February 14th - Valentine’s Day!

Sweet Heat for Your Valentine

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Peppery Popcorn Candy

This recipe combines two of my favorites—chile and popcorn. Adjust the heat of this candy by the type of chile you use. Make with New Mexican for a mild heat, cayenne for more fire and chile de arbol for somewhere in between. Don’t use microwave popcorn because of its salt and fat content.

  • 3 cups sugar

  • ½ cup light corn syrup

  • Vegetable oil

  • ½ cup popping corn

  • 1 cup roasted peanuts

  • 1 cup toasted almonds

  • 1 tablespoon ground red chile powder, New Mexican, cayenne or chile de arbol

Grease two large baking sheets with the oil.

Pour a little of the oil in a heavy pot with a tight fitting lid. Heat the oil until hot, add the corn and cover. Continue to cook, shaking the pot occasionally, until all the corn has popped. Pour the popped corn into a bowl and toss with the nuts.

Place the sugar in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Pour the corn syrup over the top of the sugar, and heat, while stirring frequently until the sugar melts and is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Be very careful that the mixture doesn’t burn.

Spread the popcorn mixture over the oiled pans. Slowly pour the sugar syrup evenly over the popcorn and sprinkle the chile powder over the top.

Allow the popcorn candy to cool and break into pieces. Store the popcorn candy in airtight tins.

Yield: 8 to 10 cups

Heat Scale: Mild


Habanero Cashew Brittle

This crunchy candy puts a hot new twist on a traditional brittles. Be very careful when removing the candy from the microwave because it will be very, very hot. The times given here are approximate and can vary because of the power differences of the ovens, so be sure to monitor the candy closely.

Butter flavored vegetable cooking spray

  • 1 cup sugar

  • ½ cup light corn syrup

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

  • 1 ½ cups unsalted dry-roasted cashews.

  • 1 tablespoon butter

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • ½ teaspoon ground habanero chile

Spray a cookie sheet with sides with the oil and set aside.

Combine the sugar, corn syrup, and salt in a microwave safe bowl until well mixed. Microwave, uncovered, on high for 3 minutes. Remove and stir. Return to the microwave and cook on high until the mixture bubbles, approximately 3 to 4 minutes.

Remove from the microwave and stir in the cashews, butter, and vanilla. Return to the microwave and cook on high for an additional 3 minutes, or until the candy turns a light golden color.

Remove the bowl from the microwave and quickly beat in the baking soda. The candy will foam up when you add the soda. Immediately pour the mixture onto the cookie sheet and sprinkle the chile over the top. Using a spatula, spread the brittle as thin as possible. Do these steps as quickly as possible because the candy sets up fast!

Allow the candy to sit until cool, about 1 to 2 hours. Break into pieces and store in an airtight container.

Yield: 1 pound

Heat Scale: Medium


Rum Raisin Red Chile Truffles

These hot and rich candies are well worth the extra effort it takes to make them. Because the filling needs to be refrigerated overnight, they do require advance preparation. The rum can be omitted if you desire, just plump the raisins with water.

  • 1 cup heavy cream

  • 1 3/4 pounds white baking chocolate

  • 1/4 cup raisins

  • 2 tablespoons rum

  • 2 to 3 teaspoons ground red New Mexican chile

  • Ground cinnamon

Chop or break 1 1/4 pounds of the chocolate into small pieces and place in a heat resistant bowl.

To make the filling, pour the cream in a heavy saucepan, and bring to a rolling boil over a medium high heat. Pour the cream over the chocolate and stir until all the chocolate has melted. Cover the mixture and place in the refrigerator overnight to set. The filling should be firm like frosting.

Place the raisins in a bowl, pour the rum over them, and toss lightly to coat. Soak the raisins for 30 minutes to plump. Drain off any liquid that accumulates.

Remove the filling from the refrigerator and fold in the raisins and chile powder. Line a cookie sheet with wax paper and drop tablespoons of the filling onto the pan. Cool the filling in the refrigerator until firm.

Place the remaining chocolate in the top of a double boiler or small saucepan over simmering water. Stir the chocolate continuously until melted. Dip the chilled filling in the chocolate to cover and place back on the cookie sheet. Place the pan back in the refrigerator to firm again.

Sprinkle the truffles with the cinnamon before serving.

Yield: 2 pounds

Heat Scale: Medium

Note: This recipe requires advance preparation.

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