Once final papers and exams finally wind down, it’ll be time to get into that holiday spirit by creating a few sweet treats that are perfect for ringing in the season.
Every Christmas, my extended family has a holiday tradition of spending an entire day making candy, but since I’ve moved away, I’ve learned to take the old tradition and put a new spin on them with these recipes.
Christmas candy is different than traditional candy, as it includes desserts that are easy to share with friends and family. As an added bonus, these candy recipes take almost no time at all, so you can focus on the highlight of Christmas desserts: the Italian Panettone.
The following three recipes are for Christmas candy. I typically make a lot more than just these, but use your discretion when approaching this new holiday tradition.
A sugary and salty match made in heaven with a layer of saltines, caramel and an optional topping of pecans, M&M’s or green and red sprinkles. While the “crack” in this recipe refers to the crackers, it is also seriously addicting. This recipe is adapted from a Southern Living Recipe tips and toppings.
1 sleeve of saltines (about 40 crackers)
1 cup or 2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
12 ounces of bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup of pecans, walnuts, M&M’s, chopped pretzels and/or green and red sprinkles (optional)
Preheat the oven to 325 F. Cover a large sheet pan with foil and spray with cooking spray. Place saltines in a single layer on the prepared sheet pan. Set aside.
In a medium saucepan, melt the butter until bubbling. Add the brown sugar to the saucepan and simmer until the toffee turns a slightly darker brown. Pour the toffee over the crackers slowly and evenly, so as to prevent the crackers from separating.
Bake the crackers and toffee for 12-15 minutes, until the sugar sets. Take the crackers and toffee out of the oven and sprinkle the chocolate chips all over the surface of the toffee immediately. You might have to put the tray back in the oven if the chocolate chips have trouble melting. Once the chocolate has melted, spread it evenly over the toffee. Top the chocolate with your desired topping.
The chocolate and the toffee take at least an hour to set, but once everything has, lift it out of the pan with the overlapping foil and cut into rough shapes. Enjoy!
“Puppy Chow” aka “MuddyBuddies”
You’ve probably indulged in a bag of these on a long car trip after you stop at a gas station, but this is a staple in my house at Christmas time. Plus, if you make it yourself, you won’t wind up with a bunch of powdered sugar lumps and chocolate Chex at the bottom of the bag.
1 cup of bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter, the smoother the better
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 box of Chocolate Chex
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
In a large saucepan, melt the chocolate, peanut butter and unsalted butter over medium heat. You can also heat it in the microwave until the chocolate and peanut butter melt, approximately five, one-minute intervals. Once the chocolate and peanut butter are melted and smooth, add in the vanilla extract and turn off the heat.
Pour the box of Chocolate Chex into the pan and coat the cereal in the chocolate peanut butter mixture. Pour the mixture into a large Ziploc bag, or two, with powdered sugar. Shake until the cereal is coated in powdered sugar. Pour the Puppy Chow into a large bowl and enjoy!
Good ol’ Peanut Brittle
A nut allergy is pretty much the only way to avoid this classic recipe for peanut brittle. Coming to you from Epicurious, this recipe has been edited to help those who have never made or struggled with making caramel brittle.
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 cups water
3/4 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup dark corn syrup
4 cups of chopped salted and roasted peanuts
2 tablespoons of unsalted butter
1/2 tablespoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
Line two large, rimmed cookie sheets with foil and spray or butter the foil, set aside.
In a large pot, preferably a heavy Dutch oven, mix and simmer the sugar, water and corn syrups over medium heat until the sugars dissolve. Turn the heat up to high and boil the mixture. Do not stir. If you stir the mixture at this point, you will disrupt the browning process of the caramel; no matter how tempting it might be, do not stir it.
With a candy thermometer, measure the temperature of the caramel until it reaches 260 F. Add the chopped peanuts and the butter. You may mix now. Wait until the candy thermometer measures 295 F, then add the baking soda and vanilla. Stir quickly. Immediately remove from the heat. The mixture will bubble over if you keep cooking it.
Divide the mixture evenly between the prepared pans. Let stand until it has completely cooled and has set. Break the brittle and serve.
This refined Italian version of fruit cake combines the cake-like dough of brioche and raisins and current to counteract the richness of the bread. This makes for a great dessert with or after Christmas dinner, and even for a great breakfast the day after.
Now for bread, I tend to lean on the side of using metric measurements by weight, and that’s why this recipe from Paul Hollywood is exact, yet approachable. If you don’t have a scale, there are some reliable internet conversion charts out there.
17.5 ounces bread flour
1/4 ounce salt
1 3/4 ounces granulated sugar
2 packets instant yeast
2/3 cups warmed whole milk
5 large eggs, room temperature
8 3/4 ounces unsalted butter, softened
4 1/4 ounces dried sultanas/golden raisins
4 1/4 ounces currents
3 1/2 ounces blanched slivered almonds
Butter a large glass bowl. Set aside.
Mix the flour, salt, sugar, yeast, milk and eggs together in the bowl of a mixer or by hand with a wooden spoon for a few minutes until the ingredients are combined. Then, increase the speed on the mixer to medium high. Mix for another 6-8 minutes.
With the mixer running, add chunks of butter one at a time over a period of another 6-8 minutes to make sure the dough has time to absorb the butter. Scrape the bowl.
Add in the dried fruits and the almonds, place in the buttered bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place the dough in the fridge overnight.
The next day, remove the dough from the fridge. Punch down the dough and allow to soften slightly at room temperature for at least 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, butter a large springform pan or a panettone pan. Set aside.
After the dough has softened, form it into a ball and drop it into the prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen cloth and allow to rise for at least 2-3 hours.
Preheat oven to 350 F. Remove cover from the panettone and cover with foil. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove the panettone from the oven and take off the foil and brush the top with an egg wash.
Place the panettone back in the oven and bake for 35 minutes until a skewer comes out clean when poked in the bread. Remove the panettone from the springform pan and allow to cool completely.
Enjoy! I have no doubt you won’t.
At high altitude, it is recommended that you reduce the sugar in a recipe, as the cooking or baking causes adverse reactions and makes your desserts dry out.
Baking soda and any leavening ingredient should be reduced at high altitude for the same reason. The reaction process changes with decreased oxygen and air pressure.
For the classic panettone, I honestly prefer a springform pan rather than a panettone pan because they’re so reliable and allow you to remove the dessert with ease. If you are unfamiliar with a springform pan, it’s basically a cake tin with removable sides in order to prevent sticking.
An egg wash, for me at least, is one whole egg and a tablespoon of cold water whisked together.