Candy for adult tastes

New York TimesNovember 27, 2012 

  • Salted Licorice Brigadeiros 1 box (7 ounces) soft black licorice 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk 1 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped Chocolate sprinkles Coarse sea salt, like fleur de sel GRIND licorice in a food processor until finely chopped, about 30 seconds. (It will be noisy.) TRANSFER to a heavy-bottomed saucepan and add 1/4 cup water. Cook gently over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until licorice is shiny and almost melted (a few remaining licorice nibs are OK), 5 to 7 minutes. ADD condensed milk and bring to a simmer, stirring. Scrape mixture back into food processor and add chocolate. Process until as smooth as possible (you will still have a few lumps but that’s OK), about 1 to 2 minutes. SCRAPE mixture into a bowl and chill until very cold, at least 3 hours. POUR sprinkles into a bowl. Roll teaspoons of licorice mixture into balls (you may want to lightly coat your hands with butter or oil) and drop them into sprinkles, turning to coat. Place balls into paper candy cups and sprinkle tops with coarse sea salt. Yield: About 3 dozen
  • Black Pepper and Bourbon Caramel Chews About 2 cups (420 grams) granulated sugar 2 cups heavy cream 6 tablespoons honey 2 tablespoons bourbon 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt 4 tablespoons unsalted butter 2 teaspoons black pepper LINE an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment and coat with cooking spray. COMBINE sugar, cream, honey, bourbon and salt in a medium heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pot. Cook mixture, stirring frequently, until it reaches 245 degrees, 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the size of the pot. Quickly stir in butter and pepper. POUR mixture into prepared pan. Let cool completely until it is set to a semi-firm consistency, about an hour. Cut into 50 rectangular pieces and wrap in parchment paper, cellophane or other candy wrappers, twisting ends to seal. Yield: 50 pieces
  • Almond and Goat Cheese Candy Bars 5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter, softened About 1/3 cup (25 grams) sliced almonds 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, more as needed 3/4 cup smooth almond butter 2 tablespoons softened goat cheese About 1/2 cup (55 grams) almond flour About 1-1/2 cups (195 grams) confectioners’ sugar 4 ounces bittersweet (72 percent) chocolate, coarsely chopped LINE an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper. MELT 1 teaspoon butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add almonds and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until almonds are golden, about 5 minutes. Pour into a bowl. BEAT together almond butter and goat cheese with electric mixer. Beat in almond flour. Stop mixer and scrape down sides. Beat in sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 5 tablespoons butter until combined. Scrape down sides and beat once more to combine. Spread into pan. BRING a pot of water to a simmer. Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Place bowl over pot of simmering water and cook, stirring, until the chocolate is completely melted. Scrape chocolate into the pan over the almond butter mixture and spread evenly. Scatter almonds over chocolate. Let cool to room temperature. Cover with foil and chill until firm. Cut into 18 bars. Yield: 18 bars

In today’s locavore, organic-minded, food-crazed culture, we get so wrapped up in the idea of seasonal fruits and vegetables that it can be easy to forget another important, deep vein of seasonal foodstuff opportunities.

That is, candy.

There are candy canes for Christmas, gelt for Hanukkah and chocolate bunnies for Easter, not to mention sugary marshmallow Peeps. The candy universe is large and diverse, and there are more sophisticated forms of life out there – though probably not readily available at your local supermarket. So, with the aim of expanding my candy horizons, I had the idea to come up with some more adult confections.

I started with goat cheese. Beating some into almond butter, along with regular butter and confectioners’ sugar, made for a pan of almond candy bars grounded by a tart earthiness that toned down the sugar. And because these candy bars are savory-sweet, as opposed to cloying, I can eat more of them before my teeth start to ache.

It’s important to use a mild, soft goat cheese. You want a slight tang but not an overwhelming barnyard flavor. And if you really dislike the funkiness of goat cheese, you can use cream cheese instead. The candy will be sweeter and not as complex tasting, but the recipe will still work.

Using salted licorice as my inspiration, I decided to try combining sweet licorice and sea salt with chocolate brigadeiros, which are luscious Brazilian fudge balls coated thickly with chocolate sprinkles.

To make my version, I melted soft pellets of black licorice with sweetened condensed milk, then stirred in unsweetened chocolate. The chocolate gave the candy a bitter edge and helped firm it up. (Without the chocolate, the candy is sweeter and stickier.) I also dusted sea salt over the sprinkles. The candies, which looked just like chocolate truffles, were creamy, smooth and just salty enough, while still remaining firmly planted on the sweet side of things. I adored them.

Both the brigadeiros and the candy bars were extremely easy to put together, no special equipment needed.

The last recipe I tried, for soft caramels, is slightly more persnickety, requiring a candy thermometer. Soft caramels are not inherently elegant, so I flavored them gently with black pepper and a dash of bourbon. It was just enough to make things interesting.

For a printable copy of the recipes, click the links:

Black Pepper and Bourbon Caramel Chews

Salted Licorice Brigadierios

Almond and Goat Cheese Candy Bars

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