Sunday, 27 October 2013

WCC: Hallow's End Sweets

   This week's WoW Crafting Challenge is a bit late, I admit. The reason for this is because I wanted to make a Hallow's End special piece, and due to the fact that I thought of it a bit late, couldn't make it too far in advance. So I started making these pieces about 2 weeks ago, but things went wrong here and there, to the point that one of the four final pieces weren't completed (took three goes) until Saturday afternoon - yesterday afternoon.
   But, I managed. The four Hallow's End sweets - the Soothing Spearmint Candy, the Chewy Fel Taffy, the Pyroblast Cinnamon Balls, and the G.N.E.R.D.S - were no easy feat, and I had to improvise on a few pieces due to a lack of appropriate description. And so, the Soothing Spearmint Candy are spearmint fudge - they're better than they sound - the Chewy Fel Taffy is in fact taffy, the Pyroblast Cinnamon Balls are cinnamon flavoured hard candy, and the G.N.E.R.D.S. were originally supposed to be hard candy too, but due to difficulties presented by the mould I was using, they became fondant instead.

  The Soothing Spearmint Candy came first. I made a simple white chocolate fudge and added a dash of spearmint flavouring and green food colouring. It actually went wrong first, because I wasn't reading my candy thermometer correctly. For some absurd reason I thought the thermometer went up in 100 intervals, rather than 20, and so when I had to cook to 113C, I only actually cooked to 105C, and that makes all the difference. I was supposed to cook to just under 'Soft Ball' but only cooked to 'Jam' - needless to say that it just didn't set. But on my second attempt they worked much better, were firmly set and the exact consistancy that fudge should be. I used Lor Ann oil, however, which is potent, and added a little too much so they're very minty, but fortunately my dad is like a dog - he'll eat anything. So they didn't go to waste.

120g white chocolate; 60g unsalted, cubed butter; 1 cup sugar; 1/3 cup of evaporated milk; colouring; flavour
Line an 8x8 tin with baking paper. Combine broken white chocolate and butter in a bowl and set aside. Mix sugar and evaporated milk in a medium saucepan and heat to a boil, stirring constantly. Stop stirring so often and continue cooking until 113C on a candy thermometer. Once it hits 113, empty it into bowl of butter and chocolate and stir until butter and chocolate has melted, then add a dash of colour and flavour. Mix it together and pour it into the lined tin. Let it set at room temperature for a few hours until firm, then cut it into pieces.

   The Chewy Fel Taffy came second. This went badly the first time around for the same reason that the Soothing Spearmint Candy did, because I made them one day apart, and it wasn't until the taffy failed that I realised my mistake. I used a recipe that involved the American product Kool-Aid, and I was surprised to actually find it on Ebay for only about £1.37 a sachet. It's awful stuff, though, there's no way in hell any of the stuff in it is natural, the colour stains like crazy, and the smell is so strong. Either way, I had used lemon and lime flavour first since it was the only bright green one they had, but it smelt like the green fruit pastels, which is one of the worst smells in the world to me, so when I made it a second time around, I decided to buy a blue drink mix and add yellow colouring, which worked out fine. I used...I don't remember, something to do with ice, blue and lemonade. It smelt much better but stains awfully. I can see why people use this stuff to dye wool and hair. Seriously, it's insane stuff.
   It took a lot of work, and was...really horrible to make to be honest. Despite being a crafter, I hate getting my hands dirty, and pulling that taffy, even with my hands smeared in butter, it was vile. Kids would love it, though, but it is also very gloopy to start with, and I had to work over a large buttered plate so that I could prevent a mess when I did drop parts. In the end it turned out perfectly, though. To start with I was worried because the mixture was very dark green, and very translucent, but after some pulling, the colour lightened and the translucency went away completely. I do think I should have pulled it more, though, but it worked in the end.

2 1/2 cups sugar; 3 tablespoons cornstarch; 1 cup light corn syrup (light meaning clear in colour); 1/13 cups of water; 2 tablespoons butter; 1 teaspoon salt; packet of Kool-Aid drink mix (standard 6g packet)
Butter a large pan. Stir sugar and cornstarch in a large pan and then add the corn syrup, water, butter and salt and stir over a medium heat until all has melted and combined together. Bring to a boil at medium heat and stop stirring, letting it reach 120C, 'Hard Ball' on a candy thermometer. It heats up really quickly between 115 and 120 so keep a close eye on it the whole time. When it reaches 120C, remove it from the heat immediately and stir in the Kool-Aid. Add additional food colouring if you wish to mix the colour. I used a blue drink mix and added yellow colouring to make it green. Pour the mixture into the buttered tin and leave for about half an hour. When you come back to it it should be touchable, and it should be soft but not runny. Butter a large plate, then butter your hands like crazy. Seriously, treat it like soap. Gather the taffy mix out of the pan with your gross, buttery hands and start pulling it about above the plate. If any drops on the plate, the buttered surface will stop it sticking. Rebutter your hands as often as you feel you need to and keep pulling the taffy about until it stiffens. The colour will change. It was quite dark and looked a bit watery/translucent in the tin, but after pulling it about, it became lighter in colour, and very opaque. When it's been pulled about enough, leave it in strands and cut apart. If you didn't pull it enough, like me, then keep it in the fridge, it will help firm it up. I used waxed paper to wrap all of these sweets.

   I made the Pyroblast Cinnamon Balls and the G.N.E.R.D.S. together a few days ago using a very simple hard candy mix, but I had difficulty with the G.N.E.R.D.S. (I'm going to get very fed up typing that out) because of their mould. I could only find one with gem-like cavities and it was plastic, while the half-sphere moulds I bought for the Pyroblast Cinnamon Balls were made of silicone (very bendy, soft rubber, keeps its shape and can withstand high temperatures, and due to its flexibility, it's always easy to remove solid items from the moulds).
   I made the mixture regardless, seperated it into different pyrex measuring cups to add the colour and flavour and poured them into the moulds. This was my first mistake. I did the Pyroblast Cinnamon Balls first, but they took some time to fill all the cavities, which gave the G.N.E.R.D.S. mixtures a chance to cool...and harden. I managed to pour them out because I had worked fast in the first place, but it came out thick and made a mess, a thick sugary trail from one cavity to the next. It did set, however, but I couldn't get them out of the moulds without them breaking into several pieces because of the trails left behind. When they were snapped off, they broke off parts of the gems. I tried it all again the next day, this time without the Pyroblast Cinnamon Balls since they had worked out fine, and the mixture was a lot friendlier when it came to pouring it, but because they didn't have a thick trail leading from one to another, I couldn't get them out of the moulds at all. Turns out you're supposed to use non-stick spray - I hadn't read that anywhere, and I didn't have any anyway (I'd have bought some if I knew I needed it) - or put the tray in hot water to expand the plastic, but nothing worked at all. In the end I had to soak them out and ended up racking my brain for a few days before deciding on something I was more confident with: fondant. I'm not the biggest fan of fondant, but I'd rather have that over marzipan, so I gave it a go. I coloured balls of fondant red, green and blue, and pressed them into the moulds. I hardened them in the oven (pre heated it low, then turned it off, then put the tray in for about 10 minutes. The dry, hot air removes the moisture from the fondant) and they all came out of their moulds. Sadly, they don't have the gem-like translucency they would have had with hard candy, but at this point, I'm just glad I can say I made them, be it right be it wrong.
   I coated the Pyroblast Cinnamon Balls in sherbet to make them easier to handle since they were everso slightly sticky. I admit that I have no idea how that would work with the cinnamon flavour but regardless, I'm not eating them, I'm not a fan of cinnamon. The G.N.E.R.D.S. are also candy floss flavoured, and actually quite nice.

250ml water; 500g sugar; colouring; flavouring.
Spray a mould or tin with non-stick spray. Mix the water and sugar together in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Add the candy thermometer and bring to a boil and increase the heat, letting it cook to 150C - just under 'Crack'. It will cook fast until about 100C, then it'll slow down to a crawl. It will speed up a lot between 140 and 150, though, so keep your eye on it. Between 140 and 145C, add a dash of colour and flavour, but don't stir it. The boiling mixture will do a remarkable job of this itself. As soon as it hits 150C, take it off the heat and pour it into a tray. Alternatively, if you're using moulds like I was, transfer it into a heat-proof Pyrex measuring jug - it'll stop it cooking and it will give you a more precise pour. Let the mixture set for a few hours and then pop them out of their moulds. I used half-ball moulds, but found that they stuck together just fine. I then rolled them in sherbet because, well, frankly they were a little messy and I wanted to cover it up. To clean the pans and jugs, just soak them in hot water. The sugar mix will dissolve away. Store the sweets in an air-tight container.

For the fondant pieces, just use powdered colour with store-bought fondant, mix until colour is even, then press into moulds. Pre-heat your oven at a low temperature for about 5-10 minutes, then turn it off and put the moulds inside. The dry heat will remove the moisture from the fondant and make it harden a lot faster. Otherwise, you're looking at an overnight setting time, and the possibility of it not setting anyway if your home happens to be humid.

   I'm proud of how it all came out. The only ones I'm disappointed in are the G.N.E.R.D.S. because they didn't work as hard candy. I might retry them one day and update this post, once I have some non-stick spray,  but I am very pleased that I managed to make them all in the end, or close enough. I even bought a pumpkin pail to photograph them in, so enjoy the awful pictures and be glad I'm not forcing you to eat them! I admit to looking forward to digging into the taffy, though.

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