The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Making homemade sweets


Photo: Sweets on the gate side stand

Photo: Sweets on the gate side stand

Apart from Christmases as a very small child I had never attempted to make sweets until this Christmas. I only started doing this to draw a slightly different crowd to our gate side stand. The ‘melt in the mouth’ fudge sold very well and didn’t need an expensive new jar and lid. Although I agree with Suky it wasn’t quite chewy enough for me – so I’ll cook it until it’s golden brown next time. I packed it in little cellophane envelopes that are sold for handmade cards. With the standard red raffia bows I tried to make them look as enticing as possible. I also offered individually wrapped free samples which has had a significant impact on sales.

My hearty thanks go out to redfox for her suggestion of crunchy toffee and link to this recipe on David Lebovitz’s blog. David used to be the pastry chef at Chez Panisse (Alice Waters) and is someone that I have always been a little in awe of. But his site is fun, readable and extremely helpful. And apart from the cakes, patisseries and reviews is choc-a-bloc with confectionary porn.

When I saw these chocolates on his site I just had to make them. I found 300 paper sweet cases in TKMaxx and got to work on the filling right away. Yesterday I made tempered chocolate  – I’d not heard of this before but it’s essential to stop the chocolate developing a bloom in a warm room. Filling the tiny cases was a fiddly time consuming job that I’m sure will become easier in time. The result was a chocolate to die for – even Danny loved them and he hates dark chocolate. Today I will be making a milk chocolate version. They are a Rolls Royce grown up version of the Hershey peanut cups.

The crunchy toffee was a doddle to make. I made mine as thin as possible and am selling a plain and a nutty version. I had to pack them all up yesterday evening as they are totally moreish.

To make these sweets you need two essential pieces of equipment. A candy/jam thermometer (a good investment as it helps when making your own homemade yoghurt) and a large heavy bottomed saucepan. I use the same Circulon Infinite hard anodised stockpot one for all my preserving. I bought it in a sale years ago and it has proved to be worth every penny.

People bought chocs yesterday and I’ll report back on how well the toffee goes down. My idea is to keep on making new lines for the stand so it doesn’t become invisible. Apart from fresh vegetables and eggs I want everything to be a pretty and tempting treat for under £2.00. Making sweets is great fun – why not give it a whirl?

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  1. Fiona, you could also make your stand a dependable resource for little holiday gifts — Valentine’s Day will be a real opportunity for that. Also, I had an idea that when you make something containing herbs (and this idea may have to wait for the garden to bear) you could insert a tiny sprig of appropriate herb in the raffia bows. Any little simple attractive gifty-look (without going overboard) might help sales. And maybe a discreet card saying “Excellent for Gifts” )(surely something better than that!)
    This is a wonderful project, this stand.

  2. I’m so glad the toffee worked well for you! We saved a little back from Christmas hampers and I’ll be very sad when the last of it is gone (though it will be all the best for my teeth and weight I’m sure).

  3. Some of your dried herbs, individual or mixed or seasoning blends might go down well too.

  4. Perhaps you could even sell frozen food just now. LOL!

  5. casalba

    Your fudge looks and sounds very tempting. There is no doubt that you are on the right track – great tips from Leslie too.

    May I share a really simple one here? Coconut Laddoos. I cut this recipe out years ago from (I think) the Sanisbury’s Magazine. It’s an Indian sweet. Take a tin of condensed milk put in heavy pan over medium heat and add dessicated coconut. Stir with wooden spoon and heat unti the mix starts to come away from the side of the pan and form a ball. (The ingredients are roughly 50-50, but the texture tells you when you’ve got it right. You can add more coconut or keep gently heating.) When cooled, form into little balls – that’s it!

    I’ve played around with these over time. Rolling some in coco powder, adding ground almonds to the mix. Pushing a whole almond into the middle, filling a date with the mix. Drizzling or dipping into melted chocolate – the combinations are endless. Served in those little sweet cases, they look very professional.

    It’s an Indian sweet and is very sweet indeed, but one or two with coffee after a good curry goes down very well!

    (PS All my guests at the ball were back to front, weren’t they? You must have been scratching your heads at the Cottage!)

  6. Ooh your home made sweets sound so tempting Fiona. I have a real weakness for fudge in particular. If it wasn’t for the snow forecast tonight I would drive from my home in Bedfordshire to visit your side stand. Any chance that you will branch out in to mail order – I would happily pay the postage!

  7. I too made chocolates for Christmas presents and they went down very well. I made Chocolate Mendiants (chocolate disks covered in fruit and nuts)and made my own labels. Try Googling it and also chocolate bark for some ideas!

  8. brightsprite

    Chocolate Mendiants? Are they in The French Kitchen by Joanne Harris (author of “Chocolat”)? If I remember rightly, she also shows “Nipples of Venus”, and said she only included them because she liked the name!!

  9. They may well be – they are a traditional French Christmas treat I believe. Nipples of Venus sound interesting..not sure what the elderly relatives would have made of those 😉

  10. brightsprite

    Here you are Jude,
    The elderlies don’t need to know the name of them!
    From memory, I understood that ‘mendiants’ means beggars, which is why anything you have to hand can be placed on the chocolate base – any nuts & any fruits etc

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