Sweet Treats from Grandma’s Kitchen

Old Fashioned Sea Salt Caramels and more.

There is something about the year-end holidays that makes one want to get into the kitchen and whip up a batch of something. Whether it’s because the weather outside is now frosty and the idea of spending time someplace warm and toasty is appealing, or whether you enjoy baking and want to fill your house with the smells of fragrant spices, citrus and peppermint, it doesn’t really matter. The kitchen is the place to be around the holidays, and what better way to use your time there than working on your holiday gift baskets for family and friends?

While everyone else is baking cookies and breads for holiday gift-giving, why not try something different this year – candy!

Below are some of our favorite candy recipes for creamy sea salt caramels, citrusy candied orange peel, sinfully rich white and dark chocolate peppermint bark and sugared pecans, which are great to set out for cocktail parties.

Layered Peppermint Crunch Bark

Williams-Sonoma sells this seasonal Christmas treat for a small fortune. You can make it yourself and order fancy boxes and tissue paper from Williams-Sonoma or pick up seasonal tins from the Christmas Tree Shops. Remember that the quality of the finished product has a direct relationship to the quality of chocolate you use. Look for good Swiss chocolate such as Lindt, or even Ghirardelli. This recipe is adapted from Bon Appetit’s “The Christmas Season.”

  • 17 ounces good-quality white chocolate, such as Ghirardelli or Lindt, finely chopped
  • 6 ounces red and white striped candy canes or hard peppermint candies, crushed into coarse pieces, finely chopped
  • 7 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • 6 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 3⁄4 teaspoon peppermint extract

  1. Invert a large baking sheet and cover with foil. Mark off a 12-by-9-inch rectangle on the foil. Set aside.
  2. Place white chocolate in a metal bowl and set over a saucepan of barely simmering water until chocolate is melted and smooth.
    Remove bowl and set aside.
  3. Pour 2/3 cup melted white chocolate onto rectangle marked out on foil. Spread chocolate to fill in marked area. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup crushed peppermint and chill until set, about 15-20 minutes.
  4. Stir bittersweet chocolate, cream and peppermint extract in heavy saucepan over medium heat until just melted and smooth. Cool to lukewarm and pour over white chocolate, spreading with icing spatula to completely cover white chocolate. This makes your second layer. Refrigerate until cold and firm, 30 minutes.
  5. For the third layer, reheat remaining white chocolate and pour melted candy over bittersweet chocolate, spreading to cover. Sprinkle layer evenly with remaining crushed peppermint candies immediately, before the chocolate sets. Refrigerate just until firm so you will be able to cut the bark into pieces.
  6. Lift foil with candy on it onto work surface and trim the edges. Cut the bark crosswise into 2-inch-wide strips and then cut those strips crosswise into three sections and then each of those sections diagonally into two triangles.
  7. Candy can be made two weeks ahead and kept chilled in an airtight container.