Dec 02 2013
You know, Christmas is a holiday for baby boomers to reminisce about all the retro things that made their childhoods so enjoyable. Bing Crosby on the stereo, your parents and their friends smoking pipes and sipping cordials and laughing, the ceramic C9 lights that got so hot they burnt the house down? And all the adults just chuckled and sipped some more booze and patted your head and told you to stop whining? That’s how I imagine Christmas was back then, anyway. But all I have is the soundless black and white videos and the hazy Kodak photos to go on. And every Christmas song that ever gets played these days, with the exception of the religious ones, “Sleigh Ride” and “Last Christmas”.
Anyway, that is a long round-about way of saying a very simple thing – namely, the things we like and value when we are kids may turn out to just be crap. And that may be the case for this recipe. But it’s *my* crap damnit, and *my* childhood and heaven help me, I still love these damn candies. Even though they’re fake-flavored, sugar bombs.
My mom stopped making these, likely around the time that her common sense kicked back in after making it through age 7 with four different kids and she finally decided they were messy and just not worth the effort. But I remember these candies fondly and I remember making them fondly and so I set about to do it.
Maple Cream Candy
Adapted from a recipe by Betty Malisow, from the cookbook “Recipes from Minnesota with Love”
3-1/2 cups Powdered Sugar
1 cup Butter or Margarine
3 Tb Maple Flavoring (the 1 fl oz McCormick jar of Imitation Maple flavor is almost 3 Tb)
2 cups Chopped Walnuts
2 cups Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
4 Tb Coconut Oil
Cream the powdered sugar and the butter/margarine together with the maple flavoring. Mix in Walnuts. Chill for at least a few hours. I chilled overnight. Actually, over two nights. Once chilled, roll out into 1 inch balls and set those balls on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. I like to roll mine a bit smaller – about a bite’s worth – because the filling is so sweet. The rolling process can get messy – but an overnight stay in the fridge and having everything you need prepped and ready to go (and a couple damp paper towels at the ready) made it a cinch for me on Sunday morning. Once you have rolled all the filling – place the cookie sheet in the freezer for a few hours.
The candy coating in the original recipe called for 12 oz chocolate chips; 6 oz butterscotch chips and 3/4 square paraffin wax to be melted. I’m not the biggest fan of petroleum by-products in my cooking and figured there might be a better solution. What I chose to do instead was this: 2 Tb coconut oil for each cup of chocolate chips – melted in a double boiler. I stuck 3 inch skewers (you could also use toothpicks) into the frozen balls and dipped them into the chocolate coating and then placed them back on the cold, wax-paper lined cookie sheet. Speed is your friend during this process. I stuck the balls with the skewers still in into the fridge for twenty minutes or so, then removed the skewers and covered the holes with more of the chocolate coating.
The coconut oil coating tastes better, but is thinner than the paraffin coating and melts faster in your hands. I probably should have done a double dip into the chocolate coating.
You could also just temper your chocolate to make a hard, shiny coat if you have a candy thermometer and patience – I have neither. So you get the lazy, foolproof way out, which probably isn’t the ideal solution.
There we go – my Christmas nostalgia is out of the way now, I promise. My next recipes will be new and exciting and experimental ones for me: Pfeffernüsse and *something* with my random pick at Penzey’s yesterday – Mahlab / Mahlep. Of course the Mahlep is reminding me of my Turkish roommate in college and I just happen to have a Polaroid here on my desk of the two of us with two other friends, all sitting on Santa’s lap. I wonder if she would have an exciting recipe to share using the Mahlep. It is strange how food becomes a bridge that binds us to each other, a taste and aroma that teases out our treasured memories of one another… just like Bing Crosby on the stereo.