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Make your own Easter candy

March 30, 1999

Easter CandyBy MEG H. PARTINGTON / Staff Writer

photo: RICHARD T. MEAGHER / staff photographer




For a more personal touch in your baskets this Easter, why not reach into your pantry rather than grab a bag at the store?

With some basic candy-making ingredients and tools, you can create treasures so sweet that the Easter Bunny surely won't mind bringing your basket early so you can fill it yourself.

[cont. from lifestyle]

Flavors




Coatings, which are the building blocks of many candies, come primarily in vanilla or milk, semisweet or white chocolate, though some are available in flavors such as orange, strawberry and peppermint. All are generally sold in chip, wafer or block form.

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LorAnn oils or flavorings can be used for enhancement to suit most tastebuds. The oils, such as spearmint, peppermint or cinnamon, are very strong. Only about two to four drops are needed per pound of coating, Crowell says. If using flavorings, like butter rum, pineapple or coconut, she says about twice as many drops are needed.

It's all in the melting




When working with coatings, the secret is in the melting process.

A double-boiler is the best bet, says Cindy Long, owner of Cindy's Sweets and Supplies in Williamsport. To determine the right amount of water, put some in the bottom pan, then put the other pan on top. When the upper pan is lifted, there should be no water on its underside. That ensures there is enough air circulating between the two so the coating doesn't get too hot, preventing it from getting thick and becoming difficult to handle, Long says.

She suggests bringing the water almost to a boil, removing it from the stove and putting the pan containing the coating on top. Once melted, the coating will stay that way for 1 1/2 to two hours, Long says. If the water cools, remove pan containing the coating and reheat the water.

Continue stirring the coating during the melting process and afterward.

Another means of melting is with a microwave, says Sandi Crowell, owner of Sandi's Candi Lane in Gerrardstown, W.Va., though she recommends the double-boiler for beginners.

Place coating in microwave-safe bowl - round ones work well because there are no corners in which coating can get trapped - and heat on high setting for 1 minute, Crowell says. If it is not thoroughly melted to the consistency of chocolate syrup, continue heating at 10-second intervals until done.

Avoid working with coatings on humid days.

"Humidity will kill your chocolate," Long says.

Faux pas




There are two potential problems candy-makers will face when melting coating, Long says. One is powdery residue, which results when the coating is too hot. The other is streaks, which occur when it is not stirred enough.

"You can never stir chocolate too much," Long says.

If coating gets too hot, it turns into a "mud ball," Crowell says, and is useless.

Don't add water or milk because they thicken coatings, Crowell says.

Coatings have a shelf life of about nine months, Long says. Store them, as well as finished candies, at room temperature, not in the refrigerator or freezer.

If coatings are old, add about 1 teaspoon crystals, which contain coconut and palm oils, to aid in the melting process.

Molds


Melt coating in either double-boiler or microwave and pour into molds. Tap molds several times so coating seeps into all the crevices and to remove air bubbles. Toothpicks or cake testers can be used to pop any remaining air bubbles and to coax coating into small corners. Use an angled spatula to remove any excess so backs of candies will be smooth. Set in freezer for about five minutes, or until coating separates from the mold. Remove from freezer and flip candies out of mold.

To add detail to molded candies, use coatings of different colors. Apply special colors with paintbrushes designed for candy-making or dispense through plastic bottles.

Let sit at room temperature for a few minutes, then fill entire mold with melted coating of your choice and proceed as above.

"This is basically paint by number except there's no numbers, there's crevices," Crowell said during a recent candy-making class at Musselman High School in Bunker Hill, W.Va.

If you're using different colors of candy coating, keep them in plastic bottles or small bowls on a warming tray or in an electric skillet, say Long and Crowell. If using a skillet, put it on the lowest setting and fill with a small amount of water or line with towels.

For sucker molds, add stick after filling mold and rotate in melted coating so it will adhere.

Little extras like eyes, candy carrots and flowers can be attached to the outside of candies with a dab of melted coating applied with a toothpick after the candy has come to room temperature.

Filled candies




Melt coating in either double-boiler or microwave. Pour small amount into molds and let sit in refrigerator for one to 1 1/2 minutes. After refrigeration, pour out any remaining liquid. Let the shell air dry. Add flavored center of your choice, but do not fill all the way to the top. Place melted coating in plastic bottle and squeeze over filling to cap off the candy; a spoon also can be used. Use spatula to remove excess. Set in freezer for about five minutes, or until coating separates from the mold. Remove from freezer and flip candies out of mold.

Centers can be made or purchased in all kinds of flavors, including peanut butter, coconut cream, wet coconut, fruit and nut, strawberry, raspberry, orange, chocolate cream, maple walnut and peppermint cream. Those who want to make their own can start the process with fondant, which comes in powdered or moist forms.

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