Here's the thing with nostalgia: Memories betray you. Those candy bars that you remember loving are stuffed full of waxy chocolate, weird fillers, and preservatives. Try our souped-up take on four beloved candy bars. Give the store-bought stuff to the kids, and save these for yourself. And, for crafty extra credit, download the wrappers for each candy. Read past the recipes for a guide to chocolate, complete with a glossary, book list, and FAQ.
Recipes to Make Your Favorite Corner Store Candy Bars at Home
1. Peanut Butta Cups
2. Almond Jay
The CHOW version of an Almond Joy™ requires a bit more concentration than the Peanut Butta Cups but is still simple enough for first-time candy makers. Get our Almond Jay recipe and print your own Almond Jay wrappers.
Our version of a Snickers™ is the most challenging of our candy bars, but the peanut nougat is so chewy and fluffy it's worth the extra effort. Get our Snickles recipe and print your own Snickles wrappers.
To delve further into the art and science of candy and chocolate making, turn to these books.
1. Chocolate Obsession: Confections and Treats to Create and Savor
By Michael Recchiuti and Fran Gage
2. CookWise: The Secrets of Cooking Revealed
By Shirley O. Corriher
This book discusses the whys and hows of everything from eggs to chocolate, with recipes that illustrate Corriher's points. Get the book here.
3. The Great Book of Chocolate
By David Lebovitz
Though it's tall, skinny, and seems like a light read, this book is a great resource. Lebovitz takes you on a tour of the chocolate world while conveying the wisdom of his experience as a pastry chef. Get the book here.
Here are the most common terms you'll come across as your candy-making odyssey begins.
Bloom: The gray mottling that sometimes appears on the surface of chocolate is a result of extremes in heat or humidity. Chocolate stored in a fridge is subject to too much humidity, which causes the sugars to crystallize. If your chocolate is too warm, it will melt slightly and the fats will separate out. While not aesthetically pleasing, the chocolate is still usable and edible. The only risk is that chocolate with sugar bloom may seize since it has been exposed to moisture.
Couverture: Chocolate with a higher percentage of cocoa butter (at least 32 percent). It is used to enrobe candy because it forms a very thin coating when properly tempered.
Enrobe: Dipping or coating candies in chocolate.
Seed: One of the most common methods of tempering chocolate is the seed method. Because it requires the fewest tools and is the easiest to master, it is the method we recommend for the home cook. To do so, melt two-thirds to three-quarters of the total weight of chocolate you’re working with, and once it has reached 118 degrees Fahrenheit (for milk chocolate), add in the remaining chocolate (also referred to as the seed).
Seize: When melted chocolate comes in contact with even a small amount of liquid or steam, it hardens and becomes lumpy, a condition known as seizing. When working with chocolate, be diligent about keeping everything dry to avoid this. If seizing occurs, whisk 1 tablespoon of a neutral oil (such as canola, corn, or vegetable), clarified butter, or cocoa butter into every 6 ounces of chocolate. The repaired chocolate is still usable in most recipes unless you’re planning on tempering.
Temper: The method of melting and cooling chocolate in order to stabilize its crystal structure. Tempering makes chocolate shiny, with a good snap when you break it. Most baking recipes do not require tempering, but it is essential when enrobing chocolate confections. Check out our guide to tempering chocolate.
After developing these recipes, we'd say the crucial ingredient to candy making is patience. Here are answers to common chocolate questions.
What's the trick to achieving a good temper?
The viscosity of the chocolate is key, and if you work with chocolate often, you’ll be able to rely on sight and touch to determine when it has reached perfect temper. When you first try tempering, pay close attention to your thermometer and be sure to hit the exact temperature you are aiming for. Here are some other tips:
1. Work on a cool, dry day. Chocolate behaves best in a room-temperature environment (mid 60s to low 70s) with average humidity (around 50 percent).
2. Read the recipe through completely before you start.
3. Use high-quality ingredients.
4. Have all equipment and ingredients on hand before starting.
5. Give yourself plenty of time; you can't rush this process.
If the chocolate falls out of temper, can you retemper it? Or should you just use it in recipes that don't require tempering?
As long as the chocolate is clean and has not exceeded 120 degrees Fahrenheit (see below), it can be retempered over and over again. Be sure to go through the whole process of melting and cooling again, because it's the only way you can be sure to get good crystallization.
When the chocolate exceeds 120 degrees Fahrenheit, is it truly no longer usable for tempering? How about for use in recipes in which tempering isn't required?
Somewhere between 120 degrees Fahrenheit and 130 degrees Fahrenheit, chocolate separates and burns. There is nothing you can do to repair burnt chocolate.
What does it mean if your chocolate comes off in one piece (like a shell) as opposed to sticking to the filling?
This happens when the interior (candy center) is too cold and the chocolate sets too fast and cracks. When testing, we found that having the candy centers cold made our candy bars easier to work with. However, the dipping worked best when the filling was only slightly below room temperature, which is why we put the candy centers in the refrigerator and not the freezer. If you freeze the filling, the chocolate coating will set too quickly and the interior will form condensation, eventually pushing the chocolate coating off.
This post was first published on October 1, 2007.