Christmas gifts: sweet tooth

Second in our little series of homemade Christmas gifts is some fancied-up candy for my little brother. Every Christmas morning, my siblings and I would meet in the hallway between our bedrooms to compare what we had gotten in our stockings. We oohed and ahhed over the little toys and took inventory of the candy. I could make my candy last for weeks; one year when Dad got us one of those giant peppermint sticks, I nearly made it to Easter. I also had some very weird dreams that year (Cars parked at the bottom of a shark-filled swimming pool? Giant nationwide network of tunnels accessed through our house’s crawl space? Weird, and memorable enough to have stuck with me lo, these many years). But my youngest brother was more, shall we say, epicurean and usually had his stocking candy finished by the end of the day. Clearly, the boy man — he’s a grown-up man (you’re still my baby, Bud) — would not turn down extra Christmas candy.

Enter: The giant peppermint stick. Ok, so these are fun as-is because giant candy is always fun. Bonus: weird dreams. But I thought we should probably dress them up a little bit, as shown here, to make them more festive. Because if giant peppermint sticks are fun, giant peppermint sticks dipped in chocolate and rolled in sprinkles has to be at least 2x as fun. Our grocery store was severely lacking in the sprinkles department. I searched for plain white or heck, even Christmas colors, but all I got was the typical multi-colored batch, more suited to birthday cake than candy canes. And, I love my brother, but not enough to pick through a bottle of tiny sprinkles to pull out all the white ones. Sometimes we have to make compromises.

Granota got a kick out of this project because, for a 6 year old, being allowed to get anywhere near the stove is a big day indeed. First, we melted chocolate chips in my pseudo-double boiler. If I had had any prior candy-making experience, I should have tempered the melting chocolate so that once it hardened again, it would keep that deep, chocolatey color instead of developing a whitish bloom. The color change doesn’t affect the taste of the end product; it just doesn’t look as pretty. But, I didn’t know about tempering until after the fact. Hm. Welp. When it came time for dipping, I tilted the hot pan and Granota carefully took the peppermint stick and rolled one end through the melted chocolate. She let any extra drip off into the pan, and then she rolled the chocolate-covered end in a plate of sprinkles and set the finished candy on a sheet of wax paper to harden. It actually doesn’t take that long for the chocolate to cool and harden, so we had to be fairly efficient with our production line. Her: dipping and rolling; me: tilting the pan and refilling the sprinkle plate.

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We had four sticks to do and were doing pretty well until the last one. This particular stick apparently had a more sensitive constitution than the others and suffered thermal shock when Granota dipped it into the hot chocolate. I fished out the broken end with a fork and Granota begged me to please-oh-please let her have that one, y’know, to test, just to be sure, please? please?

Ok, fine. From what I hear, it was pretty good.

Again, they didn’t turn out “perfect,” but Granota put her little 6 year old heart into them and my brother was sweet (ha!) enough to send her a message on Christmas day thanking her. I hope they both feel special.

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