Halloween party menu
Roasted baby pumpkins and white chocolate with butter pecans and candied orange peel.
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White chocolate with candied orange peel, pecans and reduced maple syrupSkip to next paragraph
Terry Boyd is the author of Blue Kitchen, a Chicago-based food blog for home cooks. His simple, eclectic cooking focuses on fresh ingredients, big flavors and a cheerful willingness to borrow ideas and techniques from all over the world. A frequent contributor to the Chicago Sun-Times, his recipes have also appeared on the Bon Appétit and Saveur websites.
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Makes about 20 3-inch candies
18 ounces good-quality white chocolate
3/4 cup maple syrup
Black lava sea salt
Salt-roasted pecans (about 1/4 pound or so depending on your lavishness—see recipe below)
1/2 cup candied orange peel, cut into very fine bits (store bought or see recipe below)
Cover two baking sheets or pizza pans with parchment paper. Have at hand the diced orange peels, the pecans and the sea salt.
Break the white chocolate chunks into the top of a double boiler, or into a small heavy bottomed saucepan.
Prepare the maple syrup – pour the 3/4 cup into a small heavy saucepan and simmer it to reduce it by about a third. Don’t let it foam up and boil like crazy – work carefully so it does not crystallize.
Meanwhile, turn on the heat beneath the bottom of the double boiler, or a separate large saucepan, with about an inch of water in the bottom. When the water starts to simmer, melt the white chocolate, stirring with a silicon or rubber spatula. Melt it over gently simmering water, stirring with a silicon or rubber spatula. Don’t let the pot with the chocolate in it touch the simmering water. And keep an eye on the maple syrup – you want it to reduce so it is thicker, but not so much that it turns into maple sugar (see Kitchen Notes).
When the white chocolate is entirely melted, begin creating the individual candies. Form the base by spooning about two tablespoons of white chocolate onto the parchment paper and spreading it with the back of the spoon into a roundish shape about 3 inches across. It should be about 1/3 inch thick. When all the chocolate is parceled out, working quickly, add pecans to each coin. Five or six should do, but you can jam in more if you wish. I chose not to crowd them in because of all the other things I wanted to add. Next, dot each piece with bits of orange peel, then sprinkle on the black salt. Finally, drizzle with the reduced maple syrup, making streaks in places and allowing it to make little pools here and there.
When it’s all on there, admire your work for a moment. Then slide the sheets into the refrigerator for half an hour or so to set up. When the candy is set, lift it up from the parchment paper, peeling off the paper. At this point, store it in an airtight container in the fridge.
In the great culinary tradition of taking something already fatty and adding fat to it, these are crazy good on their own – for instance, as a cocktail party snack.
1 pound raw pecan halves
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons salt (For this, we like La Baleine fine sea salt, but any fine-grained salt works)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Pour the raw pecan halves into a bowl. Melt the butter and pour it all over the pecan halves. Gently fold and stir until the pecans are coated with the melted butter. Sprinkle the salt all over.
Pour the pecans onto a baking sheet with a low rim. They should be in a single layer. Bake for 12 to 16 minutes – at the 12-minute mark, start checking and tasting (cautiously!). Don’t let them get dark because they continue to roast after they have been removed from the oven. Before using for the candy, cool them completely.
Candied Orange Peel
Candied orange peel is widely available – for instance, you can even buy it through Amazon – but it is gratifying to learn how to make it yourself from something you’d otherwise toss out. Make this at least a day ahead to allow it to dry. When it is dry, put it in an airtight container. It may be stored at room temperature for a month or so, or in the freezer for six months.
3 navel oranges – choose unblemished, plump oranges, organic if you can find them, with peel that feels soft and moist (not dry and like it is separating from the fruit within)
2-1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup water plus lots more water