I have happy memories of dumping out my loot late Halloween night. Sifting through waves of Gobstoppers and jawbreakers, offering Smarties to my sister in exchange for something, anything, chocolate. As time goes by, Gobstoppers lose their appeal when we think of the dentist’s bill for a new crown. Candy corn has its critics, and some treats become “too much” for conservative candy consumers. Where is the candy for the kids at heart?
With this pressing question, nay need, I bunkered in my kitchen and started toying with candy recipes to appeal to a more mature crowd. Being a candy purist at heart, I set my sights on lollipops and caramel.
Caramels are a trifecta of milk, butter and sugar. Commercial caramels use corn syrup to give the finished product that tacky, stuck-in-your-teeth finish. Opting for honey instead, it added a richness and velvety soft texture that corn syrup-based versions can’t touch. Infusing the caramel with lavender and topping with sea salt, you get a treat that’s complex and entrancing. My whole family was fighting over handfuls of these golden nougats. Even my self-proclaimed caramel-detesting eight-year-old eagerly devoured her fair share.
Lollipops never made the short list of my favorite candy; I’d bypass the primary-colored pops with the curved stick handed out after my pediatric check-ups. But these lollies hit top marks on taste and eye appeal — they’re almost too pretty to eat. Adding champagne, wine or spirits to the mix adds great flavor and gives the final product a lovely amber hue. I’ve taken to stirring these lollies into my coffee or hot tea. As the agave syrup infuses the drink, precious blossoms float to the top.
Enjoy these candy recipes that are just as beautiful as they are tasty.
Makes 2 dozen lollies
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Inactive prep time: 15 minutes
Non-stick cooking spray
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup agave syrup
1 oz. purified water
1/2 tsp rose, vanilla, or butter extract
Pinch of salt
Dried edible flowers, e.g., orchid, lavender, chamomile, rose, pansy or violet
Optional: 1/4 cup champagne or wine
Special equipment: silicone lollipop mold, lollipop sticks, candy thermometer
Spray lollipop mold with non-stick cooking spray. Insert sticks into lollipop molds, making sure at least 1/4 inch is within the lollipop opening. Add petals of edible flowers or whole dried flowers with their leaves and stems removed.
Combine sugar, agave syrup and water in 1.5-quart saucepan over medium-high heat (add alcohol at this time if using). Bring the mixture to a boil and cover with a lid for five minutes.
Remove lid and reduce heat to medium. Insert candy thermometer into mixture and cook until boiling and temperature reaches 310°F. Do not stir the mixture as it heats.
Remove candy from heat and stir in desired flavorings. Spoon mixture into prepared molds. Check each lollipop to ensure stick and flowers are fully covered with candy syrup. Let cool for 15 minutes, until set.
Lavender Honey Caramels with Sea Salt
Makes about 5 dozen 1” caramels
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cook time: 30-40 minutes
Inactive prep time: 3-5 hours
Non-stick cooking spray
1 tsp dried lavender
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 cup local honey
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp sea salt
Special equipment: candy thermometer
Line an 8×4” pan with parchment paper. Spray the parchment with non-stick cooking spray. Heat heavy cream and lavender over medium-high heat in a 1.5-quart saucepan until boiling. Remove from heat and let steep for 30 minutes. Strain lavender through a fine sieve and reserve the cream.
Add butter, honey, brown sugar and reserved cream back into the pan over medium heat, whisking until sugar and honey are dissolved. Clip the candy thermometer to the side of the pan and submerge in the mixture, taking care that the thermometer hovers above the bottom of the pan. Stir occasionally until the mixture reaches 250°F. Immediately remove the pan from heat and stir in the vanilla extract.
Pour hot caramel into the prepared pan, taking care not to scrape down the sides of the pan to avoid adding crystallized sugar to your caramel. Cool caramel for at least 30 minutes before sprinkling with salt. Continue cooling on a wire rack at room temperature for at least 5 hours, or in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours.
Transfer set caramel to a cutting board, cut into 1-inch pieces and wrap in parchment or wax paper.