. And his results were always better than anybody else’s.

“I think that it was due to tweaking techniques (not ingredients) and being very careful and particular in his methods,” Jim told me. “He was a lawyer, but those traits would have made him a fine surgeon!”

One fateful day, when Jim was an eighth-grader back in 1960, he was at a friend’s house. The friend’s mother wanted Jim to try her prized toffee, which she had tasted at another friend’s house. But the other woman refused to part with the recipe – until she eventually gave it out for $100, which was about a week’s salary for a well-paid worker at the time.

Jim tasted the toffee and immediately recognized it as identical to his father’s. When he told the friend’s mother where the recipe came from – “The Joy of Cooking” – she ran to get her copy, read the recipe, and “essentially exploded.” Jim always wondered if she ever spoke to that “friend” again after that.

That fateful toffee recipe has become my go-to goody for the holidays, and I’ve made a few of my own adjustments through the years. But I still can’t help but chuckle at the bittersweet backstory behind this oh-so-delicious treat.

Divinity: The Billowy, Airy Candy of the South

If you grew up in the South, there’s a good chance you’re already familiar with the sweet, pillowy wonder that is divinity candy. But for the uninitiated, let me tell you – this vintage confection is an absolute must-try.

Divinity is a meringue-based candy that I would describe as somewhere between fudge (even though there is no chocolate in most divinity, it is often even referred to as Divinity Fudge), nougat, and marshmallow. It’s a billowy light, super-sweet, airy candy confection that quite literally tastes…well, divine. Hence the name.

The only place I’ve ever actually seen divinity sold is on Main Street USA in Disneyland, where it comes packaged in little rectangular tinfoil trays next to the walnut fudge. It was always my special treat as a kid when we’d visit the park with my aunts and grandparents.

This classic candy recipe is made with just a few ingredients: granulated sugar, corn syrup, and water get boiled together with a pinch of salt until they reach a hard ball stage. Then the hot liquid sugar mixture is very slowly poured over stiff egg whites, with chopped pecans and a little vanilla stirred in at the end for texture and flavor.

The trickiest part is knowing when the divinity is done and ready to be dropped into little mounds or poured into a pan to set. But I’ve got a couple of foolproof tests to help you out. First, you can just turn off your mixer and lift the beaters – if the candy falls back into the bowl in ribbons that immediately merge back into themselves, it’s not done and you need to keep beating.

Eventually, the divinity will lose its glossiness and sheen and stop being so sticky, which means it’s ready. The second test is even easier – just go ahead and stop the mixer, drop a teaspoonful of candy onto wax paper, and check whether the candy will hold its shape. If it puddles, the divinity isn’t ready, but if it holds a peak and stays in a nice mound, you’re good to go.

While the classic plain divinity is absolutely delicious, you can also get creative with fun flavor variations. Some of my favorites are peppermint, cherry, and chocolate. Or you can even color the divinity with a few drops of food coloring for a festive touch.

Whichever way you choose to enjoy it, homemade divinity is a Southern staple that’s sure to delight anyone with a sweet tooth. It makes a wonderful holiday gift, or the perfect sweet treat to enjoy all year round.

Hard Candy: Better Than Anything from the Store

If you’re looking to really impress your friends and family with some homemade candy, you can’t go wrong with classic hard candy. And the best part? It’s actually super easy to make at home – no candy thermometer required!

All you need is sugar, corn syrup, water, food coloring, and flavoring oils. In just about 15 minutes, you can whip up a batch of hard candy that puts anything you’d find at the store to shame.

The key is cooking the sugar syrup until it reaches the “hard crack” stage, which is around 310°F. Don’t worry, you don’t need a fancy candy thermometer to test for this – you can just drop a bit of the hot syrup into a bowl of ice water. If it forms a hard, brittle ball, your candy is ready to go.

Once you’ve reached the perfect temperature, just stir in your coloring and flavor, then pour the molten candy onto a sheet lined with foil and powdered sugar. After it cools, you can break it into bite-sized pieces and package it up for gift-giving.

The flavor possibilities are endless – from classic wintergreen and cinnamon to fruity cherry or tangy lemon. Or get creative and make your own custom flavor blends. It’s the perfect homemade touch for the holidays, but trust me, people will be begging you to make this stuff all year round.

And the best part? Homemade hard candy makes an amazing gift that’s sure to delight anyone with a sweet tooth. So what are you waiting for? Get in the kitchen and start whipping up some of the best candy you’ve ever tasted!

Peppermint Bark: The Easiest Homemade Candy You’ll Ever Make

When the holidays roll around, there’s one candy that always tops my list: peppermint bark. And let me tell you, the homemade version blows anything you can buy at the store out of the water.

Peppermint bark is essentially just layers of creamy white chocolate and crushed candy canes or peppermint candies. It’s a classic holiday treat that’s perfect for gifting, serving at parties, or just indulging in yourself. And the best part is, it couldn’t be simpler to make.

All you need are a few basic ingredients – white chocolate, crushed peppermint candies or candy canes, and a pinch of peppermint extract if you want an extra minty punch. Melt the chocolate, pour it into a pan, sprinkle on the crushed peppermint, and let it set. That’s it!

The result is a beautiful, layered candy with the perfect balance of sweet white chocolate and refreshing peppermint. Plus, it’s endlessly customizable – you can use different types of chocolate, add in crushed Oreos or sprinkles, or even swirl in some red food coloring for a fun, festive look.

Whether you’re looking for the perfect homemade gift idea or just want to treat yourself, peppermint bark is the way to go. It’s impressive enough to serve at holiday parties, but easy enough that the kids can help make it too. And trust me, once you try the homemade version, you’ll never go back to the store-bought stuff.

So what are you waiting for? Get in the kitchen and whip up a batch (or two!) of this irresistible peppermint bark. Your taste buds (and your loved ones) will thank you!

Conclusion

From the bittersweet backstory of the world’s best toffee to the billowy, airy divinity of the South, and the easy-to-make hard candies and peppermint bark that are perfect for gifting, this article has showcased some of the absolute best homemade candy recipes out there.

No matter what kind of sweet tooth you have, I guarantee you’ll find a new favorite in this delectable lineup. So what are you waiting for? Preheat your oven, gather your ingredients, and get ready to whip up some of the most irresistible homemade candy you’ve ever tasted. Your friends, family, and taste buds will thank you!

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