Sweet Gifts | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Sweet Gifts

The Christmas holidays are my favorite time of year. From made-from-scratch hot chocolate, cold weather, celebrating the season with friends and family, and holiday candy—it's all amazing.

The one part I don't like, though, is the gift-giving. Now, don't give me that look. I'm not Ebenezer Scrooge. I love giving presents to people, but I'm not a great shopper and, most of the time, I don't have a ton of money to spend. Homemade gifts are always an option but, for me, it's hard to choose what to make.

Holiday candy is one gift I've been dying to DIY. It's fairly simple—and who doesn't love chocolate or sweet-and-salty treats?

Tempering is the way to get really professional looking and tasting chocolate, but it can be complicated.

These candy bars are probably the best homemade gifts I've ever made. They are easy and highly customizable. Maybe one day I'll even make my own chocolate.

How to:

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Ingredients:

· 2 cups water

· 1 pound (16 ounces) baking chocolate

· Candy bar fixin's—I used mini M&Ms, pretzel sticks, chopped almonds and chopped Reese's peanut butter cups.

Tempering is easier than you think, but you have to have the right materials to accomplish it. Here's what you need:

· A rubber spatula

· A medium to large-size saucepan

· A large glass or stainless steel bowl

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· A cooking thermometer—one made for candy is handy because you can hook it to the edge of the bowl or boiler, but you can also use a meat thermometer.

· Candy bar molds—You can find these at craft or baking stores.

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Set up the chocolate mold by prepping your candy bar toppings and adding them to the bottom of the mold.

Chop chocolate into uniform pieces—about the size of playing dice. Chop one quarter (4 ounces) of the baking chocolate even finer. Reserve this for later.

Simmer two cups of water at medium heat. Once the water starts steaming, place a bowl with the less finely chopped chocolate in the pot. It should rest on the lip of the pot and float in the water. Start stirring with the rubber spatula. Once the chocolate is halfway melted, turn off the heat. The steam underneath the bowl will be enough to finish melting the chocolate. Stir until smooth.

Check the temperature of the chocolate. Once it reaches 110 degrees, remove the bowl from the pot, being careful of the steam. Dry the bottom of the bowl thoroughly to get rid of any moisture that may the affect the chocolate. Add the remaining chocolate and stir vigorously until everything melts. Check the temperature again. Once it cools to between 90 and 110 degrees, it is ready to pour into in the mold until full. Another way to tell the chocolate has been properly tempered is if the chocolate is shiny and smooth

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Smooth the chocolate out with the spatula. Gently tap the mold against a flat surface to get out any air bubbles, then refrigerate the candy bar until set, about 30 minutes. If it isn't set all the way, put it in the freezer for a few more minutes.

To really make your chocolate look special, wrap it in aluminum foil and wrapping paper. I used a 16-inch by 12-inch piece of aluminum foil and a 10-inch by 5-inch piece of wrapping paper and sealed just the edge of the wrapping paper with a bit of glue.

Ideas for Your Fixin's

Sea salt

Bacon bits

Chilis

Cookie dough pieces

Almonds

Nougat

Peanut butter

Caramel

Dark, milk or white chocolate

Potato chips

Chocolate chips

Honey

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