Are you looking for a special way to get your message across this Valentine's Day? Try writing it on your very own homemade conversation hearts. Normally, those chalky, flavorless little candies have stupid things like BE MINE and KISS ME printed on them. Lame! You can do so much better, and I'll show you how.
The concept of conversation hearts dates back to the mid-1800s, when little shell-shaped candies were wrapped in paper that had been printed with lovers' messages. Later, the candies were shaped like baseballs, horseshoes and postcards, and they ***image2***were big enough for full sentences to be printed on them. I can only imagine what those Victorian candies might have said: SHOW ME A LITTLE WRIST, MISSY! Or maybe: YOU LOOK STURDY. BE MY WIFE?
The process of printing messages directly onto candy was invented at the New England Confectionary Company, home of the NECCO wafer. It should come as no surprise that conversation hearts are made from pretty much the same recipe as NECCO wafers, except that the wafers have stronger and weirder flavors like cinnamon, anise and clove. Oh, the dreaded anise wafer!
It wasn't until around 1900 that NECCO started making hearts, which, because they were smaller, had to have short messages. In fact, BE MINE and KISS ME are some of the sayings your great-grandparents may have rolled their eyes at. Wouldn't it be more fun if we could have real, old-fashioned conversation candies? Because sometimes real life is more complicated than #1 FAN or FAX ME. Sometimes store-bought candies can't quite express the depth of love (or bitter enmity) you feel for that special someone.
So just for you, I've developed a recipe for making conversation candies at home. Do they taste any better? Not really. But now you can make a big red heart that reads: MY SHRINK SAYS I SHOULD FORGIVE YOU FOR SCREWING THE GUY WHO MOWS OUR LAWN; BE MINE? Now that's a conversation heart.
Custom-Made Conversation Candies
This is a bit of a pain in the ass, but that's the whole point. In the immortal words of The Offspring, "The more you suffer, the more it shows you really care, right?" Look for unflavored gelatin near the Jell-O at the grocery store; it's usually on the top shelf. Look for interesting cookie-cutters, extracts and food-color pens, like Wilton's fine-tip FoodWriters, at places like Michael's (3549 Zafarano Drive) and the Specialty Shop (5823 Lomas Blvd. NE, in Albuquerque). Whatever you do, plan ahead because the candies have to dry for 24 hours before you start scrawling on them.
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
1 packet (2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
½ cup water
1 (2-pound) bag powdered sugar
Natural extracts like peppermint, lemon, orange, cinnamon
Food coloring, several colors
In a glass bowl, combine the corn syrup, gelatin and water. Microwave for 30 seconds, or until the syrup is dissolved, and stir to combine.
Add 1 cup powdered sugar to the bowl and stir to combine. If you want to make 4 different colors, pour ¼ of this mixture into another bowl. (If you're making 3 different colors, pour 1/3 into another bowl, etc.) Add food coloring ***image3***to the smaller portion and stir; you should make the color slightly more intense than you want from the finished candies. Add ¼ teaspoon extract and stir.
Add ½ cup powdered sugar to the colored and flavored mixture, and stir to combine. (If you have an electric mixer, use it for this process.) Continue adding powdered sugar by the ½ cup and beating to incorporate until the dough begins to pull away from the side of the bowl and has lost most of its stickiness.
Scrape the dough out onto a smooth surface dusted heavily with powdered sugar. Knead it as you would bread. Flatten the ball of dough with your palm, then pick up the far edge of the dough and fold it over the near edge. Flatten it again, then turn the dough a quarter turn and repeat, dusting the surface with powdered sugar in between turns. Knead until the dough is satiny and not sticky.
Use a rolling pin to roll the dough between 1/8- and ¼-inch thick. Use cookie-cutters to cut the dough into shapes and transfer them to a large cookie sheet to dry.
Repeat the process with the remaining corn syrup mixture, colors and flavors. If the gelatin has set, microwave the mixture for 20 seconds to soften it.
Allow the candies to dry for 24 hours, then use the FoodWriter pens to write your own sayings on them. Yes, you have to wait until they're dry. The food color ink will run if the surface is still slightly moist.