Daily Culinary Quote: The denigration of male candy eaters

“As long as I can remember, male candy eaters have been ill-used, misunderstood, and denigrated, in films and on television, as weak, self-indulgent, soft, effeminate, undisciplined, and venal. Most of us have been driven underground. We eat our candy alone and on the sly. We never experience the intimacy of sharing candy with others—unless we have chosen our mates wisely.”

~ Jeffrey Steingarten (“It Must’ve Been Something I Ate: The Return of the Man Who Ate Everything”)

Wow, mango IS better than apricot!

Last year I tried a new recipe from a Betty Crocker Christmas Cookies book from 2010 (you know, the little ones they sell right up by the cash registers at grocery stores. I’m a sucker for those). The Apricot-Chai Almond Bark recipe had a lot of potential, but it didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped. The dried apricots made it rather bitter, and the almond topping ended up all over the other cookies and candies. Sadly, it was the only thing left when I took the cookie tray home from work.

This year I changed it up a bit and it turned out pretty good. In fact, I’m eating the little reject pieces for breakfast as I write this. Since the annual hunt for the hand-written gingerbread cookie recipe* every December is such a pain in the ass–I’m setting down this new recipe so I don’t forget it.

If you’d rather try the original recipe, here’s the link to it on the Betty Crocker site: Apricot-Chai Almond Bark

And here’s my take on it:

Mango-Chai Almond Bark

1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
24 oz vanilla-flavored candy coating (almond bark), chopped
1/4 cup mango nectar
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup finely chopped dried mangos

  1. Sprinkle almonds in ungreased heavy skillet. Cook over medium heat 5 to 7 minutes, stirring frequently until nuts begin to brown, then stirring constantly until nuts are light brown. Cool 10 minutes. In food processor, process almonds and coconut until finely chopped; set aside.
  2. Line 15x10x1-inch pan with waxed paper. In medium microwavable bowl, microwave 12 oz of the candy coating on High 1 minute; stir. Microwave in 15-second intervals, stirring after each, until melted. Quickly stir in the almond and coconut mixture. Spread evenly in pan. Refrigerate 15 minutes or until set.
  3. In small bowl, mix mango nectar, cinnamon, allspice, cardamom, vanilla, lemon juice and lemon peel; set aside.
  4. In medium microwavable bowl, microwave remaining 12 oz candy coating on High 1 minute; stir. Microwave in 15-second intervals, stirring after each, until melted. Quickly stir in mango nectar mixture and dried mangos.
  5. Pour and spread over chilled bark. Refrigerate at least 1 hour. Cut diagonally into one-inch diamond-shaped pieces.

Makes approximately 48 servings

Variation: I changed up the measurement for the almonds from the original recipe because I had a lot of leftover unsweetened coconut from a birthday cake last month. I’m still not sure the inclusion of the coconut added anything or not (toasting it didn’t make much of a difference either), so next year I may change it back to 3/4 cup of almonds and leave the coconut out completely.

I also doubled this recipe for my cookies trays. Yes, it’s really that good now.
*Hopefully I’ll finally convert the measurements for the gingerbread cookies and get it added to my working cookbook so every time I want to make awesome gingerbread cookies I don’t have to hunt down that tiny slip of paper with the recipe my old pastry chef scribbled down for me.

It’s an Orgy of Baking

All the Sugar Cookies
(I can’t decide if ‘orgy’ is supposed to be capitalized or not. It looks kinda funny that way…maybe it’s just that I don’t use that word often enough.)

It’s that time of year again.

The table is cleared and the kitchen is clean.

Recipes are brought out, picked through, and a lucky few chosen.

Around $150 in baking supplies and gift containers are stacked up against a wall.

My updated Kitchen playlist is scaring the cats and probably also disturbing the neighbors.

And for once, I was actually able to schedule four days in a row off from work so I can do all my Christmas and holiday baking early this year. I’m so excited about this that I’m sitting at my cleared table, in my nice clean kitchen, writing all about it before the baking actually begins.

Normally, I’m baking on my weekends and after work, frantically picking through my list of cookies and candies to see which can be quickly doubled or completely dropped from the list because I’m already out of time. It’s always so stressful that I not only don’t get to enjoy the baking part–but I don’t have time to enjoy delivering the treats either. Steve may argue that the point of all this is to thank people and businesses, but to me it’s really all about feeding people and making them happy, even if it’s just a momentary happiness.

This year I plan on enjoying myself.

The tentative list for baking is:

  1. Dark Chocolate Covered Coconut Balls
  2. Divinity
  3. Sugar Cookies
  4. Gingerbread cookies
  5. Raspberry Almond Cookies
  6. Mango Chai Almond Bark
  7. Chocolate Spritz Cookies
  8. Cherry Pecan Cookies
  9. Sugar & Spice Coffee Slices
  10. Raspberry Fudge Brownies
  11. Citrus Glazed Lemon Spritz Cookies

It’s tentative because I padded it just enough that I can remove one or two items if things get behind, and they’re items that don’t require any special ingredients to purchase either.

The first two I make every year because it’s something my grandmother used to do at Christmas until I took over for her. I’ve modified the coconut ball recipe, but the divinity is exactly the same. One of my coworker’s calls it “Shiny Ferret Sugar Crack” because of how wired she gets when I bring divinity to work. The next three cookies are things that have become a holiday tradition for Steve and I (two of them are recipes from the resort where I did my externship). Hopefully the Mango Chai Bark will be an improvement over the nasty Apricot Chai Almond Bark from last year. It had a lot of potential, but crashed and burned once I added the apricots. Everything below that is new. We’ll see which ones are good enough to keep on the list for next year.

Now it’s time to stop writing and start baking.  Woo hoo!

A Halloween Candy Corn Review

Before I begin, I just want everyone to know that I am ALMOST sick of candy corn now. Not quite sick enough to give away my stash of the winning brand, but enough to unload the 9 remaining bags on my coworkers.

I reviewed a combination of flavored candy corn (flavors other than the regular one everyone is familiar with), and the normal everyday variety of candy corn but from different manufacturers. They are not reviewed in any particular order.

  1. Gummy Candy Corn (Target Gourmet brand): I don’t know why I bothered since it’s not really candy corn, but I was curious to see what it tasted like.  Not good.  It was sort of sour and not much of a candy corn flavor. It’s better than eating a gummy eyeball, but not by much.
    Gummy Candy Corn (1)
  2. Pumpkin Pie Candy Corn (Target Gourmet brand): Most of the Target Gourmet candy corn had a softer texture than the regular stuff.  It tasted less like pumpkin pie and more like candy corn with cinnamon and all the other standard pumpkin pie spices.  I didn’t care for it at all, but some of my coworkers have been contentedly munching on it.  Unlike the other flavors of this brand – it left an odd coating on the tongue.
    Pumpkin Pie Candy Corn (2)
  3. S’mores Candy Corn (Target Gourmet brand): Once the bag was opened, all I could smell was brown sugar with a hell of a lot of molasses. The first blast of flavor was ass gas… sweet, sweet ass gas.  The second wasn’t as bad, but I didn’t try for a third.
    S'mores Candy Corn (3)
    4. Chocolate Covered Green Apple Candy Corn (Target Gourmet brand): The bag had a combination of the Green Apple candy corn without chocolate, and some completely coated in chocolate. The plain candy tasted like the combination of a green apple Jolly Ranchers and candy corn. The chocolate covered version was pretty darn good. The bag currently resides in a desk drawer where I can sneak it out without having to share with my coworkers.
    Chocolate Covered Green Apple Candy Corn (4)
    5. Blood Orange Candy Corn (Target Gourmet brand): Sadly it didn’t taste anything like a blood orange. It was everyday fake-orange flavored candy. Okay for mixing with regular candy corn, but not great on its own.
    Blood Orange Candy Corn (5)
    6. Strawberry Cotton Candy Candy Corn (Target Gourmet brand): It actually tasted like cotton candy. Sadly, that only came out at the end after almost being overpowered by the mandatory artificial flavor that everyone uses when you want candy to taste like strawberries. It was also way too sweet, but then again so is cotton candy, so I’m not sure if that’s good or bad here. After trying this one – I’d like to see a regular cotton candy candy corn without the strawberry.
    Strawberry Cotton Candy Candy Corn (6)
    7. Hill Country Fare Candy Corn: Hill Country Fare is the low end house brand at the HEB grocery stores in central Texas (mid range is HEB Brand, and high end is Central Market). Do not purchase this candy corn. Please, please do not even think about purchasing this unless you hate the person you’re giving it to. It was remaniscient of plastic and cardboard soaked in bug spray. I threw this one away because I don’t hate anyone that much.
    Hill Country Fare Candy Corn (7)
    8. Brach’s Candy Corn (made with real honey): It took two bags of Brach’s Candy Corn to get this review written. The first bag was emptied before the review actually started, and the second kept me going in between some of the nastier entries. Tonight a friend introduced me to the best way to eat Brach’s candy corn – add a can of salted cashews to the bowl/bag and eat both at the same time. I will now need a third bag to make sure that I wasn’t imagining it’s salty-sweet goodness.
    Brach's Candy Corn (8)
    9. Market Pantry Candy Corn (Target house brand sold in bulk): This candy is 2/3’s the size of Brach’s, and the flavor was only about half as much. It was sorta like eating a wax copy of candy corn.
    Market Pantry Candy Corn (9)
    10. Lammes Candies Candy Corn: These looked exactly like the Market Pantry Candy Corn (and were the same size), but they tasted much better. Not quite as good as Brach’s, but close.
     Lammes Candy Corn (10)
    11. Brach’s Milk Maid Caramel Candy Corn: It tastes like cheap caramel candy. I assume they’re supposed to taste like Brach’s Milk Maid candy, but in this case, that’s not a good thing.
    Brach's Milk Maid Caramel Candy Corn (11)
    12. Brach’s Indian Corn: This tastes like candy corn with a little caramel and chocolate added. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I guess I could try a few more.
    Brach's Indian Corn Candy (12)