If you are like a lot of people this holiday season, money is tight. You may be trying to find creative ways to give to everyone on your list without breaking the bank. Homemade gifts are a wonderful idea because it not only saves money, but it shows you put some thought into it. We’re not talking about Christmas ornaments made out of yarn and glitter and popsicle sticks (although, if junior presents one of those to you on Christmas Day, that’s a perfectly lovely gift). We’re talking about homemade candy.
Homemade candy making intimidates a lot of people, but it doesn’t have to. Yes, there are recipes out there that are best left to the experts. But there are also simple recipes that even the most inexperienced candy maker could probably handle. Jim Stewart, owner of Fat Cake Guy in Flowood, is a self-taught candy maker who made candy for friends and family for years before taking over the former Candy’s Confections five years ago. In addition to making custom cakes, Stewart also sells a wide variety of homemade treats and candy in his store.
Before tackling a new project, it’s always a good idea to get some input from an expert. Stewart has some great advice for novice candy makers to ensure your endeavors are successful:
- Be patient. You cannot rush candy making. A lot of candy recipes are broken down into steps – which can be time-consuming – but each step is important.
- Be cautious, especially when working with hot sugar. During the candy making process, hot sugar usually has to be heated in excess of 200 degrees. This can cause serious burns if it accidentally comes in contact with your skin. Avoid making candy with small children or with them underfoot and keep all pot handles turned in to avoid knocking off a pot of hot sugar.
- Do not leave your candy unattended. Sugar has a mind of its own. It can go from almost ready to burnt in the blink of an eye.
- Plan ahead. Make sure you have all your ingredients (you don’t want to get halfway through a recipe and realize you are out of something important). Also, allot enough time to complete the project from start to finish. If the recipe says the candy needs several hours to set, it really does need several hours to set.
- Have your workstation set up so all your ingredients are within arm’s reach. Some steps in a recipe can go pretty fast. You don’t want to be running back and forth to the pantry.
- Finally, have fun! Nothing is better for the ego than having friends and family rave over your homemade candy.
When asked if he had an easy candy recipe that he would be willing to share, Stewart recommended Martha Washington balls. He describes them as tasting like a Mounds candy bar but made with pecans instead of almonds. The treats are one of their most popular candy sellers. However, if you are still intimidated by candy-making—or just don’t have the time—Fat Cake Guy sells everything from petits fours to baked goods to peanut brittle and homemade gourmet chocolate. They’ll be happy to send you on your merry way with a bag full of tasty (and homemade – just not in your kitchen) Christmas gifts.
Martha Washington Balls
Recipe adapted from Deep South Dish
1 (14 oz.) package sweetened flaked coconut
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 ½ cups chopped pecans
For the dipping chocolate:
1 (12 oz.) bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening
In a large mixing bowl, combine coconut, milk, powdered sugar, melted butter, and pecans. Mix well until all ingredients are thoroughly combined. Cover mixture and refrigerate for at least eight hours or overnight.
Using your hands, form mixture into two-inch balls. Arrange balls on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet and place in the refrigerator. Leave balls in the fridge until you are ready to dip them in the chocolate.
Combine chocolate chips and vegetable shortening in a microwavable bowl. Cook at 50% power for 1 minute increments, stirring afterwards, until chocolate is melted and smooth. Alternately, melt using a double boiler or by placing a glass or metal bowl snugly over the top of a small saucepan of boiling water.
Once the chocolate is melted, carefully dip about 10-12 coconut balls into the chocolate. Work in small batches and leave the rest of the balls in the refrigerator until you are ready to dip them. Gently coat the ball with the chocolate using a fork. Gently lift each ball out one at a time, let the excess chocolate drip off.
Place the dipped balls onto sheet of waxed or parchment paper. Allow balls to set at room temperature until chocolate is hardened, at least several hours.
Makes 6-7 dozen
Fat Cake Guy
5352 Lakeland Drive #2000
Flowood, MS 39232
Monday-Thursday: 7 AM – 7 PM
Friday-Saturday: 7 AM – 8 PM