It always seems like I’m a season behind. It’s not unusual for me to start thinking about barbecuing in October. Or drinking iced coffee in February. Or making hot soup in July. I inch by with the motto “a day late and a dollar short.” As each year comes to a close, I start anew with a plan to be in the moment and enjoy the season in front of me. Once again, I find myself still in last season, making my Christmas treats in mid-January.
Part of the procrastination this year was the challenges of COVID-19 cooking. I contemplated the pros and cons for weeks. Could I make food for others? Even if I could, should I make food for others? Even after buying the ingredients, the thoughts still went round and round in my head. After conferring with some friends, I decided to proceed with extreme caution. I did a deep clean of the kitchen. Then put all non-essential items away making it easy to wipe down the counters after each recipe. I had already planned to use a mask, gloves where appropriate, and lots of hand-washing and sanitizing.
The issue that remained was how was I going to gift wrap the goodies. Fudge was the first item on the menu. Using a single pan and cutting and wrapping each slice was too much handling. Instead, I went with individual condiment cups. For the other candy, I found nice size holiday tubs in my stash. Since I was not wrapping the candies, I needed to put the minty goodies in their own container to trap their flavor. With all the prep work completed, I was ready to start the day of candy making.
All the following recipes I found while watching YouTube. My YouTube playlists are full of videos of enticing treats. So how did I target these three recipes? I wanted recipes that were easy and had minimal interaction to reduce the risk of germ spreading. Using the slow cooker for two of the recipes and off-the-shelf candy for the third fit the bill.
Slow cooker fudge recipes are popular on YouTube. I found several but the one that spoke to me was from the channel, What’s for Tea ( Chocolate Orange Fudge – Slow Cooker). What spoke to me was that she used Terri Orange Chocolates for the recipe. That square box with the orange foil ball brought back Christmas memories. Taking the ball and smashing it on the table, separating the slices, took me back to childhood.
Being in the middle of a pandemic, I searched online for Terri’s chocolate. I found them on Amazon but they were expensive for the amount needed. Disappointed, I thought I would need to substitute other chocolate in the recipe. As luck would have it, I found a knock-off brand at Dollar General. I picked up both milk chocolate raspberry and dark chocolate orange flavors.
To a four-quart slow cooker add
16.5 ounces of chocolate (3 – orange chocolate balls)
1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Stir to combine. With the lid off, heat on low for 20 to 30 minutes. Stir the mixture every so often. The fudge is done when all the ingredients are smoothly incorporated.
When completed, pour the fudge into a parchment-lined pan. Instead of this method, I used a kitchen scoop to fill individual containers with the fudge. I found I needed to work fast as the fudge quickly firmed. Once completed, I popped on the lids and set the cups in the refrigerator.
I found that the milk chocolate performed much better in this recipe. It remained a creamy fudgy consistency. The dark chocolate, which has a lower fat content, was less creamy but still tasty.
If I thought there were tons of fudge videos on YouTube, the peanut cluster videos seemed to be double that amount. When I went back to get credit information, I could not find the exact video I used.
The recipe is super easy.
In a 5 to 6 quart slow cooker add
16 ounces of dry roasted peanuts
16 ounces of unsalted dry roasted peanuts
12 ounces of milk chocolate chips
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
32 ounces of white chocolate bark
Cover and set to low. Do not stir. Cook for 1.5 to 2 hours. Wait for the chocolate to melt. Stir to incorporate all the ingredients. Drop by spoonful on parchment paper. Place in the refrigerator until set.
I used my 4-quart slow cooker. It was definitely too small. I filled it to the brim and I made a mess stirring all the ingredients together. The safest bet is to go with a 6-quart slow cooker.
The tri-chocolate combination of this recipe was a winner. Also, the mixture of salted and unsalted peanuts made it the perfect sweet and salty treat. For a more festive look, I added holiday sprinkles on the top. The peanut clusters were my favorite of the three recipes, and I will be making them again.
The final recipe has been on my list to try for a few years. I found it in a Maymay Made It video (Vinnie’s Valentines Dreamsicle Slices). The recipe takes orange jelly candies and covers them in white chocolate. Maymay used white chocolate chips melted over a double boiler. I used half white bark and half white chocolate chips in a pot designed for melting chocolate.
Once I melted the chocolate, the dunking began. I dumped the candies into the chocolate right from the bag, a few at a time. I then swirled them around and scooped them out with a chocolate dipping spoon that is hollow in the middle. I placed candies on parchment-lined trays and popped them into the refrigerator until set.
Being adventurous, I tried dipping spearmint leaves in a dark chocolate mixture. I found that the spearmint and chocolate flavors went well together.
The last candies that I tried to dip were cherry jelly hearts. I found them in the Valentine’s Day candy section. This is one advantage of not making Christmas candy till January. All three of the candies were yummy. The best, of course, were the orange slices, as they reminded me of a creamsicle ice cream. A soft summery thought and flavor for the dead of winter.
There you have it, three quick and easy recipes that make great gifts. Here they are all done, packed in containers and stacked ready to go into gift bags. Not bad for a day’s work and only a few weeks late. I’m improving!