Still have people on your shopping list but pressed for time? Forget the shopping mall and go to your kitchen instead. Here, chef Craig Strong shares his delicious homemade treats that are easy to make and are perfect presents. Wrap up his caramel popcorn, white chocolate cranberry almond fudge and much more.
- 8oz butter
- 1 ½ cups brown sugar
- ½ cup corn syrup
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/3 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 cup popped popcorn
- 2 cups crushed candy canes
1. Preheat oven to 250. Place popcorn in very large bowl.
2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in brown sugar, corn syrup and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil without stirring another 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in baking soda and vanilla.
3. Pour in a thin stream over popcorn, stirring to coat.
4. Place onto baking sheets and place in oven stirring every 5 minutes for 30 min.
5. Sprinkle crushed candy canes on the popcorn for the last 5 minutes. Let it cool and break popcorn apart into small pieces
Vanilla orange marshmallows
- 3 packages unflavored gelatin
- 1 cup ice cold water, divided
- 12 ounces granulated sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1 orange zested
- 1 oz Grand Marnier
- Nonstick spray
1. Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with 1/2 cup of the water. Have the whisk attachment standing by.
2. In a small saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7 to 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat.
3. Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the vanilla, orange zest and Grande Marnier during the last minute of whipping. While the mixture is whipping prepare the pans as follows.
Combine the confectioners' sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add the sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return the remaining mixture to the bowl for later use.
4. When ready, pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining sugar and cornstarch mixture to lightly cover. Reserve the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
5. Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel dusted with the confectioners' sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.
White chocolate cranberry almond fudge
- 2 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
- 2/3 cup milk
- 1/4 cup butter
- 12 ounces white chocolate baking squares with cocoa butter, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
- 3/4 cup snipped dried tart red cherries or dried cranberries
- 3/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1. Line an 8x8x2-inch baking pan with foil, extending foil over edges of pan. Lightly butter the foil and set aside.
2. Butter sides of a heavy, medium saucepan. Add powdered sugar, milk, and 1/4 cup butter to saucepan. Bring to boiling over medium-high heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to dissolve sugar (avoid splashing onto side of pan). Reduce heat to medium-low. Boil gently, without stirring, 5 minutes.
3. Reduce the heat to low. Add the white chocolate. If you like, stir in almond extract. Stir until white chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth and creamy. Remove from heat; stir in dried fruit and almonds. Quickly pour into prepared pan. Chill candy overnight.
4. When firm, use foil to lift fudge from pan. Cut into 1-inch squares. Store in a tightly covered container in refrigerator.
Chocolate dipped pretzels with holiday sprinkles
- 2 bags chocolate chips (dark, milk or white chocolate)
- 1 bag pretzels rods (logs work well for this, but you can try any of the medium to thick variety)
- Chopped nuts (for garnish, optional)
- Colored nonpareils (for garnish, optional)
- Sprinkles (for garnish, optional)
- Miniature M&M's chocolate candies (for garnish, optional)
- Coconut (for garnish, optional)
- Crushed cookies (for garnish, optional)
1. Melt chocolate in double boiler over medium heat on stove top.
2. Using tongs, or your fingers, quickly dip pretzels in chocolate allowing the excess to run off.
3. Place dipped pretzels on waxed paper lined cookie sheets.
4. Sprinkle with chopped nuts, colored sugars or other toppings. Allow to harden.