Kids in the Kitchen - Making Candy

by Melinda Helton-Cromer

The Holiday season is here! The weather has turned cold, but most of us find that we don't mind much because during this time of year, we find ourselves surrounded by the warm company of family and friends.

For those that have young children in their lives, this is a wonderful time to create lasting memories and perhaps begin a new holiday tradition. Some of my fondest memories involve spending quality time with my two children in the kitchen. Sometimes it was time spent simply baking cookies or brownies for "Santa". Other times we would create homemade goodies to give as gifts or to use as decorations for the Christmas tree. With so many various kits currently available, you and the children in your life will be able to use your imaginations and create some very impressive kitchen crafts, along with some very precious memories.

One of my favorite things to work with is white or milk "coating" chocolate...better known to some as confectionary coating. Have you ever wanted something unique to send to your child"s class party? Perhaps you or your child would like to give a small token of appreciation to a teacher or someone else that you feel has gone above the call of duty. Are you looking for something different to add to the Holiday table place settings? Well, I have found that because of the inexpensive cost, the easy, quick, yet remarkable results, chocolate suckers are the answer for these and many other situations.

Along with numerous candy molds sold individually, you are sure to find whatever you may need to suit any occasion.

To begin, make sure your candy mold is clean and dry. It is very important to make sure there is no water standing in the candy mold. This will cause discolartion in the finished product. Also, it is important to make sure your utensils are dry. Any water added to the candy will cause it to turn to a fudge-like consistency and make it very difficult to work with. When you are ready to begin melting the chocolate, you can do so in the microwave, or in a double boiler. Although, there is also a candymelter Palette available that is a dream come true if you find yourself working with this type of candy often. The palette can hold up to ten different colors of coating. It slowly melts the coating and then maintains an even temperature, preventing any overheating and scorching. To microwave, have the child you are spending time with place a handful of the candy discs in a disposable decorating bag or in a microwave safe container, such as a coffee cup or small bowl. Microwave for 1 minute. If needed you may repeat at 15 to 30 second intervals, however be very careful not to overheat. It really doesn't take much to melt these candy discs and usually, if you have small unmelted pieces, you should be able to mix them with the rest of the melted chocolate and blend them in without additional heating time. If you are using a decorator bag, I recommend not cutting the end of the bag until after you have melted the chocolate. This will enable you to easily knead the unmelted pieces around in the bag without any of the melted chocolate coming out the cut end. However, if the end is cut, you can still do this by folding the tip over and pinching it closed with one hand, while kneading the chocolate with the other hand.

If you are using the decorator bags, your child can easily squeeze the melted chocolate into the candy molds. If using a microwavable container, they can simply spoon the melted chocolate into the molds. Once all the candy mold cavities are filled, gently tap the mold on the countertop a few times to help remove any air bubbles. To further check for air pockets, you may lift the mold above you enough for you to see underneath it. You should be able to see any remaining air bubbles and you can remove these by using a toothpick. Once you are satisfied that there are no visible air bubbles, have your child place a sucker stick, into the melted chocolate and then roll the stick gently to coat it with the candy.

Now you are ready to let the candy set. Place the mold in the refrigerator or freezer in an area where it can set level for approximately 15 minutes. When the chocolate is hardened and ready to remove, it will come out of the mold very easily. If you seem to have a little resistance, it should be placed back into the fridge or freezer for an additional 5 minutes or so. Once you have the sucker removed from the mold, you can place them in poly sucker bags, or wrap with plastic wrap. Secure the bag or wrap around the stick with decorative bag closures or clear tape.

For a finishing touch, you may wish to add curling ribbon, or maybe attach a homemade gift tag or name tag that your child has created. You can add a business card sized tag by punching a hole in the upper corner and tying around the stick with curling ribbon.

For the last two years, my six year old niece and I have created suckers for her to take to her classmates and attached a small card to each one that says "Merry Christmas to my friends" My niece and I love creating the suckers and the children and teachers love receiving such a unique and delicious treat.

For a larger gift, you may gather several suckers into a bouquet to present, or you may choose a candy mold that is not a sucker, but an actual "edible greeting card" and place into an impressive candy box.

No matter what you intend to do with your finished product, you and the special child in your life will be very pleased with the results, and the memories you have created will be around long after the delicious chocolate creation is gone.