I just love Halloween; and why not?  What other time can you knock on a door and be treated with a sweet goody? Of course it really is not as safe as it was when I was little, in fact Sydney only ever “trick or treated” with friends in our neighborhood or at school parties, which is why every year I go NUTS baking homemade candy, cookies, cupcakes and cakes, you get the idea. This year I thought it would be different, Sydney being away at school in Illinois, but she transferred back, so the baking began a while ago. She actually helped me with Pinktober and walked “The Race for The Cure,” with me.

Last weekend we catered a major event, my husband went to Boston on a business trip, and Sydney registered for Colorado University, and baked a birthday cake for a friend; hectic would definitely be an understatement. In the mist of all this chaos, I STARTED Halloween baking.

I must confess I’m elated to have Sydney back in Colorado, even if it is just for weekend laundry runs. This weekend coincidentally  accompanies Halloween candy making.

It is a tradition for us to create homemade treats for Halloween. Candy is always the first on the long list (I divulge, candy is a favorite of mine), I am blessed with nine nieces and nephews, plus a few good friends with children. Homemade anything is a memorable labor of love for those closest to us (in fact my family  looks forward to Halloween bags filled with homemade goodies). This year, for the candy part of the bag I am baking Caramel Cups and Nougat with tart dried Cherries and sweet dried Apricots. Sugar is the quiet star of both of these chewy delights.
The nougat is the messiest of the two candies, which is why we created it first, be for warned the clean up is brutal. If my husband is home I always ask him to clean the bowls, however the actual nougat is very simple to compose and fun.
The most important equipment needed is a candy thermometer and mixer. I use a custom designed copper bowl that fits mykitchenaid mixer. A copper bowl is by no mean essential, I love the copper bowl, due to it whisking the egg whites higher without using the aid of cream of tartar, or acids (like lemon juice or vinegar). If you choose a cooper bowl, it is necessary to omit cream of tartar due to the reaction to the copper.

By adding the dried cherries, which look black and the apricots (dried peaches work too) which look orange, the nougat has a Halloween glow.

Halloween Nougat

400 grams/ 2 cups sugar, plus 15 grams for egg whites
60 grams/ ¼ cup water
160 grams/ ½ cup light corn syrup or agave nectar
2 egg whites, at room temperature
1 teaspoon rose syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup dried apricots, quartered
½ cup dried cherries, cut bite size
1 ½ cups bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine and melted
Candy thermometer

Spray an 8 by 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray. Line the bottom and sides of the pan with waxed or parchment paper, to make it easier to lift, let the wax paper hang over the sides giving yourself a lip of few inches. Lightly spray the waxed paper inside the pan.

In a heavy bottom saucepan, combine the sugar, water, and corn syrup, over low heat. Do not stir, swirl the syrup and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Bring to a simmer, and cook until the syrup turns a nice amber color and the candy thermometer reaches 150º to 155ºC or 300º to 310ºF about 18 to 20 minutes. This when your syrup is at the hard crack stage.

When the syrup registers about 116ºC or 240ºF. Start in a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisking on medium speed the egg whites and a pinch of salt until a soft peak develops. Slowly add 7 grams of sugar, the vanilla extract, and rose syrup. Continue to whisk the egg whites, on medium speed adding the remaining 8 grams of sugar until they are hard peaks and shiny, be careful not to over mix otherwise the meringue becomes dried and breaks.

With the mixer running on low speed, slowly pour in a steady stream of the syrup into the egg whites. Be careful not to let the syrup touch the whisk, pouring down the side of the bowl. Increase the speed to medium- high and continue mixing for 8 minutes until the mixture holds it’s shape and is thick. Using a spatula, sprayed with cooking spray, fold the dried fruit. It will be sticky. Pour the nougat onto the parchment paper, spray your hands with cooking spray and flatten with sprayed hands. Leave to rest overnight at room temperature.

Next Day

In a Bain Marie, or a double boiler melt the bittersweet chocolate over a little simmering water. Temper the chocolate, so it stays shiny and beautiful.

Invert the baking pan, peel off the waxed paper, and discard. Cut to desired size pieces, with a pizza cutter (spray the pizza cutter with cooking spray), and dip half in chocolate or drizzle chocolate over the top and add sprinkles (optional).

Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

**Try ½ teaspoon  of vanilla extract; or 1 vanilla bean scraped for seeds only
** Be sure to temper the chocolate

While the nougat was napping overnight Sydney and I began designing the Caramel Chocolate Cups.We used to make turtles, but the are so many allergies to nuts we changed the candy to caramel cups to look like peanut butter cups.

I fell in love with this glass!
It took about two and half hours from start to finish to compose these yummy cups, but they were not ready for eating till the next day.
I had to have the matching
shot glass!
In very general terms we painted the chocolate on mini cupcake paper liners, put them in the freezer for 20 minutes, and repeated this process four times. While the first layer rested in the freezer we made the homemade caramel, which needed to cool down for about one hour anyway. The assembly was pretty easy: we poured the cooled caramel into the cups after carefully removing the cupcake liners, and spooned more melted chocolate over the top.
It is with a warm and loving heart I give a GIANT THANK YOU TO SYDNEY AND MY HUSBAND for all their help and understanding!

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