I both love and dislike this time of year. I love the spirit of the holiday; the lights, the decorations, the flavors, hand making our holiday gifts, and the excitement that takes over my kid’s energy. What I dislike is the frenzy, the obligatory buy, the last minute running here and there, thus the chaos.

My meditation, aside from a very early, long walk, is making my list of what to make for whom. The kitchen becomes my office, my lab, my sanctuary. And it is there that wonderful things happen. It was exactly 30 years ago that I started making my holiday gifts. I had always loved baking, but it was a friend that suggested we bake together. Creating holiday gifts is something I look so forward to. Choosing the recipes, crafting the packaging, knowing the whole time that the receiver is just as excited to get the package as I am to share it.

Dreambars and my Grandma Rose’s have been on the menu since 1991 and each year a few are added and sadly, some are dropped (sad, but true). Over the past few years, candy making has become part of the agenda. Almond Joys, Almond Caramel Corn, Toffee, and Marshmallows all remain on the “keep” list. So, when I got an email from an editor at Lark Crafts asking me if I would like to receive a copy of Sweet Confections for review, the answer; yes – without hesitation.

The first thing I did when I unwrapped the packing material, was read Nina’s bio. I had heard about Nina about two years ago, when I was talking with my friend, Clemence. I was telling her about my new found love for candy making and we talked about Nina, whom just moved to Northern California, and discussed her famous candy. The second thing I did was drool over the photos (Todd and Diane worked their magic), and lastly, I earmarked all the recipes I wanted to attempt.

I made her marshmallows first. What attracted me to this recipe is the absence of corn syrup. I have made a lot of marshmallows in my day, and these are by far the best. Easy to make, easy to cut, easy to eat. These will be the perfect partner for my Hot Cocoa on a Stick, as well as rocky road fudge. I also made a batch of her chocolate caramels and made home made Scotch Kisses(Levi’s favorite See’s candy). So good. I plan on making her English Toffee(also omits corn syrup), Fruit Jellies, and Truffles. I want to find the time to make everything in this book.

Vanilla Marshmallows
adapted from Sweet Confections
yield: 110 marshmallows

3/4 cup cold water
3 Tbsp. unflavored gelatin
1 cup water
3 1/4 cup organic, cane sugar
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/8 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup powdered sugar

• spray a 10×15 jellyroll pan.
• in the bowl of a standing mixer, pour in 3/4 cup cold water and sprinkle the gelatin on top. stir with a fork until the gelatin is moistened and free of lumps.
• in a heavy duty saucepan, bring 1 cup water, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt to a boil over medium-high heat. stir occasionally with a rubber spatula until the sugar dissolves.
• boil to 250* and then remove from the heat and let cool to 212*.
• when the syrup has cooled, break up the bloomed gelatin with a rubber spatula. add the cooled syrup and pour it over the gelatin. stir until the gelatin has melted completely.
• using the whisk attachment, beat for 1 minute on low speed.
• increase speed and whip for 5 minutes on high speed.
• add vanilla and whip for 1 more minute.
• pour the mixture into the prepared jellyroll pan and smooth the top with an offset spatula.
• let the marshmallows set overnight.
• remove the marshmallows onto a cutting board. cut marshmallows into 1″ squares.
• place cornstarch and powdered sugar into a bowl. whisk until combined.
• toss cut marshmallows in cornstarch mixture. remove marshmallows, shake off excess cornstarch and place in an airtight container.
• I freeze unused marshmallows, stored in an airtight container(Levi sneaks these and eats them right out of the container, Eli likes them in his hot cocoa).