‘Tis the season for making and giving and eating, also known as my favorite time of year since candy-indulging is not only sanctioned, but required. I think food gifts are the best. They’re handmade (thus, thoughtful), consumable (thus, leave no clutter) and always appreciated (because yum!).
All that making, giving and eating means it’s a busy season, so I gathered up 5 easy, no-bake, colorful candy recipes that are great gifts. I even included some inexpensive packaging ideas!
Everything here that isn’t available at the supermarket should be available at the craft store. That includes the sprinkles, candy melts, and the packaging supplies.
Easy Gumdrop Nonpareils Candies
I am officially in love with these. From kids to grandparents, I’m pretty sure everyone else will love them too. They’re quick to make, sweet to eat and cute to give. And they’re simple: Store-bought gumdrops dressed up in chocolate and sprinkles to make a bigger, yummier version of the classic nonpareils candy.
You only need three ingredients: Large gumdrops, rainbow nonpareil sprinkles and white candy melts.
Get everything ready first: Line a baking tray with wax paper. Skewer all the gumdrops on the flat, bottom side with a toothpick. Pour the sprinkles into a small dish.
Place the candy melts and a teaspoon of vegetable shortening into a microwave-safe container.
(The shortening is optional, but it helps make the candy melts runnier and easier for dipping, so I usually add it.) Microwave the melts at 70% power for 90 seconds. Stir and continue to microwave at 15 second intervals until fully melted and smooth when stirred well.
Hold a gumdrop by the toothpick and submerge into the melted candy melts, completely covering the gumdrop. Lift out of the candy melts and tap the toothpick on the side of the container to shake off excess. Immediately dunk the top of the gumdrop into the sprinkles. Rest the gumdrop sprinkle side down on the baking tray. Repeat with all the other gumdrops and let the candy melts dry to the touch, about ten minutes. Carefully remove the toothpicks.
If you like, dab a little melted candy melts to cover the holes left by the toothpicks. Because I arrange the candy sprinkle-side up, I don’t bother to do this.
Let the candy set fully, at least 30 minutes but preferably an hour or more, before packaging to give as gifts.
Packaging idea: My favorite, most versatile packaging idea is simple: cellophane bags and ribbon. Find the supplies in any craft store. The bags come in different sizes, too, so you can give a little or a lot. Place some candy in the cellophane bag and close tightly with a ribbon. Attach a tag or, as shown here, a colorful, mini ornament to match the candy.
Chocolate-Dipped Christmas Oreos™
When in doubt, just go with Oreos™. Isn’t that a saying somewhere? If not, it should be. And Oreos™ are made even more delicious (not to mention festive) when covered in chocolate with a crunch of sprinkles.
To make holiday Oreos™, you’ll need red, green and white candy melts and white jimmies or nonpareils sprinkles. You can choose any sprinkles, but you want the white sprinkles to be big enough to show up against the candy melts, so just don’t go for the super fine kind.
First, line a baking tray with wax paper, and have your Oreos ready™. You’ll start with dipping in the white candy melts. Pour the candy melts in a narrow, microwave-safe container. A mug or glass measuring cup works well for this. Add a teaspoon of vegetable shortening if you like. (Optional, but again, it helps make the candy melts a bit runnier and more dippable.) Microwave for 90 seconds at 70% power. Stir and continue to microwave at 30-second, then 15-second, intervals until fully melted and smooth when stirred.
Hold an Oreo™ and dip half in the white candy melts. Gently shake the excess off. Rest on the tray and dip the rest of the Oreos™. Let them dry at least 30 minutes.
Melt the green candy melts as you did the white candy melts. Dip the other half of an Oreo™ in the green candy melts. Rest on the baking tray and immediately sprinkle with the white jimmies or nonpareils. Repeat with half of the Oreos™. In another container, melt the red candy melts and follow the instructions above for the rest of the Oreos™. Let all the Oreos™ set well, at least 30 minutes, but preferably an hour or more, before packaging.
Packaging idea: Line holiday-themed cardstock boxes with wax paper and fill with the dipped Oreos™. Wrap in cellophane or plastic wrap and tie with a ribbon.
3-Ingredient Trix™ Candy Balls
There’s no rule that you have to stick with traditional colors this time of year. Why not go bright? Sparkling and bright, that is. Here, colorful Trix™ cereal is ground and mixed with frosting and rolled in sprinkles for a unique treat. These are not for those with a weak sweet tooth!—give them to serious sweets lovers!
You’ll need some Trix™ cereal, a container of Betty Crocker™ frosting and sprinkles for each of the 6 Trix™ colors: pink, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.
Divide the cereal into cups with each of the 6 colors. If you think this sorting sounds tedious, it is! To make it go more quickly, I dumped a bunch of cereal on a baking tray and went through picking out one color at a time. As each color was removed, the sorting got easier and easier.
Place one color of cereal in a food processor and process until fine. Add 1/4 cup frosting to the processor and process until the mixture is fully blended. It will look a bit crumbly, but you shouldn’t have any clumps of frosting. Scoop out the mixture and roll 6 balls. If you find the mixture is too dry to roll, return to the processor and mix in another teaspoon of frosting.
Pour two tablespoons of the same color sprinkles in a shallow bowl. Roll the balls in the sprinkles. If the balls get a little misshapen after rolling in the sprinkles, just roll them again between the palms of your hand. Set on a baking tray. Repeat with the other 5 colors of cereal, cleaning out the processor between each.
Packaging idea: Place an assortment of colors in a Mason jar and tie a matching ribbon and tag to the jar.
Copycat Almond Roca™
For a truly delicious, irresistible crowd-pleaser, make Almond Roca™—a highly addictive chocolate-covered toffee candy. It was invented after the end of World War I by the company J.C. and Harry. Their log-shaped candy, covered in chocolate and almonds, was named “Almond Roca” by a local librarian. In 1927 they began packaging the candy in pink tins with gold foil (which increased the shelf life) and started shipping worldwide, including to troops in World War II. The company still makes a variety of flavors today.
It’s surprisingly simple to make your own. The recipe here is inspired by the Almond Roca found at Chef in Training. The recipe is best when using a candy thermometer, so make sure you have one on hand!
You’ll need light brown sugar, butter, chopped almonds and chocolate chips. For the chocolate chips, choose any of your favorites: semi-sweet, milk chocolate or dark chocolate. I used milk chocolate here.
First, prepare a 9x13-inch baking dish. Grease the bottom and sides with butter or shortening. Then, sprinkle 3/4 cup chopped almonds on the bottom of the pan.
Combine the brown sugar and butter in a saucepan. With the candy thermometer clipped on the pan, heat the mixture over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Watch the temperature climb to 290ºF. Use caution and keep stirring, being careful that the mixture doesn’t begin to smoke or burn. It should take about 5 minutes to heat.
Remove from the heat and pour the candy mixture over the almonds in the baking dish, using a silicone spatula to scrape all the candy from the pan. While the candy sets, melt your chocolate.
In a microwave-safe bowl, place the chocolate chips and shortening (if using). The shortening is optional, but helps make the chocolate runnier and easier to work with. Melt the chocolate in the microwave for 90 seconds at 70% power. Stir and continue to microwave for 30-second, then 15-second, intervals until fully melted and smooth when stirred well. Pour the chocolate over the candy. With an off-set spatula or the back of spoon greased with shortening or butter, smooth the chocolate evenly. Sprinkle the remaining almonds over the chocolate. Let the candy set overnight at room temperature, or refrigerate for a couple of hours. Cut the candy into two-inch square pieces. (If the candy is refrigerated, let the candy come to room temperature before cutting.)
Packaging idea: Find a simple, ceramic container your recipient will love and fill with the candy. Complete with a bright, red ribbon.
Peppermint Popcorn Clusters
I don’t know if I would say these peppermint popcorn clusters are the perfect holiday treat to give… but with the minty chocolate, hint of salty popcorn crunch, and pretty presentation, then actually yes—I would say that! This easy-to-make (and easy-to-eat), unusual candy will definitely freshen up your gift basket.
To make, you’ll need candy canes, white candy melts and popcorn. You can also add peppermint extract for extra minty-ness, but if you don’t want to spend the extra cash, it’s optional.
Line a mini cupcake tin with baking cups or spray the tin with cooking spray, and set aside.
Unwrap all of the candy canes. Make sure you get all that nearly-invisible, clinging, stubborn plastic off! Then crush the candy canes. I put them in the food processor because it’s just so much quicker and easier, but you can also put them in a zip-top bag and crush them with a mallet or rolling pin. Crush them pretty finely, but it’s okay to leave a good amount of mini-bits.
Put the popcorn in a large bowl—as big as you have. Pour the crushed candy canes over the popcorn.
To melt the candy melts, put them in a microwave-safe bowl with the vegetable shortening, if using. The vegetable shortening thins the candy melts so they’re easier to work with. Microwave for 90 seconds at 70% power. Stir and keep nuking at 30-second, then 15-second, intervals until totally smooth when stirred. Stir in the peppermint extract and scrape the whole lot over the popcorn and candy mixture. Mix it up super duper well.
Use an ice cream scoop if you have one (a spoon will work fine, too) and scoop the mixture into each baking cup. Overfill the baking cup and then press down on the top of the mixture to jam it into the cup. The top should be rounded so it looks like a cute little cupcake.
Now just sit back and wait about 30 minutes for the candy to set, pop out of the tin and give or enjoy!
Packaging idea: Use mini cupcake wrappers in holiday colors. You can easily pop these in a classic tin for giving.
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