These candy recipes are a portal to Christmas past.
Every year, my mom makes a peanut brittle recipe that she clipped from the Wednesday food section of The Columbus Dispatch decades ago. It's simply not Christmas without it. If she didn't bring it to her church group's annual holiday auction, there'd be a riot.
She had me helping with those many batches of peanut brittle before I was even tall enough to reach the pot on my own. She'd pull up a stool and have me stir the molten sugar, telling me which temperatures to look for on the candy thermometer.
Early on, I learned that the payoff for making your candy traditions is immense. The heart that you put into them simply can't be duplicated by even the most dedicated of gourmet retailers. From caramels and fudge to brittles and candied nuts, I know you'll find a recipe below to join (or rejoin) your recipe file. Pull a stool up to the stove, clip your candy thermometer to the pan, put on your favorite Christmas songs, and join in the memory-making.
The buttery base of English toffee gets a thin topping of dark chocolate and nuts for a symphony of flavors and textures. A touch of salt really makes it come alive.
Get Recipe: Classic English Toffee
If you have kids, you know that come December, candy canes simply appear out of nowhere. People heap the things up on your young ones at school, in stores, and on gifts as decorations. Put those surplus canes to good use as a topping for these unique homemade soft caramels that are kissed with a dose of peppermint extract.
Get Recipe: Peppermint Caramels
A good Southern praline is hard to come by. They're also notoriously fussy to make, but with the tips our contributor Steve-Anna Stephens shares, you're in good hands. For instance: "Never make these on a rainy day! Humidity and moisture can affect the finished texture of the candies."
Get Recipe: Pecan Pralines
Marshmallow creme is the key ingredient that makes this exquisite fudge achievable for beginners. Since Kraft introduced their initial version of this recipe decades ago, it's hard to find homemade fudge that doesn't have marshmallow creme. Try it and you'll know why.
Get Recipe: Easy Marshmallow Fudge
Warning: Homemade marshmallows will spoil you. They're chewy and substantial and full of character. Anyone fortunate enough to sample these will never be able to enjoy mass-produced marshmallows again. The peppermint flavor adds a festive seasonal touch.
Get Recipe: Peppermint Marshmallows
Me and my fellow Ohioans are proud of our state, and will take any opportunity to brag when a thing of worth originated here. When I lived on the West Coast, I made it my mission to introduce as many people as possible to these regional delights that are made to mimic the nut of Aesculus glabra, the Ohio buckeye tree. I mean, chocolate and peanut butter—there's no better combo! They're especially beloved during the holidays. One bite and you'll be a convert, too.
Get Recipe: Peanut Butter Buckeyes
Spreading the hot brittle on a greased baking sheet instead of a clunky Silpat is the secret to getting peanut brittle that's thin and breaks apart easily. Adding baking soda gives it a lightness and allows it to crack into bite-size pieces, making it brittle indeed.
Get Recipe: Peanut Brittle
Candied orange peels dipped in chocolate make elegant gifts. Our recipe offers instructions for candying the peels; you can save up peels from oranges you eat, refrigerate them, and then go about your candy-making once your get enough.
Get Recipe: Chocolate Covered Orange Peels
Longtime contributor Irvin Lin translated his mother-in-law's recipe from her own freeform version (she simply adds peanut butter until it “looks and feels” right) into something you can make at home with guaranteed success. Lucky you! This stuff is magical. "I’m fearful I’ll end up like her, making this easy peanut butter fudge on a weekly basis," Irvin writes. "I can feel my waistline expanding already."
Get Recipe: Easy Peanut Butter Fudge
Simply Recipes founder Elise Bauer and her mom loved the sesame brittle sold at their local heath food store so much that Elise figured out how to make it at home. It's a simple recipe of mostly raw sesame seeds, honey, and sugar that Elise enlivens with a hint of nutmeg. Mix it up by adding slivered almonds or pumpkin seeds.
Get Recipe: Sesame Brittle
“If you don’t relax while you’re making caramel, you’re going to fail every time.” That's the advice that contributor Marta Rivera got from a pastry chef she worked with. It's true: making candy is about dialing in to subtle changes and aroma cues. You even use your sense of hearing. It adds up to caramels that are a delight for all your senses, whether you're the cook or the person eating them.
Get Recipe: Soft Caramel Candy
This just may be the easiest holiday candy you can make. Also, it involves breaking things: breaking peppermints into shards, breaking the finished bark into pieces. You know what that means. Yep, call the kids over and get them involved for a recipe built just for them.
Get Recipe: Peppermint Bark
Whiskey is a go-to gift to offer lovers of fine spirits. Adding a little whiskey to these rich truffles lets you expand your gift-giving options. Chocolate aficionados are fans of whiskey and chocolate pairings, and these truffles deliver that in one handsome little package.
Get Recipe: Whiskey Chocolate Truffles
If you're all thumbs at candy-making, take heart. All you do here is toss pecans with a whipped egg white, sugar, and an assortment of spices. Then you bake it and package it up. These are divine for snacking, but also excellent sprinkled on salads.
Get Recipe: Sugared Pecans
When I was growing up, caramel corn was a thing we made in the microwave, of all things, but this traditional stovetop version honestly gives you more visibility and control over the hue you want. Add peanuts for a Cracker Jack-like version.
Get Recipe: Caramel Corn
I recall my mom making this in the 1980s and all of her garden club friends trading the recipe around. That's how recipes went viral back then. You can still get almond roca candies in tins, but this homemade version is more like a brittle, and it's very fun to make, with more almonds per bite than the commercial version.
Get Recipe: Homemade Almond Roca
Think of rum balls as the ancestors of cake pops. They're a no-bake holiday favorite. These use crushed Nilla wafers, but other crunchy cookies or even old brownies will work. Mix them with melted chocolates and add the booze of your preference (it doesn't have to be rum).
Get Recipe: Rum Balls
Saltines make the base of this toffee-like confection. Unlike many other stovetop candy recipes, you don't need a candy thermometer, so it's perfect for those who don't want to fuss too much with details. To shake things up, consider toppings like nuts or crushed pretzels.
Get Recipe: Christmas Cracker Candy
Old-Fashioned Penuche Fudge
Popular in the Northeast, penuche is intensely sweet yet strengthened with a backbone of deep caramel flavor from long-cooked brown sugar. It's not particularly common today, perhaps because it's not very flashy. Which is a shame, as its unadorned nature lets its simplicity speak for itself. It'll be the unexpected star of any dessert tray, and spark a flood of nostalgia for the septuagenarian-plus crowd.
Get Recipe: This Retro Fudge Deserves a Major Comeback
Dates are nature's candy and shine with no embellishment, but the holidays are a time of pulling out all the stops. For upgraded homemade versions of candy bars like Twix, Snickers, or Almond Joy, stuff pitted dates with peanut butter or caramel, then dip in chocolate and coat with chopped nuts or flaked coconut.
Get Recipe: Candy Bar Dates
Called lokum in Türkiye, Turkish delight is beloved throughout many countries across the globe. Soft, slightly chewy, and always tinted a pastel hue, popular flavors include rose water, orange water, and mint. You can personalize this recipe with chopped pistachios or by dipping pieces in chocolate.
Get Recipe: Turkish Delight (Lokum)
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