I did it- I managed to make Valentine goodie bags for my pals and actually distribute most of them on Valentine’s Day. Now if I could only get ahead of the game enough to post about holiday-themed food before the actual holiday, it would probably be more useful… but hey, I’m just happy to have gotten it done. There’s always a new goal to strive for next year! I made three different sweets: cinnamon jelly candies, heart-shaped sandwich cookies, and coconut ice ( a fudge-like confection consisting mostly of powdered sugar). I found red sandwich bags and clear cellophane “treat bags” at Michael’s, and used some red and white tissue paper left over from Christmas gifts from Anthropologie for further decoration. The final touch was a vintage-repro Valentine card, made by the publisher of Golden Books.
For the sake of getting this posted in a timely fashion, I’m going to skip posting the cookie recipe, but if you want it, it’s from Feast by Nigella Lawson. It’s just a basic shortbread-type sandwich cookie; the only modification I made was to replace half the flour with whole wheat flour. Nigella uses one of those little corn on the cob holders to do the cutesy little perforations, but I didn’t have one so I used the tip of a meat thermometer. Anyway, here are the candy recipes:
7 cups powdered sugar
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
4 1/2 cups unsweetened grated coconut
2 tbs lemon or lime juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbs coconut rum
a few drops red food coloring
an 11 x 7 x 2 pan lined with parchment or wax paper and lightly dusted with powdered sugar
Directions: Put the sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and pulse briefly to get out any lumps. (Alternately, you can make this by hand in a bowl with a wooden spoon, but be prepared to use plenty of elbow grease!) Put the mixer on the slow speed and drizzle in the condensed milk. Once it is combined into a stiff paste, add the lemon juice, vanilla and coconut. Add the coconut rum one tbs at a time- if it seems too moist, don’t add the second tbs. It should be a very stiff paste.
Take half the mixture from the bowl and press it into the prepared pan, getting it as even as possible and pressing it all the way into the corners. Lift the parchment paper and candy out of the pan and, using a rolling pin, lightly go over the first layer to make it flat and level. Return the candy to the pan, keeping the wax paper underneath.
Mix a couple drops of the food coloring into the remaining paste to make a pink layer. (Don’t overdo it or it will look garish… I could have used a bit less in mine.) Press the remaining paste on top of the first layer, repeating the process with the rolling pin to get it even. Let the candy set for a couple hours; then remove it from the pan and cut into squares (this candy is very sweet, so I suggest making the pieces fairly small.
4 1/2 tbs gelatin
3 cups sugar plus additional for coating
1 3/4 cups water
1 tbs cinnamon oil (you can use a little more if you want it “spicier”)
red food coloring
8-inch square cake pan (I did not have a square pan and had to use a rectangular one; as a result, my candies were thin and flat rather than square)
Directions: Put the water in a medium-sized heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, sprinkle in the gelatin and stir with a metal spoon until gelatin is dissolved. (Don’t worry if a few small stubborn lumps remain; they will be filtered out.) Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Return to a boil and continue boiling for 10 minutes. Don’t turn your back like I did or the mixture can boil over, leaving you with a sticky mess.
Remove from heat and stir in the cinnamon oil and a few drops of red food coloring. Run a little water into your pan and dump it out so the bottom is wet. Strain the candy mixture through a fine-mesh strainer or triple layer of cheesecloth into the pan. Refrigerate until fully set- it should be quite firm.
Put a thick layer of sugar onto a work surface. To remove the candy from the pan, run a wet knife around the edges and dip the base of the pan in hot water for a few seconds. Turn the candy out onto the sugar, flipping it around so that all sides are coated. Cut the candy into small squares, putting them into a zip-lock bag or other container with the leftover sugar and tossing so that all sides are coated. If you like, you can spread them on a sheet of wax paper and leave them sitting out for a while; they will firm up even more, and the sugar will get crunchy.