Holiday Cooks: How to Make the Best Candy for Seasonal Family Gatherings

Contributed by Lizzie Weakley

With the holiday season approaching, many of you are wondering what new and flavorful treats you might be able to offer your loved ones at the upcoming holiday events. You want to show off your culinary skills, but during this time of year, time is hard to come by. Fortunately, there is one standby that’s appealing, transportable, and easy to make in bulk: homemade candy.

While not every cook makes candy-making a part of their regular routine, it’s not as daunting as it appears. There are recipes that are simple to follow and can be churned out in a single afternoon. Here are some ideas on how to make your holiday gift box the standout of this year’s party.


For beginners, this is the ideal candy with which to start, as the truffles themselves require no tempering. Simply make a ganache by adding chopped bittersweet or semisweet chocolate to barely simmering cream, add vanilla, and chill. When the mixture is firm enough, scoop out rounded teaspoons and roll between gloved hands to form them into balls.

For a traditional truffle, toss them in cocoa to give them the just-dug-from-the-earth look of their namesake. Alternatively, you can roll them in nuts or confectioner’s sugar, or temper additional chocolate for dipped truffles. If you’d like to offer different flavors, divide the batch before cooling and add in a liqueur or flavored syrup, such as Monin. Some delightful holiday flavors include pomegranate, Irish cream, and amaretto.

Chocolate Bark

If one or more guest at the party is following a gluten-free diet, the aforementioned truffle is one good choice. Another, involving just a little more effort, is chocolate bark. In order to give your finished bark that snapping glossiness, the chocolate must first be brought to temper. Instructions on how to do this can be found in most cookbooks; the slab method works well. To keep your treat nut-free as well as gluten-free, use a hearty crushed potato chip — such as Cape Cod brand — for filler.

Rock Candy

This is an easy non-chocolate alternative. It involves leaving wooden skewers in sugar syrup until crystals form. Be sure you give yourself three to seven days before the date of your gathering to allow the candy to harden. Add red and green food coloring to the syrup for a festive touch.

Of course, these are just a few ideas; the world of candy-making is as vast as it is tempting. So roll up your sleeves and get started! Your family will be impressed by your skill and delighted with the results.

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