Candy corn is so misunderstood. Opinions range from “I looooove candy corn!” to “Absolute garbage. A disgrace to candy. Why does this exist?” And that’s just the opinions on one internet meme.
It’s quite possible that candy corn is the crack cocaine of the candy world.
The stuff is addictive, potent, bad for you, not even all that good but impossible to stop once you start and gone before you know it, leaving you sick, ashamed and wanting more.
To continue the drug analogy, candy corn is loathed by some and adored by others. Some of the adorers are ashamed of their addiction and do their best to keep it quiet. Others proudly flaunt their affliction.
The smallish bags appear to be specifically designed so that if a consumer scarfs down the entire bag in the car on the way home from the store, it is the merest fraction of a gram less than would be necessary to induce a diabetic coma. The sugar high, subsequent crash, and deep self-loathing that results from it, are not so easily avoided.
Because candy corn is basically sugar. Brach’s, one of the more popular brands, contains four kinds of sugar along with some autumnal color and not much else. No wonder it is so perennially popular. A seasonally appropriate hit of solid sugar unimpeded by extraneous flavor and only available briefly each year makes for a pretty alluring product.
Lately, makers of candy corn have tried to expand outside of Halloween by changing up the colors. But Indian corn for Thanksgiving, Reindeer corn for Christmas, Cupid corn for Valentine’s Day, Bunny corn for Easter and Freedom corn for Independence Day just don’t have the same pizzazz. And besides, nobody needs to be eating this stuff year round.
There are several recipes floating around for do-it-yourself candy corn but the one that follows is one of the easier ones. A project that is basically making sweet dough out of various sugars could make you very popular with any younger kitchen assistants you may have.
For folks that like the idea of candy corn better than the actual product, any confection with the signature yellow, orange and white striping can reference candy corn. The recipes below for candy corn cupcakes and candy corn jello shots are two good examples of this technique.
Adding candy corn as a decorative element or as an ingredient to another Halloween goodie is a very festive way to incorporate candy corn into your seasonal baking. The recipe below for Pay Day Cookies does just this. Strangely enough, the combination of candy corn, peanuts and peanut butter M&Ms greatly resembles a Pay Day candy bar.
Finally, candy corn everybody can enjoy.
Homemade Candy Corn
Brach’s brand candy corn contains 11 ingredients, four of them are sugars. This version requires just five ingredients and uses honey rather than high-fructose corn syrup.
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/3 cup honey
3-4 cups powdered sugar, plus an extra cup or so for rolling
Food coloring (the powdered kind works best)
Combine butter, vanilla, salt and honey in a food processor. With the processor running, slowly add powdered sugar until the mixture balls up and slowly turns around the processor bowl. Sprinkle a counter with powdered sugar and knead the mixture, as with bread dough, until it’s no longer sticky and firm enough to hold its shape. Divide the mixture into three balls. Using a toothpick as an applicator, put a small amount of yellow food coloring into one ball. Knead the color through, adding more powdered sugar if it becomes sticky. Depending on the humidity, you may need to add up to a cup more sugar to achieve the right consistency. The dough should feel pliable, but not gooey. Repeat the process on a second ball with orange food coloring (or a mixture of yellow and red). Leave the last ball white. Working with one color at a time, break off a section of dough and roll it into a long rope about 1/4” in diameter. Line up each rope side-by-side with yellow on one end, orange in the middle and white at the top, pressing together gently to make a tricolored log. Slice into pieces about 1/8” to 1/4” thick, and use your fingers to shape into triangles.
Candy corn is ready to eat immediately, but improves if allowed to set overnight. Makes about one pound.
Candy Corn Cupcakes
1 box white cake mix
3 large eggs whites
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup water
1 tub vanilla frosting
1 small bag candy corn
Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine cake mix, oil, and egg whites. Separate batter into two bowls and add food coloring to make one bowl of batter orange and the other yellow. Spoon the yellow batter into a baking cup lined with a cupcake liner, about 1/3 of the way. Spoon orange batter on top of the yellow layer until the cup is about 2/3 full of batter. Bake for 18-21 minutes. While the cupcakes cool, crush up candy corn in a small plastic bag. Combine the candy corn pieces and frosting. Once the cupcakes are cooled, frost them with the candy corn frosting and top with a piece of candy corn.
Candy Corn Jello Shots
Makes 20 shots
1 small box orange-flavored Jell-O (3 oz.)
3 envelopes Knox unflavored gelatin
7 oz. sweetened condensed milk (1/2 of a 14 oz. can)
2 cups water
1 cup vanilla or cake vodka (add more if you like strong shots, but not too much. Too much alcohol will prevent the Jello from setting up.)
yellow food coloring
tall shot glasses
This first step will make both your first and last layer, so once it’s mixed together, save half of this mixture for the end. Pour 1 cup of water into a small saucepan and pour 2 packets of the unflavored gelatin into the water. Warm the water and gelatin over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until all the gelatin has dissolved (about 5 minutes). Remove pan from the heat and add 1/2 your can of condensed milk to the mixture. Stir until the ingredients combine. Add 2/3 cup vanilla vodka. Cover and set aside half of your milk mixture (you’ll add food coloring to it and use it as your last layer later). Evenly distribute the first half of your mixture throughout your 20 shots (just don’t fill them more than 1/3 of the way full). Refrigerate your shots until firm (30-40 minutes).
When the first layer is firm, pour another 1 cup of water into your saucepan and add 1 packet of gelatin to make your middle layer. Warm the water until the gelatin dissolves, remove from heat, and stir in the box of orange Jell-O until that dissolves as well. Add 1/3 cup vanilla vodka. Evenly distribute orange layer on top of white layer and refrigerate until chilled.
When your orange layer is solid, retrieve the second half of your milk mixture that you set aside in the first step and add in a few drops of yellow food coloring. If the mixture has already started to set, put it in the microwave until warm and still until the lumps dissolve. Distribute your yellow layer on top of the orange and put it back into the fridge until set.
Once all your layers are set, you are ready to serve your candy corn creations.
Pay Day Cookies
Who knew that candy corn, peanuts and peanut butter M&Ms tastes just like a Pay Day bar?
1 1/2 cup butter, melted
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
4 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup unsalted peanuts, chopped
2- 11.4 oz bags of M&M Peanut Butter candies (not Peanut, peanut butter)
1 1/2 bags (12 oz each) candy corn
In mixer, combine butter and sugars. Beat for about 2 minutes, until creamy. Add in egg and vanilla. Beat in flour, baking soda and salt. Fold in the peanuts and M&M’s. Drop by large tablespoons onto a cookie sheet. Bake in a 375°F. oven for 9-11 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately press in the candy corn (point first so it goes in easily). Allow to cool.
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Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699, on Twitter @BillColvard.