Sarah's love of food led her down what she calls "the culinary rabbit hole," leaving her management job to first apprentice on an organic vegetable farm and then to write about and photograph food professionally. Her agricultural backgro...
Make your child's Easter basket even more special with these homemade candies.
Now that my son is old enough to appreciate the excitement of a sugary treat, I'm looking forward to making some special candies for his Easter basket. These spring-inspired goodies look impressive but require only easy-to-find ingredients and a few minutes of hands-on time.
Edible Easter grass
Makes enough for a 6- to 8-inch basket
I was surprised to find how simple it is to make spun sugar. The trick is to flick your fork back and forth confidently and quickly to make the delicate, grasslike strands.
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2-3 drops green food dye gel
Line a 3-foot area of a counter and a 3-foot area of the floor beneath with newspaper or wax paper. Lightly oil the handles of two wooden spoons and hang them 6 inches off the counter, 6 inches apart, held in place by tape or a heavy pot.
To a small pot, add the sugar and slowly drizzle with the water, then the corn syrup. Cook over medium-low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Increase the heat to high and boil until the mixture just begins to turn light amber in color, then immediately remove from the heat. Do not stir the mixture while it's boiling, but gently swirl the pot occasionally to cook it evenly. Stir in the food dye.
Every couple of minutes, dip a fork into the mixture until it cools to the point where it falls in a stream rather than drops. When it does, dip two forks in the mixture and quickly flick them back and forth above the wooden handles, aiming first for one handle and then the other. Stop every couple of minutes to gather the spun sugar and shape it roughly into a nest the size of your Easter basket. Continue spinning the sugar until it is gone or cools too much, in which case return it to medium-low heat just until it loosens up again. Once finished, you can also gather up any sugar strands still hanging from the handles or even on the wax paper/newspaper on the floor — it will be too cooled and stiff to shape, but can still be used to fill the basket.
Homemade coconut nests
Makes 8 nests
These aren't as cloyingly sweet as the neon green versions from my childhood, but have the same enjoyable chewiness of coconut and spot for brightly colored jelly beans.
2 large egg whites
1 tablespoon sugar
Splash of vanilla extract
2 cups sweetened coconut flakes
Jelly beans, to fill the nests
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease it with nonstick spray.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed until they're just beginning to foam. Increase the speed to high and slowly pour in the sugar. Continue beating just until stiff peaks form. Briefly beat in the vanilla.
Using your fingers, break up any clumps of coconut flakes before sprinkling them over the whipped egg white mixture. Use a spatula to fold in the coconut.
Drop 3-4 tablespoons of the batter at least an inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. To make a nest shape, use a spoon to create a well in the center of each. Bake until the edges just begin to brown, 15-20 minutes. Cool completely before filling with jelly beans or other egg-shaped candy.
Easter chocolate covered strawberries
I initially wanted to dip the strawberries in orange-dyed chocolate, like these Harry & David Easter Hand Dipped Strawberries, but when I tried to add food dye to the white chocolate, it seized up and became slightly gritty. Instead, I rolled the freshly dipped strawberries in colored sugar. Now I'm thankful for the original mishap, because the crunchy sugar coating contrasts satisfyingly with the juicy fruit.
To make your own colored sugar, start with 1 cup sugar and mix with 2 drops orange food coloring or 1 drop each red and yellow food coloring.
6 ounces white chocolate chips
1 tablespoon shortening
1 quart strawberries, washed and thoroughly patted dry
1/2 cup orange-colored sugar
Crushed chocolate cookies or chocolate graham crackers, optional
Line a baking sheet with foil. Put the sugar in a small, shallow bowl.
In a microwave-safe bowl, add the white chocolate chips and shortening and microwave at half power for one minute. Give it a stir and continue microwaving in 30-second increments until the chocolate is melted. Let the mixture cool for a few minutes so it is thick enough to coat the strawberries.
Gather the stem leaves of one of the strawberries in your fingers, gently pick up the strawberry by the leaves and dip in the white chocolate. Let the excess chocolate drip off before rolling the strawberry in the colored sugar and move it to the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining strawberries. Let them dry in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before serving. Optional: Serve over crushed chocolate cookie "dirt."