Halloween has come and gone, and I still have a cupboard full of candy. You’d think I would have gauged the trick-or-treat traffic flow of the neighborhood by now (I’ve lived in this spot for 20 years). Our home is on the only uphill section of a very long, very straight and otherwise flat street. Most years we get only one or two costumed hooligans willing to huff-and-puff up a half block for free candy. One year I thought, “Eh, no one will come — we’ll just turn our lights off.” Of course, the doorbell rang for two hours, and I had guilt until Thanksgiving. That year I vowed to always be prepared.
Another reason I have candy left over is that, although I have an empty nest, I still buy the kids’ favorite candy. It’s not that I think that somehow the presence of said candy will conjure them back home for the day. Rather, it is a test. Somehow, otherworldly spirits are testing me, and if I were to forget the kids’ candy, the spirits would make the kids forget me.
I realize this is boo-nanas. But my favorite book as a kid was E.L. Konigsburg’s Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley and Me, Elizabeth, in which the protagonist, Elizabeth, must complete several tasks on her way to becoming a real witch with powers. I view the candy as a task I must complete to realize the full powers of motherhood. I don’t know what those powers are yet, as there are several more tasks to complete over this holiday season. I’ll be in touch.
Anyway, this is why I have a ton of leftover candy. Again.
When the kids were little, there was no such thing as leftover candy. They ate plenty of it on Halloween night, after a long session of bartering. Once they were in bed, it was time for us to assess the loot and abscond with our favorites. Then, I would tuck a piece in their lunch box every day until it was all gone. Never did I ask, “Whatever shall I do with all this leftover candy?” More likely, the question was, “Who ate that Butterfinger I was saving?”
But things change, and now I find myself researching recipes that utilize leftover candy. The fare is about what you’d think. Mix it into cookies. Mix it into brownies. Mix it into rice crispy bars. Mix it into cheesecake. A lot of mixing, and not a lot of real cooking. I have even come across several suggestions to mix all the candy together for a pie, sandwiched inside a double crust of traditional pie dough and baked into a melty mass of diabetes on a plate. (It has been suggested by members of this family that it doesn’t sound half bad, but I should use a crumb crust and top it with Cool Whip.)
The issue one may have with leftover Halloween-candy recipes is that they are mostly for chocolate candies. It’s the hard, gummy, sour and slimy candies that present the challenge. But I have some tricks up my sleeve.
For hard and gummy candies, my most ingenious idea has been to use them in my sauce making. Anytime your sauce calls for sugar, use some hard candies instead. Add them to the simmering sauce, and stir them in as they dissolve. If they are sour, like Jolly Ranchers, their acidity can really help balance a sauce. I have done this with stir-fry and satay sauces, as well as the classic French gastrique. The other thing I do with hard candies is save them for Christmas to make stained-glass cookies. Use your favorite sugar-cookie dough, cut out shapes, then cut out a center hole in each shape. Lay the window “frames” on a parchment-lined baking sheet, then fill the space with crushed hard candies. As they bake, the candy will melt and create the window “glass.” This looks best with clear hard candies, but I’ve done it with red-and-white peppermints too. (Although, if you received red-and-white peppermints in your trick-or-treat bag, that’s a legitimate excuse to egg a house. That’s a worse offense than raisins.)
A quick, easy and seemingly decadent use for any and all chocolate candy bars is super-simple microwave mousse. Use equal parts of chocolate candy and heavy cream. Melt the chocolates slowly in the microwave, stirring until liquid and smooth, then cool for 5 minutes while whipping the cream to medium peaks. Pour the warm chocolate into the whipped cream and quickly whip it again until well combined and stiff. Spoon into dishes and chill. You can use this mousse as a pie filling too. (Definitely a crumb crust — possibly made with leftover Oreos.)
Marshmallowy, gummy candies (including those weird candy hamburgers) melt easily into your favorite rice crispy bar recipe and can be zapped soft into Winter-Kitchen Microwave S’mores. I have also used these in conjunction with leftover chocolate bars in my best seven-layer bar recipe.
This year, though, I’m going to make my favorite cookie, which I affectionately and unimaginatively call The World’s Best Cookie. To be clear, I named it that because I like it — not because everyone else does. It has a subtle crunch that comes from cornflakes and is usually studded with chocolate chips, nuts and coconut. (This evening the part of chocolate chips, nuts and coconut will be played by chopped leftover peanut butter cups, Milky Ways and M&Ms). I will make these, then ship them off in care packages to the offspring, because I am pretty sure that is part of this mystic test.
The onslaught of fall is an onslaught of these tests. Everywhere are reminders of my kids, and everywhere are reminders that I have turned into a stereotypical parent of adult children — reminiscing about their youth, telling the same stories over and over, grunting when I get up out of a chair. It comes as a shock every time, though, because in my head I still feel that I’m in my mid-30s, tops. (That damn mirror always ruins everything.) When I was a 30something parent, they were just toddlers, and I was actively counting down until their 18th birthdays, when they would no longer be my problem. (This was due, in no small part, to exhaustion.) Along the way they kinda grew on me.
So, anyway, I hope you enjoyed yet another column about how I miss my kids. Maybe I should get a dog. (Except, nope. That’s another stereotypical move…forget it.) Anyway, they won’t be home for Thanksgiving either. I will be busy completing November’s mystical test, which has something to do with pine-cone turkey crafts. Luckily, using up leftovers at Thanksgiving is
much easier. ||||
THE WORLD’S BEST COOKIE: Post-Halloween Edition
Although this recipe advocates the use of leftover Halloween candy, I am not averse to the notion of throwing in a handful of crushed pretzels or potato chips as well. Just keep the combined garnishes down to 3 cups.
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups quick oats, uncooked
2 cups cornflakes
3 cups assorted candies, chopped into chocolate-chip-sized pieces
1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with pan spray or parchment paper.
2. Cream together butter and sugars until smooth and lump-free. One at a time, stir in milk, vanilla and eggs. Be sure each addition is well incorporated before the next goes in. Stir in baking soda, baking powder, salt and flour. Mix until well integrated. Fold in oats and cornflakes. Stir in candies, then chill the finished dough for 10 to 20 minutes.
3. Scoop onto the prepared pan an inch apart (I use a small ice-cream scoop to get a uniform size). Bake for 10 minutes, until firm and golden brown. Serve with a tall glass of milk.
Leslie Bilderback is a chef and cookbook author, a certified master baker and an art history instructor. She lives in South Pasadena and teaches her techniques online at culinarymasterclass.com.