I always seem to have a never ending list of treats I want to try out around the holidays but never find the time.This year I decided early on to make time for it by incorporating them as gifts. Being the neurotic chick I am I stepped it up a notch and came up with the idea to make an entire box of gourmet chocolates and caramels. My goal was to make a large assortment of delicious candies so pretty to look at you wouldn't think they were homemade. And that is exactly what I did.
In this instructable I will go over each candy recipe and how I made the box as well. There are so many ways you can adjust and modify this to your own homemade gift. And don't forget Valentine's Day is just around the corner! A box full of their homemade favorite treats is guaranteed to impress.
Step 1: Making The Box
The first thing I did was figure out what box I was gonna put these in. After not finding anything close to what I wanted I ended up making my own.The size of the box will dictate the amount of candy so this is an important first step. You can use an old candy box for this and wrap it in nice wrapping. They also sell very small boxes at Michaels for candies. If you want to a bigger box you can do what I did.
I used Christmas gift boxes in the lingerie size. They are about 8.5"X11". This size box will fit 2 dozen candies. To make them prettier I carefully separated the corners and wrapped them in foil wrapping paper.
Cut the paper to wrap around the inside edge and glue those down. Then fold the corners like they were to begin with and glue those down very well. I hid the corner flaps under the foil wrapping. Then after that was done I glued a white piece of printer paper on the inside bottom of the box. To make sure your candies don't slide around I recommend gluing the candy wrappers in place on the bottom of the box lightly with a glue stick.
For the top I wanted to add a key for the chocolates to tell you exactly what your eating. I mean lets be honest, no one likes a funky surprise candy. This way they can pick and choose exactly what they want and avoid the ones they don't, just like a store bought box.
I found a circle template here. You will want to wait to fill it out until you are finished with the chocolates and know exactly where each one will go. I wanted to make sure the types and colors and shapes were balanced and distributed nicely. When your candies are done fill in each circle with the candy type or name.
After your box is made and template prepped you are ready to get cookin.
Step 2: Pecan Caramels
I made my caramels using a 7 minute microwave caramel recipe. Even after making other caramels on the stove top, which also turned out great, I still prefer this caramel. It is so simple you'll wonder why you've never done it before. The only disclaimer I have is that the liquid is extremely hot so make sure small children aren't in the room. Or husbands that like to bump into you in the kitchen!
There are a lot of recipes of this microwave caramel online. This is the one I used and it came out absolutely perfect. Tasty, easy, and a better color than the stove top caramel.
Here are the Caramel ingredients- Makes 30 caramels
*First prepare your dish that you will pour the caramels into by lining a dish with foil and buttering it. This step is essential for any caramel.
Now melt the butter in a large microwave safe bowl. Add all of the other ingredients to the melted butter and stir until the sugar is completely combined. No dry spots. Scrape the edges above the ingredients really well. Microwave on high for 3:30, 3 minutes and 30 seconds. Using oven mitts carefully take your bowl out and stir the ingredients until well combined.Place back in the microwave for 3:30, 3 minutes and 30 seconds. Carefully take out and stir lightly without touching the edges. Then pour into your prepared dish.
*Don't scrap the bowl out, this can cause sugar crystallizing on the rest of your caramels
Let cool and refrigerate for 4 hours.
I scraped the bowl leftovers into a separate dish for me. The tip you read the most about with caramels is not over stirring and not scraping the sides. I didn't have any crystallizing with either of the recipes but it's better to be cautious.
I chilled the caramel in the fridge for 4 hours then cut it into rectangles and wrapped each one over a large pecan. I molded them into rectangle shapes. Place back in the fridge until your ready to dip in chocolate.
Melt your chocolate and dip each piece. Tap on the side of the bowl to remove the excess then place onto parchment paper.
Step 3: Candied Orange Peels
I wanted color and variation so candied orange peel seamed like a deliciously perfect option. This recipe is easy and a great way to utilize your entire orange!
First prepare your peels. Cut the oranges into quarters. Then separate the peel carefully. Slice the peel into 1/4 inch pieces. I cut these in half so they would fit nicely in my candy wrappers.
Bring a pot of water to boil and add the peels. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 5-10 minutes until fork tender.
Remove the peels and set aside.
Bring your sugar and water to a boil. Boil until the temperature reaches 300 degrees. Then add the peels to the syrup. Cook for 30 minutes until the peels are translucent and Nicely glazed. Remove and let dry for 2-4 hours. If you want to roll them in sugar like I did I recommend waiting at least 4 hours. They will be sticky enough to pick up the sugar but without clumps.
*Be sure to save your leftover orange simple syrup. It makes the best hot or iced tea on the planet. Not to mention cocktails.
Step 4: Almond Joy
Gotta love nostalgia candy. It wouldn't be a box of chocolates without your favorites. Almond joys are my moms favorite so it was important to me that they were on point.
Ingredients- Makes 16 medium sized candies
In a bowl add the coconut, condensed milk and sugar. Stir until well combined.
Place into a greased dish and press down to compact it. Wet hands will help with this step. Make them as thick or thin as you like.
Score the top with a spatula or butter knife. Lightly mark where you will cut later. Now add an almond to each section. Refrigerate for one hour.
Now melt your chocolate melters or chips in the microwave at 30 second intervals. Dip each one, tap to remove the excess and place on parchment.
*I made the mistake of refrigerating too long and the tops dried out. I ended up having to roll them into a ball at room temperature. Then pressed down into an oval shape and added the almond. So be sure not to refrigerate longer than an hour.
Step 5: Peanut Clusters
Simple but effective, peanut clusters are always a hit.
Ingredients- Makes 16 small clusters
Melt the chocolate and add the peanuts. Stir well to evenly coat all of the peanuts. Scoop small clusters onto parchment paper.
Step 6: Caramel Marshmallow
These are one of my favorite candy combos. Chocolate, caramel, and marshmallows. Always the first one I pick out of a box for sure.
Microwave caramel- Makes 30 caramels
Melt butter in a bowl. Add other ingredients and stir. Microwave for 3:30. Stir. Microwave for another 3:30. Stir and pour in buttered lined dish 8x8 (3/8" thick). Refrigerate for 4 hours.
Cut the caramels after the have been refrigerated in 1x1 inch squares. Flatten a little and add 2-3 mini marshmallows in the middle. Pull the corners of the caramel over the marshmallows and pinch to seal. Seal edges then roll into a ball. Place these into the fridge or freezer until you are read to dip.
Prepare a double boiler, or melt chocolates in the microwave at 30 second intervals. Carefully dip each one using a fork scoop out. Tap the fork to get the excess chocolate off. Place on parchment.
These are great at room temperature or refrigerated.
*At first I didn't tap the excess chocolate off that well as you can see, you can easily cut the excess edges of chocolate off later when it hardens.
*I used half of the caramel for the marshmallow caramels, and half for the pecan caramels.
Step 7: Peanut Butter Cups
These peanut butters cups give Reese's a run for their money. If your a fan of those then this is a must try.
Ingredients - Makes 12 medium sized cups
In a bowl melt chocolate chips at 30 second intervals stirring in between. When complete melted drop a teaspoon into your candy wrappers. Use a butter knife, or your finger and spread the melted chocolate on the edges of the cups. Make sure that the bottom is completely covered and the edges as well.
Let those harden on the side. Now melt your peanut butter in the microwave for 30 seconds. Add the powdered sugar and stir until completely combined. Taste it and add more sugar if you want it sweeter.
While the peanut butter mixture is warm and soft you will put teaspoon full chunks in the chocolate covered wrappers. Press down about so it is 1/8" from the top make sure the top is nice and smooth.
Now melt some more chocolate. Add little dollops on top of each cup and make sure it reaches all the edges and crevices. Smooth the top. Once they harden you can leave them at room temperature or put the in the fridge.
Step 8: Butter Toffee
For a little texture toffee always packs a punch. Crunchy and buttery you can't go wrong.
Ingredients- Makes a thin 8x8 sheet
Put the butter and sugar into a sauce pan and turn on medium. Stir when the butter melts and make sure the sugar is combined. Bring to a boil and cook until it reaches 300 degrees. Take off the heat, stir in almonds, then pour into a sheet pan. Let cool and refrigerate for 2 hours. Break apart into chunks.
Step 9: Chocolate Coffee Caramels
These chocolate coffee caramels turned out so amazing I opted not to dip them in chocolate as originally planned. A little salt flakes on top and they were to die for. This recipe was a random experiment with the 7 minute caramel I used for the other candies.
Ingredients- Makes about 30 caramels, depending on the size you cut.
First melt the butter in a large bowl. Add all of the other ingredients and stir. Microwave for 3:30. Carefully stir the hot liquid until combined evenly. Microwave again for 3:30. Stir again and carefully pour into a butter lined dish. Chill for 4 hours. Cut into squares and sprinkle with salt.
The Tupperware I used to pour the caramel into was very small, 6"x8". They ended up being about 1/2" thick which was perfect for me.
*You can also wrap these individually in wax paper. Cut 3" squares, wrap and twist the edges.
Step 10: Chocolate Pistachio Truffles
This truffle recipe is rich and decadent. The pistachios add a memorable touch and a beautiful color.
Ingredients- Makes about 9 medium sized truffles or 12 small
First heat the heavy cream until just boiling. Pour over chocolate chips in a bowl. Do not stir. Let it sit with a plate or lid on top for 5 minutes. Then stir it together lightly until well combined. Refrigerate for 4 hours.
After chilled, scoop and make balls by rolling in your palms. This will be messy messy.
After they are all rolled wash your hands and then roll each one into the nut mixture. Roll the balls again in your hands to press the nuts in. Put in the freezer or fridge until you are ready to dip in chocolate.
Melt the chocolate and dip each one using a fork to lift them out. Tap the fork on the bowl to get the excess chocolate off. Sprinkle the top with the chopped pistachios finer pieces.
They can stay at room temperature for two days but should be refrigerated or frozen after that.
Step 11: Coffee Chocolate Truffles
These are so rich eating one is all you need. The coffee lovers out there will definitely be pleased.
Ingredients- Makes about 9 medium sized truffles or 12 small
Heat the cream until just boiling. Add the instant coffee and stir. Pour over the chocolate chips and cover. Do not stir yet. Let it sit for 5 minutes then stir until incorporated. Roll into powdered sugar lightly then roll between your palms once more. Place into the freezer or fridge until your ready to dip them.
Melt your chocolate. Dip each one and tap to remove the excess chocolate. Place on parchment paper. In one hour dust the tops with a sprinkle of powdered sugar.
Step 12: Cookie Dough Truffles
These are to die for. If you're a cookie dough eater then you will never look back after tasting chocolate chip cookie truffles. Yum!
Ingredients- Makes 12 medium sized truffles
Cream the butter in a bowl. Add the sugar and cream together. Add the flour and mix until combined. Mix in the chocolate chips. Roll into balls and freeze or refrigerate until your ready to dip in chocolate.
Melt the chocolate. Dip each cookie dough ball into the chocolate. Remove with a fork and tap the bowl to get the excess chocolate off. Place on parchment and let cool. Refrigerate or freeze.
*I wanted more color contrast so I melted red chocolate melts and made zig zags over the top of the cookie dough truffles.
Step 13: Chocolate Dipped Bacon
Chocolate. Dipped. Bacon. Nuff said.
Place bacon flat on a cookie sheet. Bake at 375 15-20 minutes until crisp. Place on paper towels to drain the grease. Cool and cut into small 1"-1.5" pieces. Refrigerate.
Melt chocolate. Dip each piece into the chocolate. Place on parchment.
If you want a contrasting color like I did melt some white chocolate and place in a zip lock bag. Cut a very small hole in on corner. Drizzle the white over the cooled pieces of bacon.
Step 14: Assembling Your Chocolates
The last step is to edit your template with the names of each candy. Print and glue to the top of you box. Place your chocolates in the right spots and you are done! :)
There are endless possibilities from decorating the box, box shapes and candy options. It is obviously easier and much faster to make less types of candies. You can make a small box of three types and be done in a couple hours.
I used melted chocolate and wrote names onto parchment. A great way to personalize each box. You can even write Happy Valentines Day, or Happy Birthday. Such an easy way to upgrade your homemade cakes, or cupcakes. This gift is great for absolutely any occasion and any person.
Not only was it fun but I learned so much doing this little project. A world of candy knowledge so-to-speak. And you can't imagine the shock and awe of the people I gifted these presents to. That right there is exactly why I love making homemade presents. There is no better compliment then not believing it was homemade!