Every year around this time, I spend huge amounts of time in my kitchen baking cookies to give away. Not just a few cookies ... more like hundreds of dozens. It's a silly obsession with me that I indulge once a year; runners talk about getting a high from exercise ... well, I get my kicks from turning butter, flour and sugar into yummy things to eat. And, well, I think it's officially become a tradition now (as well as a good-natured joke) that I'm going to spend most of the time between Thanksgiving and St. Nicholas Day unavailable to anyone who isn't willing to help unwrap candy or taste test.
Some years, I've made other items to put on the trays that I give out - truffles, Christmas tree ornaments, etc. This year - along with the mutant pepper jelly - I am going to be adding handmade candies to the mix. I have all of these great candy recipes that I've been saving, but they always seem to get pushed aside in favor of another variety of cookies (yes, those recipes get switched and added to every year as well). The true siren call of peppermint twists, homemade pecan caramels, and peppermint toffee is louder than ever this year, and I must succumb! However, late (for me) in the process of choosing which recipes to make, I came across two new candy ideas. The first - Drunken Sugarplums - I have to make simply because of the name. I started the brandy marinade last night ...
The second was Apricot Divinity which I made last night. It was fantastic! It tastes great, and I reverted to my inner four-year-old while I was making it. I don't remember the last time that I laughed so hard at myself. By the time I was finished, not only were my hands covered in white candy with golden bits, but there was also traces on my face, glasses, shirt, pants, several items on the counter that hadn't been involved in the candy process, and kitchen floor. I would have taken a photo, but the camera was in another (candy-free) room and I wasn't sure how to pick it up without coating it as well. I decided on the spot that I will be making this recipe again in the company of little kids - parent participation optional! And, though I usually do not give out my recipes, this one simply has to go out in the world to spread happiness and white sticky stuff over everything ...
If you want to give it a try, here's the recipe - taken from a Taste of Home Holidays & Celebrations Cookbook, originally supplied by Loraieyer of Bend, OR.
Sweet Apricot Candy
1 jar (7 ounces) marshmallow creme
1 Tbsp butter, softened
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp grated orange peel
3 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup finely chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
In a large bowl, combine the marshmallow creme, butter, vanilla, salt, and orange peel; beat until well blended. Gradually add 2 cups confectioners' sugar; beat until combined (mixture will be stiff). By hand, knead in apricots, pecans and enough remaining confectioners' sugar to make a very stiff mixture. Press into a greased 8 in. square pan. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Cut into 1 in. squares. Yield. 1 1/2 pounds.