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A bit of history, a recipe, a photo and a personal observation for you on National Candy Cane Day:
(1)History: If the internet can be trusted, candy canes were originally sticks without the bendy bits at the top, but were co-opted to be a Cristian symbol by making them look like a [Good] Shepard’s crook. If that doesn’t sit well with you, you can choose to think of them as pre-formed for easy tree decoration.
(2) Recipe: I learned tonight that you could make candy canes, if, you know, you were house bound and crazy or something. This is definitely one of those things where I would never spend the time to try to replicate. But I have a hard candy-making phobia, so it just might be my neurosis talking! If you are jonesing for something pepperminty, I would instead suggest that you try this lovely recipe my pal Stephanie put me on to, for Peppermint Marshmallows. Aren’t they pretty?
Stephanie’s tips, if you attempt this recipie, are:
- Don’t beat the final mixture for as long as is written, as it gets too thick and you can’t properly marble the colouring (as is evidenced by my mushy pink tops and white bottoms).
- Work quickly once you pour into the pan, as the mixture sets fairly quickly and you can’t smooth it down fast enough.
- Use spray oil very sparingly – it leaves a yucky taste on the marshmallows. Go for something very light and pat it off the marshmallow block before you cut it.
(3) I did take some photos of candy canes at my house. Only one candy cane was eaten in the process, which I thought was an entirely acceptable casualty ratio:
(4) Random Personal Observation: I like to eat candy canes by peeling back the plastic wrap a few inches, then sucking on them until I’ve made a very sharp point. That’s right- candy cane as weapon.
As I write this, there is 27 min left of Christmas Day. Hope yours was jolly, yummy, and bright, and that you find yourself with a little room left in your tummy on boxing day to try a candy cane. They will bring you back to your childhood. Try it, you’ll see!
ps- this has nothing to do with candy canes, but while taking photos of them I took this photo of my mom’s center-piece, which I love, so I’m posting it too!
[Eds.: today's post brought to you by Della - check out her bio in our guest bloggers section]
First, I have to admit this is the first time I’ve made cupcakes in at least 15 years. To me, cupcakes were a nothing more than a last minute contribution to a class party. I rarely make cake from scratch, or make cake at all for that matter. And, without exception, cupcakes came from a box. Second, cake should be chocolate. Don’t get me wrong; vanilla is a real flavour and I like vanilla, but cake should be chocolate or at the very least spiced or carrot. Vanilla cupcakes are therefore, the very antithesis of a decent cake.
I know I am not alone in my contempt for cupcakes yet they have acquired a degree of respectability in recent years. Entire businesses are based on cupcake production. Perfectly respectable grocers and bakeries have surrendered substantial swaths of real estate to display these miniature confections. A survey of the local Whole Foods bakery revealed a dozen cupcake options, yet most were merely icing options heaped atop a vanilla cupcake. It reminded me of an interview with the proprietor of Magnolia Bakery in New York who said, despite the delectable selection, vanilla cupcakes with pink vanilla butter cream frosting are the most popular. I just don’t understand why.
In fairness to the vanilla cupcake, I decided to make a batch, from scratch with three kinds of homemade butter cream frosting. I made mini-cupcakes hoping that a “petit-four” style presentation would elevate the pedestrian pastry to something worthy of my guests.
Baking is more chemistry than improvisation so I used a Martha Stewart recipe for the cake and the basic butter cream. I left a third of the frosting vanilla, added semi-sweet chocolate to one third of the frosting and raspberry puree to the other third. The result, as you can see, is more reminiscent of a banana split than an elegant pastry. Nonetheless, my “pequeños pasteles” were tasty and cute, but better suited to my young nephews than my foodie friends. I have concluded that cupcakes are best baked from a box and served to children. I’ll stick with my favourite flourless chocolate-hazelnut torte the next time I feel compelled to bake a cake.
[Eva: well, I would have made them from a box, so kudos to you, Della!]