It’s Time to Make Christmas Candy as Gifts!

We’re making Christmas candies, chocolates, and cookies as part of our gift strategy this year.  I’m probably most excited about trying my hand at the Jacques Torres Nougat Montilimar, which is going to require a deft hand.  (It looked promising, and we stopped in one of his chocolate shops in New York a few years ago so I have a general idea of what to expect.)  I’m also going to try cherry cordials, amaretto liqueur cake, rum cake, and a few holiday breads.  Aaron wants to give truffles a go.  We have to figure out our chocolate recipe, and now that we found a local supplier, we’re using the same base Guittard that many famous candy businesses use, including See’s, which buys it in bulk and modifies it to get the distinct flavor for which it is known.  What will Kennon Green chocolate ultimately taste like?  We have no idea.  I suspect it will take us years to settle upon an agreement as we tend to feel passionately about these things.

[mainbodyad]Tonight, we’re starting with the easiest, most basic stuff that doesn’t require a lot of tempering, care, or effort, making sure we have tons of variety of each brand to accommodate anything and everything we might want to try.  I wanted to test using Sharffen Berger chocolate, the high-end, true, honest-to-God chocolate manufacturer (very few chocolate companies in the world actually turn the cocoa plant into the finished product) but it would take a few days to get here from California and we started this on a whim after grabbing dinner.  Which is ridiculous, in a sense, considering they are owned by Hershey’s.  Then again, so is the Cadbury license in the United States and I can only find it in bars, too.  Nestle isn’t much better.  It owns Cailler and good luck finding those in Kansas City.  (And what’s up with Lindt’s refusal to sell anything but retail bars?  We used them in the white chocolate nectarine pie but that is a horribly inconvenient way to try and make candies.  I’d have opted for Lindt if they had baking slabs for projects of scale.  They only do so through their Ghirardelli line, which is great but doesn’t have the same flavor.)

Regardless, we decided to kick off the process with an 8-minute recipe that can’t even be considered cooking as it is more assembling.  (It really is that laughably easy.  We went with it first so we could have a break after our our tests yesterday for the brandy or cognac reduction.)  Anyone should be able to do it.  You take chocolate chips, add fat to change the chemistry, melt them at the proper temperature, mix them with nuts, form clusters, and let them cool.  Here’s how Hershey describes the process, though we used a double boiler to be more more specific on our temperature guidelines as well as substituted almonds for peanuts.

Making Christmas Candy with Hershey Joshua and Aaron

We’re going to be making different kinds of chocolates, cookies, cakes, and desserts for everyone this Christmas season.  This was during my Hershey inventory.  Fun fact: If you ever want to entertain yourself, ask a French citizen who is a chocolate purist about his or her feelings toward Hershey’s milk chocolate line.  Stand back and watch the fireworks.  The irony is sublime.  With few exceptions, the same Parisian who will go on and on about the virtues of differences in cheeses such as Roquefort and Tomme De Savoie will likely spew venom about the slightly sour taste caused by the presence of what is believed to be butyric acid, which reminds them of stomach acid as it is the same compound found in goat milk, buffalo milk, sheep milk, butter, and vomit.  Most are unable to appreciate the differences, accepting each for what it is, to the point it’s comical.  Hershey stockholders need not fret, however, because they hold the license to manufacture Cadbury, Kit Kat, and other brands in the United States, too.

Christmas Tins for Candy

There was a 40% off sale at Michael’s on Christmas tins.  We’re going to use them to wrap candy for different people as a stocking stuffer!

White Chocolate Chips for Candy

Chocolate, or in this case, white chocolate, is such a beautiful sight.

Adding Almonds to White Chocolate Clusters

If you want bulk almonds, Sam’s Club has them at a fraction of the cost in your local grocery store.

Mixing Almonds and White Chocolate

So good.  It reminds me of one of the candy recipes I plan on making later, which requires a cream cheese coating on pralines into these old-fashion caramelized bites.

Milk Chocolate Chips Ready to Melt

Next comes the milk chocolate almond clusters …

Filling Candy Cups with White Chocolate Almond Clusters

That’s right.  Get in those cups.

Adding Almonds to Milk Chocolate Chips

Milk chocolate has a burn point of 115 degrees Fahrenheit so never exceed it!  Right now, as you look at this picture, you should hear the first few notes of Marvin Gaye’s 1970 classic, “Let’s Get It On”.  That’s a beautiful sight.

Making Almond Clusters Josh and Aaron Kennon Green

These will sit overnight and we’ll get started on the next phase tomorrow.

Even if you can’t cook, give these a try. Really, I mean you have to melt chocolate, mix in nuts, and form them into clusters. It’s not like you’re making vanilla sugar and chocolate bonbon with Raspberry Ganache. Though you can try that, too. We probably will!  You have to start somewhere and this is fun enough you’ll probably enjoy it.

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  • Alexis C

    Sadly, Cadbury chocolate in the US is not the same as England. I read about it some time ago so I don’t remember the details, but the dry powder ingredient of the chocolate is sent over from England but then Hershey’s uses different emulsifiers or something in their process. You can definitely taste the difference. Fortunately there are some importers that sell the English candy here but I don’t know about the bulk chocolate.

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    • dave (nestle)

      Yes, American made chocolate, if it was a living being, would be ashamed of itself. It is nothing like European chocolate. I would side with the French people that Joshua cites that criticize Hershey chocolate. It is a ‘certain’ product set up for a ‘certain’ group of people, if you ask me. No offense.

      If you ever get to Rockefeller center in New York, try Teuscher chocolate. They import their products from Switzerland on private jets twice a week, last I checked. Although the average price PER PIECE is $2.00 to $4.00, you wont need more than one piece because you will have died and gone to heaven.

      • Alexis C

        More tragedy: http://www.itv.com/news/2015-01-12/us-owners-of-cadburys-secretly-change-creme-egg-recipe/
        At least there’s still Zitner’s in Philadelphia. 3 different owners so far but no reported changes to the recipe.

        • dave (nestle)

          Such scheming and wizardry! (and no reason for it). It’s a good thing that I was never hooked on those Cadbury eggs anyway. (I do like me some roasted almond bars though)
          I never saw Zitners out in the real world. The eggs do look good on their site, but they wont sell them online.

          I have a favorite candy maker local to me. The best chocolates I ever had from the US market. (and I’ve been to all the trade shows in years past)

        • I said it five years ago, and I still believe it today. Of all of the executives in corporate America, the arrogance and hubris of Irene Rosenfeld never ceases to amaze me. I feel more disdain for the way she treats the owners of the businesses that have been entrusted to her, and the consumers that make the brands part of their lives, than I do the investment bankers who nearly destroyed the world in 2009. I might just order a cake and celebrate the day she retires or is kicked out of her post.

          Though I generally don’t believe in burning bridges – you never know how interconnected the world is – Rosenfeld is, in my mind, sort of the anti-Indra Nooyi at Pepsi. Nooyi just gets it. She is brilliant, focused, and understands the dangers of being tone deaf (e.g., Pepsi’s obsession with water efficiency in water challenged communities so as to respect the locals, increase goodwill, and simultaneously lower costs for owners so profits increase).

          The upshot on the Cadbury thing, though, is that in the United States, the license is held by The Hershey Company. They are not changing the recipe so American consumers shouldn’t experience any difference whatsoever.

  • dave (nestle)

    Joshua,

    Did you toast those almonds first? (give it a try if you didn’t)

    I sent you a message via contact form.

    • I have not but I will give this a try sometime. Thanks for the suggestion =)