Looking for love this Valentine’s Day? You could try to win over your crush with candy

MILWAUKEE -- You could buy your loved ones some candy this Valentine's Day -- or you could really impress them with confections made from scratch. From cotton candy to caramels, Chef Alisa Malavenda joins Real Milwaukee with recipes your Valentine will love.

SOFT, CHEWY SALTED CARAMELS

  • 2 C sugar
  • ½ C unsalted butter
  • 2 C heavy whipping cream
  • ¾ C light corn syrup
  • ½ vanilla bean, split and scrapped
  • ½ t fine or flakes Fleu de sal or nice finishing salt

Grease the bottom and sides of a 8 or 9 inch baking pan with non  stick spray. Line with either parchment or silicon baking mat. Lightly coat parchment with a little oil or butter.

Place all ingredients except salt in a heavy bottom pan and set over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook about 30 minutes until the temperature reaches 245 degrees on a candy thermometer.(see note)

When the mixture reaches the exact temp, pour immediately into prepared pan and smooth and spread out evenly and sprinkle with salt. . Cool completely for at least 2 hours .

Cut into squares or desired shape and wrap individually in waxed paper. Store at room temp in covered container and they will last a month.

Note: You can check the mixture by dropping a small amount in ice water to see if it forms a ball.

TURTLES

  • 2  C pecan halves
  • caramel candy cubes – from above or 1 package Kraft caramels work well.
  • 2 T heavy cream
  • 16 oz chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 350. Toast pecans in oven just until they are fragrant and not burnt. Watch carefully.

On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or greased wax paper arrange 4 or 5 of the pecan halves in a x formation with the corners touching. Any broken pecans chop finely and set aside for top of the turtle.

In a double boiler , melt caramels and heavy cream.  Spoon melted caramel mixture into a mound in the middle of nut formation. Let set while melting chocolate.

Meanwhile melt chocolate and dab top of caramel ( not covering completely so it looks like a turtle shell with chocolate  and sprinkle with remaining chopped nuts.

Let it set and then wrap individually. Keep in fridge, but bring to room temperature before serving so caramel gets soft.

BASIC TOFFEE RECIPE

  • 2 C Butter , unsalted
  • 2 C sugar
  • ¼ t salt
  • 2 C chocolate chips , semi sweet or dark( I like to use the minis for faster melting
  • 1 C chopped nuts or pretzels

In a saucepan, combine the sugar, butter and salt. Cook over med heat until butter melts.

Allow the mixture to come to a boil and continue cooking until the mixture reaches 285 degrees and is an amber color. Stir occasionally but not constant.

Meanwhile , cover a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. As soon as the toffee reaches 285 degrees pour out onto lined pan.

Immediately sprinkle with chocolate chips and as soon as they melt from the heat spread over the toffee and add the nuts or pretzels, pressing down slightly into the chocolate.

Chill until set and then break up into pieces.

BASIC BARK RECIPE

Any kind of chocolate – semi sweet- milk- bittersweet or even white , chopped

Different toppings – nuts, dried fruit, candies, marshmallows, cookies – You are only limited by your imagination!

Coat a cookie sheet pan with a 1 inch rim with cooking spray and then line with parchment paper.

Leave an over hang on the sides of pan so you can lift out the bark easily.

Melt the chopped chocolate in a bowl over simmering water. Pour melted chocolate into pan and spread evenly.

Immediate sprinkle toppings over chocolate and refrigerate until firm. Lift up bark out of pan, peel off paper and break into shards.

BUCKEYES AND PEANUT BUTTER CUPS makes 3-4 doz

  • 1 ½ C peanut butter
  • 1 C unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ t vanilla extract
  • 6 C confectioners’ sugar
  • 4 C semi sweet chocolate chips , you can also use bittersweet

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper

In a large bowl , combine peanut butter, butter sugar and mix well. Add vanilla and stir until blended.

Roll the mixture into balls about 1 inch.  Stick a toothpick in the center of each ball . Chill in fridge for  1 hour. Melt chocolate in double boiler When the balls are well chilled.

Using the toothpick dip the peanut butter balls in chocolate leaving a circle ( eye) on top. Place the balls back on the waxed paper sheet pan and let dry. Remove picks. Store in the refrigerator.

ALTERNATIVLEY

Place mini candy liners in mini muffin tins. Place a dab of melted chocolate in each paper. Place a teaspoon of the peanut butter mixture on top and then fill the rest of the paper with more melted chocolate.

COCONUT CANDIES  ( Mounds / Almond Joys) makes 3-4 doz

  • 1 can (14oz) sweetened condensed milk
  • 16 oz bag of powdered sugar
  • 16 oz bag of sweetened coconut
  • 1 bag of chocolate chips

For almond joy you will need 1 bag whole almonds

Mix sweetened condensed milk with the powdered sugar . Mix well.

Add the coconut and stir until combines and it is a thick mixture.

Grease your hands with a little oil and form mixture into logs if about 1 ½ inches long. If you are making “almond joys” -place one whole nut on top and press down slightly.

Chill the logs for 2 hours or overnight in refrigerator .

Melt chocolate in a double boiler. Dip each log in chocolate to coat completely using 2 forks . Chill until set. Bring to room temperature before serving.

HOMEMADE MASHMALLOWS

  • 3 packets unflavored Knox gelatin
  • 1 c water, divided
  • 1 ½ C sugar
  • 1 C corn syrup
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 T vanilla extract or other flavor extract
  • ½ Powdered Sugar and ¼ C cornstarch for dusting
  • non stick spray(Pam)

Use a fine sifter, generously dust a 9x13 baking pan with powdered sugar and cornstarch. Set aside.

Combine the gelatin and ½ cup cold water in the bowl of a kitchen aide or electric mixer fitted with the whisk. While blooming the gelatin make the syrup.

Combine sugar, corn syrup, salt and ½ C water in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until all the sugar dissolves.

Raise the heat and cook until the candy thermometer reaches 248 degrees. About 8-10 min. Remove from heat and with the mixer on lowest speed along the side of the bowl, slowly pour the sugar into the dissolved gelatin.

Turn the mixer on high speed and whip until the mixture is very thick and fluffy, this will take at least 15 minutes.

Add vanilla or other flavor and mix thoroughly. Pour mixture into prepared pan, smooth it out and dust with more sugar mixture.

Leave out overnight (uncovered) so it dries out.  Turn the pan up side down on a cutting board

And cut into shapes or squares and roll them in more sifted powdered sugar. Store in a tight fitting container or in freezer.

FIREBALL WHISKEY MARSHMALLOWS

 

  • ½ C Water
  • 3 packets of Knox gelatin
  • ¼ C cornstarch
  • ½ C Powdered sugar
  • 2 C sugar
  • ½ C evaporated milk
  • 1/3 C fireball whiskey or other flavored alcohol
  • 1/8  t. salt

Combine the water and gelatin into a mixing bowl until all the white powder has dissolved. Set aside.

Spray the bottom and sides of the desired pan with cooking spray.

In a small bowl, combine and mix the powdered sugar and corn starch. When finished, pour the mixture into the pan until the bottom and sides are completely coated.

In a small saucepan, combine the following ingredients in this exact order: salt, evaporated milk, Fireball whisky.  Before mixing, make sure the saucepan is warming at medium heat on the stove.

Once the saucepan comes to a slow boil, immediately use the candy thermometer to watch the temperature. When it reaches 200 F, add the sugar and keep heating it until it reaches 240 F.

Slowly pour the hot contents in with the gelatin mixture. Start whisking on low speed to break up the gelatin, and add the warm sugar. If you’d like to use food coloring, add about 1 or 2 drops once the gelatin has dissolved. We used 2 drops of red and 1 drop of yellow.

Stir or whisk at high speed for 15-17 minutes.

Pour the fluffy mixture into the pan, and smooth out with a greased spatula.

Sprinkle some more sugar and cornstarch on top.

Without covering the pan, let it sit overnight

FRUIT JELLIES

  • 1 1/3 C water ( you can also use fruit juice )
  • 1 oz Knox powdered gelatin ( 4 packs)
  • 2 ½ C sugar, divided
  • 2 C fruit jam any flavor

Put 2/3 C water in a bowl and sprinkle all the gelatin on top. Let it sit for about 5 minutes until it blooms.

In a saucepan, combine remaining water (or juice) and 1 ½ C sugar and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring until all the sugar is melted. This should take about 5 min.

Whisk in the jam until well combined and bring to a boil until it is thick and syrupy, another 3 minutes.

Add the bloomed gelatin and whisk until it is all dissolved. Pour it through a fine strainer into an 8 inch baking dish. Place in fridge for at least 3 ours or overnight.

In a shallow dish add remaining sugar. Cut the fruit jellies into shapes or squares and toss in sugar before serving. You can make these 2 weeks in advance, but wait to sugar before serving.

TRUFFLES - Makes about 4-5 doz

Ganache: inside filling of creamy chocolate

  • 1 C Heavy Cream
  • ½ t vanilla extract or other appropriate flavoring ( almond, lemon , mint)
  • 18 oz chocolate ( I like bittersweet, but you can use any combination ), chopped fine
  • 6 T unsalted butter , room temperature
  • 1 ½ oz of liqueur ( see options below)

* thermometer and gloves

COUVERTURE: THE CHOCOLATE COATING ON THE OUTSIDE OF THE TRUFFLE

½ cup Bittersweet Chocolate, tempered
or you can just roll them in your favorite assortment of cocoa, nuts, or coconut

Heat the cream and vanilla or other flavoring just to boiling point 210 degrees. Remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate, stir until it is completely melted. Cool slightly and then stir in the cubes of butter and liqueur. Pour into a shallow bowl and place in refrigerator until it starts to thicken.

When the filling is thick. Scoop small mounds (approx ½ oz ) the size of a cherry with a melon baller or mini scoop and place on parchment lined pans. Place in fridge to chill.

With gloved hands , roll the chocolate ganache into a nice firm ball and place in the fridge again to chill.

You will want to temper the chocolate to cover the truffle so it doesn’t “bloom”
( that happens when the cocoa butter separates and white streaks appear). Blooming does not affect the tastes of the truffle at all , just the appearance.
Also note that you need to be careful when melting the chocolate because just one drop of water and the chocolate will “seize” and you will not be able to use it.

When you temper the chocolate do not use compound chocolates like chips or melts- use good quality real chocolate.

Heat chopped chocolate in a double boiler until the chocolate reaches 120 degrees, then you want to cool the chocolate to 80 and then heat it again until it reaches 90 degrees. 90 degrees is the perfect temp to maintain while you are dipping truffles.

Dip the balls into the tempered chocolates with gloved hand, a dipping fork or two spoons and let excess drip off.

Keep refrigerated.

BASIC CAKEPOP RECIPE

Any type of cake or cake leftovers and any type of frosting other than whipped cream. Buttercream works the best.
You can change the portions according to how much cake you have- This recipe the cake yield is from a 1-8 inch cake or ½ a 9x13 sheet. Should give you about 18 pops

  • 4 cups of cake crumbs (about 14oz- 1#)
  • ¼ C frosting, bring to room temperature
  • 1 oz liqueur (optional) whatever goes with cake choice ( example Kahlua for devils food cake)
  • 8 oz melted chocolate or candy melts
  • Decorate with sprinkles, sanding sugar, nuts or crushed candies
  • Lollipop sticks or paper cups

Mix cake crumbs, frosting and liqueur if using in a bowl until it resembles soft dough. Scoop and roll into a 1inch ball.

Insert a lollipop stick if using and place in fridge for 30 minutes to chill.

Meanwhile melt chocolate or candy melts.

Dip balls into covering and decorate with candy, sugar or nuts.

BUTTER MINTS

  • 1   stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1   16 oz package confectioners sugar, put through a sifter or sieve
  • 1 ½  T. milk
  • 1 t.   vanilla extract
  • ¾ t.  pure mint extract or oil
  • food coloring

Beat butter in a large bowl or kitchen aide mixer until smooth and creamy.

Gradually add the sugar with the mixer running on medium low, when it is all blended and smooth , add milk and extracts.

I like to use three different colors, so divide the dough into as many color mints as you desire. Knead in the color to each roll until it is incorporated well and even.

Roll each  dough out to desired thickness and cut into shapes or use mini cookie cutter.

Toss in a little more confectioners sugar and store in refrigerator until ready to serve. They will get hard when chilled.

COTTON CANDY (without a machine )

  • 5 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 1/3 C light corn syrup
  • 1 cup plus T water
  • Flavoring (vanilla extract or other)
  • Food color paste
  • Vegetable baking spray

First you need to take an old whisk and wire cutter and clip off round ends.

Cover your floor with newspaper.

Tape 2 long wooden spoons on counter top ( I also put a heavy pan on top so they don’t move)

Place sugar, corn syrup and water in a saucepan and bring the mixture to 320 degrees .

Remove from the heat CAREFULLY and pour into a heatproof bowl. DO not leave in pan as it will continue to cook. Add the flavoring and coloring and stir gently to mix.

Dip the ends of the whisk in the bowl of hot sugar and let it drip off for a second. Wave the whisk back and forth about a foot higher over the 2 wooden spoon to create candy floss.

You have to work pretty quickly ( note: if the sugar gets to hard – microwave it for a few minutes. . Make sure you store it in an airtight container. The sugar will not last in humidity.