BY CHRISTINE BARBOUR
I have been waiting all year to write a column on candy corn—those yellow, orange, and white candies that look more like tricolored teeth than they do corn, but whose honeyed, marshmallowy flavor tastes like memories of sweet, chilly evenings and Halloween. Although I have been thinking about this column for a while, I saved it because I am a firm believer that food tastes best in season, and everyone knows that the proper season for candy corn is fall.
Not that you can’t find it year-round these days. It used to be just a fall thing back in the 1880s, when it first appeared, because it was too time-consuming to pour the white, yellow, and orange candy syrup into the molds by hand. Nowadays it all happens by machine, and we get to eat candy corn every day.
And yet, part of the fun of seasonal candy has always been the fact that it is seasonal—you gorge yourself for a few short weeks and then, just as you don’t care if you never see another marshmallow Peep, temptation is gone from the shelves for another year. By the time the next season rolls around you are craving the treat all over again. My gloomiest January mood is brightened when those little boxes of Valentine’s Day hearts start showing up in the stores. “Will U B Mine?” they ask. Oh, yes, indeed I will.
These days candy manufacturers are trying to cash in on their seasonal success and we all get too much of a good thing. Marshmallow Peep chicks, for instance, get rebranded as marshmallow Peep ghosts at trick-or-treat time, and marshmallow Peep snowmen in December. All Peeps, all the time. Some seasonal sweets have become a year-round staple of candy counters without any effort at rebranding at all (I am talking about you, jelly beans!) Where is the fun in that?
Candy corn may be the most ubiquitous of the lot: pink and red for Valentine’s Day, palest pastels for Easter, red and green for Christmas, orange/yellow/white 365 days of the year. They also come in strange and occasionally wonderful flavors. Having done my homework, I can report: cinnamon (hot), green apple (yuck), pumpkin spice (yuckier), s’mores (much better), caramel (better yet), and chocolate caramel (oh, yeah).
I found candy corn lollipops that are unexpectedly delicious, and chewy juju candy corns that aren’t. Starburst makes a candy corn, but as it tastes just like other Starbursts; it seems a bit pointless. M&Ms makes what they, too, call “candy corn”—yellow-, white-, and orange-coated white-chocolate buttons that, surprisingly, did melt in my hand. And Oreo has a cookie with orange and yellow candy corn filling. I am still tracking that one down.
Oddly, no one is really marketing the one really delicious thing you can do with candy corn, which is to combine it with peanuts. Salty, crunchy, creamy, and sweet—the combination is fabulously good. From time to time BLU Boy Chocolate Café & Cakery (112 E. Kirkwood) makes peanut cookies with candy corn pressed into the top, but if you miss them you can make your own. See below for our recipe. Nutty and rich, filled with melted, nougaty candy corn and sprinkled with sea salt, they are the bomb! Happy fall.
To read more by Christine Barbour, visit her blog, My Plate or Yours?
Salted Peanut Candy Corn Cookies
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup light-brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup salted peanuts
1 cup candy corn
sea salt for sprinkling on top
1) Preheat oven to 325°F.
2) Cream the butter, peanut butter, and sugars together. Add the egg and vanilla. Continue to beat until light and fluffy.
3) Sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add flour mixture to the sugar mixture and incorporate thoroughly. Mix in peanuts.
4) Form dough into small (1 1/2 inch in diameter) balls and tuck two candy corns in different places in the dough. Be sure the candy is encased in dough or it will all ooze out when it melts and make a big (but tasty) mess. Place cookie on an ungreased cookie sheet (or cover sheet with parchment paper) and flatten each dough ball slightly, keeping candy covered.
5) Bake cookies for about 5 minutes and remove from oven. Set two candy corns in the top of each cookie (well away from edges so it doesn’t melt over.) Return to the oven and bake for approximately 3-4 more minutes, until cookie starts to brown and the candy corns on top are slightly softened.
6) Remove from oven, sprinkle very lightly with a few grains of sea salt, and allow to cool. Repeat until dough is all used up, being sure to eat any leftover candy corn.