07-21-18 Patricia Sargeant

Friday, December 25, 2015

Recipes for Christmas Candy & Genre Blending

By Linda Lovely
Making candy at Christmas is a family tradition. I was in grade school when we first added chocolate-covered cherries to our repertoire. Marsha, who rented our apartment, joined in the fun and shared her recipe. My candy selection still includes chocolate-covered cherries, but my latest iteration rolls cherries in a fondant that’s less sticky.    

I’m genetically predisposed to tinkering. What fun is it to follow a recipe by rote year after year without experimenting? My same predispositions apply to genre formulas. We’ll get to that later.

Let’s consider my Oreo/almond ball candy. My starter recipe called for a filling made of crushed chocolate wafers, chopped and toasted almonds, corn syrup, powdered sugar, and chocolate-flavored liqueur. Here’s my current version.:

1 package double-stuffed chocolate Oreos, crushed in the blender
1 cup almond slices
1 cup powdered sugar
¼ cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup Amaretto
(Later, you’ll need vanilla-flavored candy coating and some melted semi-sweet chocolates for decorating.)

I mix all filling ingredients, roll them into balls in the palm of my hand, and place them on wax-paper covered cookie sheets. The candy goes into the refrigerator to harden. After the balls chill at least an hour, I melt vanilla-flavored candy coating in the microwave. Then I dunk the balls in the coating with a fork and plop them back on waxed paper. Next I use a salad fork to fling (yes, fling) melted semi-sweet chocolate across the candy tray to create interesting dark patterns on the white candies.

My liquor and cookie choice can vary with what’s in my cupboard. I’ve used crème de cocoa and regular Oreos, not double-stuffed. I tried vanilla Oreos (not a favorite). Not all experiments are keepers.

So how does this apply to genres? When I start a new novel, I know my basic ingredients will include suspense/mystery, romance, and humor (usually supplied by a character’s view of the world). However, I have no preconceived notion of ratios nor do I feel a  need to satisfy some arbitrary genre ratio. Instead my characters and plots dictate the recipe. In this, the author show serves as my personal heroine is Susan Isaacs. I’m currently rereading her novel, Magic Hour. What a treat! Her books always include my three favorite ingredients but how she mixes them can deliver quite different and surprising results from Compromising Positions to Shining Through, and  Red, White and Blue.  

Do readers who love thrills, romance, and humor really care how and when the ingredients get mixed, as long as a book delivers a reading treat? Changing recipes can add new flavors, deliver surprising twists.

Now that my Christmas candies are all made, I’m off to tinker with my work-in-progress, a humorous romantic mystery. So how do you feel about altering candy recipes and genre blending?


Judith Ashley said...

My mom would tinker with many different recipes once she'd made it 'as is' but the only recipes I can think of that I've altered have been for soup. However, I'm with you on genre blending. As an organic writer, my characters and story decide the blend of elements.

Do you make candy for your family or do you put together boxes or plates of candy as gifts for friends? (We all looked forward to my Aunt Ruth's Christmas box because she made candy (fudge, divinity, rocky road, marzipan, peanut brittle, bourbon balls are the ones I can remember) and then my mom made cookies (short bread, sugar, spritz and a couple other cookies whose names I can't spell!).

Linda Lovely said...

I make candy for my family first (including out-of-towners), then friends if there's time. I used to send tins to out-of-town friends and clients but the weight makes it expensive and I quit when it ceases to be fun. At one point, when I was sending candy to clients it became more chore than Christmas joy. The next year I sent them all nuts.

Susan Chapek said...

Your candy method sounds wonderful. Thanks for sharing!

I not only blend recipes, but this year I seem to have blended holidays--yesterday evening, I tore up a loaf of Slovak Easter bread that had been sitting in the freezer. Let it go stale overnight, and made it into a bread pudding for our Boxing Day luncheon.

But I had to make a few adjustments. Easter bread is rich, with each loaf containing a whole stick of butter, 1/4 cup of sugar, and a handful of golden raisins--so I improvised a less-sweet custard, and tossed in some pecans for crunch. And instead of brandy for the hard sauce, I used bourbon.

Here's to plenty of sweet blending for all of us in 2016!