Fudge, popcorn balls, gingerbread, chocolate bark, caramels, toffee, truffles, peanut (or other nut) brittle, cranberry bread and meringues all are not-too-difficult edible gifts you can make in time for the holidays.
If the cheerful programs on the Hallmark channels are correct, gifts made by hand are the best. Those include the king of all homemade gifts, freshly baked cookies.
While cookies make a wonderful and fairly universal gift, candy is also well received and doesn’t have to be difficult to make. Truffles can be mixed up without cooking and rolled in cocoa or confectioners’ sugar, while popcorn balls are popcorn covered in a sweet syrup, then formed into balls.
And it was a defining moment for home cooks when someone figured out that melting chocolate chips and adding sweetened condensed milk resulted in a pretty good and amazingly easy fudge.
If you have something special that you make each year and everyone looks forward to, then by all means keep making it. But if you are looking for something different this year, candy is a dandy choice for the holidays, and doesn’t have be a lot of work. It’s also something that can be made with children helping out.
Many candy recipes require a candy thermometer to make sure they reach the proper temperature, but not this simple, seasonal fudge from barefeetinthekitchen.com.
Peppermint Marshmallow Fudge
Servings: 48 1-inch pieces
2 cups semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
¼ cup butter
1/8 teaspoon peppermint extract *
2 cups mini marshmallows or homemade marshmallows, chopped small
6 miniature candy canes or 1 large candy cane crushed
(place the candy in a plastic before crushing, to cut down on the mess)
Combine the milk, the chocolate and the butter in a medium size glass bowl and heat in the microwave for 90 seconds. Stir to combine and heat another 15 seconds if needed. (If you aren’t a fan of the microwave, you can easily melt the chocolate, milk and butter in a double boiler on the stove top.)
Stir until smooth. Stir in the extract and the marshmallows. Pour into a well-greased pan. (I used an 8- x10-inch pan, however, any size will work.) Top with crushed candy canes. Chill until ready to serve. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.
* Measure peppermint extract very carefully. If you add even a few drops too much, the flavor will change from “mint” to “toothpaste.”