I've been getting more into candy making lately (I've always been into eating it), and I guess it's been fairly obvious because when a review copy of Nina Wanat's new book Sweet Confections: Beautiful Candy to Make at Home arrived at my apartment, I was ecstatic. First of all, it came tied up with a red and white string, literally (if you're humming songs from the Sound of Music right now, you're not alone). Not just a book on sweet confections, but a sweet confection in itself.
Secondly, as most food-blog enthusiasts would know, when the photo credits are given to Diane Cu and Todd Porter, also known as the White on Rice Couple, they're bound to be stunning. Every single recipe has been photographed, more than once, and in large, full-page color. The photos are put to especially good use at the beginning of the book, where ingredients and equipment are introduced. Particularly helpful is the temperature chart, which demonstrates visually what many books only describe: the precise look of each stage of cooked sugar, from thread to caramel. Equally useful are explanations of why some cooked sugar preparations should be stirred and some should not, instructions for dipping confections in tempered chocolate and a step-by-step guide for caramelizing sugar.
I made a couple of recipes from the book, including an amazing Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Fudge and these Applesauce Jellies. I carted a tray-full of the amber beauties home with me for Christmas and passed them around, waiting for each of my consecutive relatives to try one before declaring (after the requisite expressions of how delicious they were) that I had made them. If my family wasn't impressed, they did a great job pretending otherwise.
I'm getting less and less intimidated by sugar, and much of that has to do with having purchased a candy thermometer. It's such a a simple piece of equipment to use and takes all of the guess-work out of candy making. Most of the recipes in this volume call for one, so if you're really thinking of getting into the world of sugar, it's a purchase you won't regret. Wanat likens these treats to caramel apples, but you might also think of them as quite firm Turkish delights. And although she calls the walnuts optional, I personally wouldn't leave them out.
Excerpted (with permission) from Nina Wanat's Sweet Confections: Beautiful Candy to Make at Home (Lark Publishing; September, 2011)
As these jellies cook, the sugar caramelizes just enough to make them reminiscent of the autumnal thrill of caramel apples.
YOU WILL NEED
8x8-inch baking pan
Heatproof silicone spatula
Oil for the pan
2 tablespoons sour cream
2 1/4 cups applesauce, divided
3 tablespoons (3 envelopes) unflavored gelatin
2 3/4 cups sugar
2/3 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped (optional)
1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups cornstarch or powdered sugar for coating
Line an 8x8-inch baking pan with plastic wrap and coat evenly with oil.
Combine sour cream and 1 1/4 cups of the applesauce in a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin on top, and stir until smooth.
Boil the remaining 1 cup of applesauce and the sugar over medium heat in a 3-quart saucepan, stirring occasionally with a heatproof spatula until the sugar dissolves. Add the gelatin mixture in several additions, stirring to dissolve between each. Stir the boiling mixture constantly and gently until it reaches 224F, about 25 minutes.
Remove from the heat, and let sit 5 minutes. Stir in the walnuts, if using, vanilla, and salt, and pour into the prepared baking pan. Let cool until room temperature, and then refrigerate overnight.
Cut into 1-inch squares with a chef's knife. Roll in the cornstarch or powdered sugar. Store in an airtight container.
Cinnamon Applesauce Jellies: Add 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon to the gelatin mixture.