Nothing else inspires a home cook to curious kitchen feats as much as a bountiful harvest. When the branches of the mulberry tree in the back yard are bowed with purple fruit, we get out our Ball jars and pectin, suddenly morphing into the kind of people who make jam. When the summer zucchini come in as big as salamis, we spend an afternoon scraping them across a box grater, and for what? For sweet bread that doesn’t taste remotely of zucchini.
Tomorrow, we’ll find ourselves facing down an unnatural bounty, but a bounty all the same — of individually wrapped candy bars, candy corn, M&M’s and all those other treats our Powerpuff Girls lug home. And perhaps there will still be a bowlful or two of candy in the living room, waiting for a glut of trick-or-treaters that never came.
The crazier home cooks among us will take one look at all this sweet provender, get a glint in our eyes and wonder, “What if . . . ?”
I’ve been nurturing a particularly trashy ”what if” question for several Halloweens now. What if I took some of those miniature candy bars and deep-fat-fried them? I mean, really, what if?
So this year I did just that. Took a Snickers bar, rolled it in a couple of layers of Japanese bread crumbs and popped it into a saucepan of hot oil.
And you know what? It was pretty strange, the inside like a plastic thing that had melted in the dishwasher.
But I wasn’t deterred. Before long I was rolling a bite-size Mounds bar in the bread crumbs. This time it emerged from the oil hot and crispy on the outside, with a warm, chocolaty gush of coconut in the center.
And my experiments with cooking Halloween candy were just beginning.
Yes, it was time to dust off those Snickers cheesecake recipes that were making the rounds a few years ago. Yes, it was time to test-drive an appealing Rice Krispies squares concoction sweetened with the addition of candy corn.
But what really caught my eye were the miniatures — the smaller-than-fun-size candy bars that have become the mainstay of Halloween treat bags. Surely there would be some way to turn a mini Milky Way into an adult treat worth bringing out after dinner.
At which time I decided to coat them in meringue and slow-bake them. They emerged from the oven with a crackling exterior and a sticky, stringy and addictive caramel center. The kids wolfed them down and immediately asked for a second batch.
So I’m going to be cooking Halloween candy until Thanksgiving.
There once was a time when Halloween candy was a rare enough treat that parents froze it and doled it out in lunch boxes over the next few months.
Nowadays there’s so much candy around — at the pre-Halloween parties, at mark-down prices in the stores, at every office where workers have kids. So much that we can never figure what to do with it all. Well, here are a few ideas.
Frosted Milky Way Brownies
Preparation time: 25-30 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Be careful when melting the candy bars; they require low heat and steady stirring to get the lumps out. The frosting for these brownies is so easy and fast, you may want to keep it in mind for other recipes.
For the brownies:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter or margarine, plus more for the pan
13 “fun-size” Milky Way bars
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
For the frosting:
4 “fun-size” Milky Way bars
2 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon water
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-by-8-inch pan and set aside.
To make the brownies: Chop 13 candy bars into thirds and combine with 1/2 cup butter in a small saucepan. Cover and stir over very low heat until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and stir in sugar and vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. In another bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Stir flour mixture into batter. Spread into prepared pan. Bake 25 minutes or until edges pull away from sides of pan. Frost when cool.
To make the frosting: Melt 4 candy bars with butter in a small saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in confectioner’s sugar and water, beating until creamy. Spread over cooled brownies. Cut into squares.
Per serving: 350 calories, (percent of calories from fat, 50), 4 grams protein, 43 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 19 grams fat, 81 milligrams cholesterol, 303 milligrams sodium.
Candy Bar Meringues
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 36 minutes
Cooling time: 30 minutes
These meringue kisses keep well in an airtight container. When cold, the candies returns to their previous caramel chewiness. But they’re incredible when hot, and they stay hot for a long time after leaving the oven thanks to the insulating meringue. So stick them in the oven just before dinner.
4 extra large egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
30 to 36 miniature candy bars, such as Milky Way, Snickers or Mounds (Milky Ways are our favorites here)
Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
Beat egg whites, salt and lemon juice with electric mixer at medium speed until peaks form. Increase speed to high. Gradually add sugar, scraping sides of bowl as needed. Beat until thick and glossy. Stir in vanilla.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and make sure neither oven rack is in the lowest position. Coat candies one by one in meringue, letting it peak attractively on top. Space the meringues on the two baking sheets like cookies. Bake 18 minutes, then rotate the sheets front to back and top to bottom. Bake 18 minutes more. Turn off heat and leave meringues in unopened oven 30 minutes longer. Serve warm or store in an airtight container.
Per serving: 105 calories, (percent of calories from fat, 25), 1 gram protein, 20 grams carbohydrates, less than 1 gram fiber, 3 grams fat, 2 milligrams cholesterol, 62 milligrams sodium.
Makes 12 servings
Preparation time: 35 minutes
Cooking time: 1 1/4 hours
Cooling time: 10 minutes
Many Snickers cheesecake recipes have made the rounds, but this one by Akron Beacon-Journal food writer Jane Snow is the best we’ve found. Snow swirls the Snickers bars into the batter, then adds a melted Snickers and sour cream topping, then decorates with candy bars and whipped cream. We’ll provide the nutritional information for this one, but you’re not allowed in good conscience to look at it.
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 cups granulated sugar, divided
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
4 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs, at room temperature
16 Snickers “fun-size” bars, divided, plus more for garnish
4 tablespoons milk, divided
2 cups sour cream
Whipped cream for garnish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Stir together graham cracker crumbs and 1/4 cup sugar in a bowl. Drizzle in butter and stir well with a fork. Press evenly into the bottom of a 10-inch springform pan.
Beat cream cheese and 1 1/2 cups sugar at medium speed of electric mixer until soft and fluffy. Add vanilla and salt and blend. Add eggs, one at a time, beating on lowest speed of mixer. Pour over crust.
Chop 10 candy bars. Combine with 2 tablespoons milk in a small saucepan. Cook and stir over very low heat until smooth. Spoon over cheesecake batter in parallel stripes. With a knife, cut across the stripes to swirl melted candy into batter. Bake for 1 hour, or until done. Cheesecake is done when edges appear to be firm, but center moves slightly when shaken gently. Cool for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, chop 6 candy bars and melt with remaining 2 tablespoons milk over low heat.
Beat together sour cream and remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Spread sour cream mixture over cheesecake. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and drizzle melted candy over sour cream in a decorative pattern. Return to oven for 3 minutes. Remove from oven and refrigerate immediately. Before serving, decorate with whipped cream and whole candy bars, if desired.
Per serving: 736 calories, (percent of calories from fat, 61), 12 grams protein, 63 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 50 grams fat, 194 milligrams cholesterol, 529 milligrams sodium.
Halloween Crisp Candy Corn Treats
Preparation time: 10 minutes
You need a treat for your little one’s day care Halloween party and have exactly 10 minutes to make it look homemade? Look no further.
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
9 cups miniature marshmallows
10 cups crispy rice cereal
2 cups mixed candy corn and Indian candy corn
3/4 cup miniature chocolate chips
2 or 3 squirts orange food coloring (optional)
Butter for the pan
Candy pumpkins for garnish
In a large pan, melt butter and marshmallows; stir until smooth. In a large bowl, mix rice cereal, candy corn and miniature chips. Add orange food coloring (if using) to marshmallow mixture, or squirt over cereal in bowl. Combine marshmallow mixture and cereal mixture, stirring quickly. Butter a large jelly roll pan. Spread mixture evenly on the prepared pan with buttered hands. While still warm, press on candy pumpkins for decoration. Cool or chill and cut into squares.
Per serving: 146 calories, (percent of calories from fat, 23), 1 gram protein, 28 grams carbohydrates, less than 1 gram fiber, 4 grams fat, 7 milligrams cholesterol, 93 milligrams sodium.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Standing time: 10 minutes, divided
Cooking time: less than 5 minutes
Like the name? It was hard to resist, as are these gushy treats that are so good next to a bowl of ice cream. Japanese bread crumbs make the difference: when double-coated, the bread crumbs leave a soft, thin, bready and gently crisp coating. Look for them in any large farmers market or Asian food store, as well as the foreign foods aisle at many supermarkets.
12 miniature Mounds bars
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 eggs, beaten with 1 teaspoon water
2 cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
About 1 1/2 cups vegetable oil for for frying
Confectioners’ sugar for dusting
Unwrap candies and rinse under cold water in colander. Coat with flour, shaking off excess. Roll in egg and let excess drip back into bowl. Roll in panko, then place on a rack to dry at room temperature for 5 minutes. Roll in egg again, then again in bread crumbs, smoothing edges with your palms. They may begin to look rounded. Let dry 5 minutes on rack.
Add 1 inch of oil to a medium saucepan. Fry the truffles in hot oil, turning as necessary, until golden. Drain and dust with confectioner’s sugar. Eat immediately.
Per serving: 94 calories, (percent of calories from fat, 45), 2 grams protein, 12 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 5 grams fat, 13 milligrams cholesterol, 77 milligrams sodium.
-by John Kessler for the Food & More blog