Christmas Candy #2 – 4 – Peanut Clusters, Coconut Clusters, & Chocolate Pretzels

I used to think that making candy was a long and involved task, but then realized that many candies are just ingredients covered in chocolate.  What could be better?  Chocolate on top of almost anything makes it better, so covering fruit, nuts and other salty snacks with chocolate makes the perfect candy.

This afternoon Zeb and I spent an hour and a half working on three different chocolate covered concoctions and now have enough candy for Grace to give as gifts to all her coworkers, to send to a friend in Florida, and to give to our neighbors.  Time well spent!

There are several ways to attain just that right blend of chocolate for covering various ingredients.  One is to buy the prepared chocolate dip in the baking section at the grocery store, another is to use a combination of milk chocolate, dark chocolate, and semi-sweet chocolate baking chips, and my favorite — buying chocolate from a candy making specialty shop.

My favorite chocolate to use when covering fruit or nuts is Nestles.  At the specialty shop in our area I buy both milk and dark chocolate and then use a combination of the two to attain a not too sweet chocolate, perfect for dipping.  Using baking chips, however, works just as well in a pinch, as does the prepared chocolate dips.  I just like having an excuse to go to the specialty chocolate shop.  There’s always so many fun things to see.

Once you have your chocolate melted, either in a double boiler or the microwave, all you need to do is add the nuts, coconut or fruit.  Today I added peanuts to make peanut clusters and coconut to make coconut clusters.

Peanut Clusters

Peanut Clusters

Coconut Clusters

Coconut Clusters

Once those two were setting in the garage (as it’s fairly cold out so I didn’t need to put them in the freezer) we set to work on melting more chocolate and dipping mini pretzels.  Then while they were still wet we sprinkled them with nonpareils.  Quite festive, don’t you think.

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There are so many other things you can dip or cover in chocolate:  Raisins, cherries, cranberries, pineapple, almonds, and even potato chips.  Now I’ve got a list of things to work on tomorrow.  There’s no such thing as too much candy or too much chocolate, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

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Christmas Candy #1 – Old-Fashioned Butter Mints

One of my favorite candies as a child were those wonderful melt-in-your-mouth mints that I got when my parents took us out to dinner.  I can’t remember anything about the restaurants they took us to, the names or types, but I do remember that it seemed every restaurant we went to had a big bowl of these tiny mints on a podium near the entrance.  The pastel-colored mints were light and sugary, and melted in my mouth.  I could hardly wait till we left so I could take a spoonful and slip them into my pocket to enjoy all the way home.

A few months ago I was researching different candies to make this holiday season and came across several recipes for butter mints.  I just had to try them.  Zeb absolutely loves mint, it’s his favorite.  So tonight, we set to work on this simple, and quick recipe and were thrilled with the results.

Old-Fashioned Butter Mints

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  • 1/4 Cup Softened Butter
  • 1/4 tsp. Salt
  • 3 1/4 Cups Powdered Sugar
  • 1/3 Cup Sweetened Condensed Milk
  • 1/2 to 3/4 tsp. Peppermint Extract
  • Green Food Coloring

Mix butter and salt in mixer till blended.  Add milk, food coloring and 1/2 tsp. peppermint extract and mix until well combined.

Begin adding powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time, beating well after each addition.  After all the sugar has been added, taste the dough. If you want more flavor, add an additional 1/4 tsp. of extract.

Divide dough into 8 to 10 balls and roll into logs.  Slice and store in air tight container in fridge.

These mints turned out perfect.  They melted in my mouth just like the ones I remember from my childhood.

Memories are great, but making these mints with Zeb and making a new memory is even better, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.