Thursday, October 30, 2008

Veggie Might: Candy Corn - The Best Halloween Candy Ever - Veganized

Written by the fabulous Leigh, Veggie Might is a weekly Thursday column about all things Vegetarian.

Halloween is almost here, and that can only mean one thing. You’ve been scarfing down candy corn since August, when your local Rite Aid hauled out bags of Brach’s along with the back-to-school stuff. Wait...that might be me.

Well it was until I absentmindedly read the label on the candy corn at the check out sometime in mid-September. Curses! Not you too, cc.

That’s right, candy corn, the world’s best Halloween candy, sugary homage to the world’s greatest vegetable, is among a long list of confectionary delights saddled with hidden animal parts via gelatin infusion.

I was so sad. Deep down I knew I’d been deluding myself. But, praise be the Great Pumpkin! Halloween is saved by the Urban Housewife and her recipe for vegan candy corn.

Not only is this recipe veganized, it’s stripped of its high fructose corn syrup too: good news for those of us trying to cut back on chemically processed and modified foods. Though, I have to admit, those commercials promoting HFCS are oddly amusing (when I’m not screaming and throwing socks at the TV).

One warning before you attempt this recipe: it creates a time vortex. From cooking to cutting, the whole process takes about 3–4 hours. But it is fun—like cooking and crafts combined. And if you love candy corn as much as I do, it’s well worth the investment.

The combined ingredients create a kind of dough, which you can work like clay. While it’s still warm, just squish it with your hands to massage in the food coloring and create the shapes you want. Have fun; it’s like play-dough you can eat!

I highly recommend (as did the Urban Housewife—smart lady) wearing latex or vinyl gloves to reduce staining from the food coloring. I keep a box in my kitchen for chopping hot peppers and other kitchen jobs. Chopping peppers + finger + itchy eye = crying burning crying.

Because I’m me, I made a couple of substitutions to the original recipe: one for cost and one for convenience. Organic corn syrup is expensive, as the UH mentions. Just how expensive? How about nearly $6.00 for 11 oz.!

On the spot, there in Whole Foods, I decided to try the agave nectar I had at home. It’s natural, as sweet as any sweetener I’ve used, almost as thick as corn syrup, and about half the cost of the organic brand.

When I got home from the store, I realized I missed an item from the recipe: powdered soymilk. Boo! I was not going back out. It seemed to be there as a thickener, so I figured cornstarch would work. I was right.

I can’t believe how good this recipe came out—the second time. Kris, this was almost a candidate for the Hall of Shame. I botched this so bad the first time: overcooking the sugar, letting it cool too long (while gabbing on the phone), and then realizing I forgot to put in the margarine in the first place. The dough was hard as a brick before I could roll it out. Oh the disappointment!

Take two was perfect (the margarine is in there for a reason). Sweet and delicious, the texture is just like the real thing. Except for the time and effort, you’ll never know the difference between homemade and store-bought. And you’ll never miss the animal parts.

I gave up cutting triangles after I got through a little less than half the dough. It remains to be seen if I can pick it up where I left off, but it’s sealed in a zipper bag, and still seems pretty pliable. I’ll keep you posted.

At this point, I have about 300 pieces of candy corn (minus the 100 or so I’ve shoved in my face). Now, I’m not sure how many are in a bag from the store, but this seems like a pretty good value, and way more fun than going to Rite Aid.

The effort was totally worth having candy corn back in my life. Oh, candy corn, I missed you so! Happy Halloween, everyone.

Candy Corn
Adapted from The Urban Housewife
Yields: about 600 pieces (20 pieces/serving)

2/3 c agave nectar
1 c sugar
5 tbsp vegan margarine
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 c powdered sugar
1/3 c cornstarch
pinch of salt
red & yellow food coloring

1) In a saucepan, combine the agave nectar, sugar, margarine, and vanilla, and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently.

2) Drop heat to medium. Boil for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. (A kitchen timer is your friend.)

3) While agave mixture is boiling, grab a medium bowl. Sift powdered sugar, cornstarch, and salt into it.

4) Once agave mixture is good to go, "add the powdered sugar mixture to the saucepan and stir to combine."

5) Let everything cool about 20 minutes, or until it's only a little warm. (Time for timer.)

6) Turn out dough on to wax paper, and divide into 3 equal pieces.

7) Don rubber gloves and do this: "Add several drops of yellow food coloring to one piece of dough. Knead food coloring into the dough until color is even and the texture is smooth. Repeat using red and yellow food coloring (for orange) with the second piece. Leave the last piece white, but knead it for texture."

8) Divide each color in half again (or whatever size is easiest to work with). Roll each piece into a long, thin ropes. All six should be equal in length. The thickness of the ropes will determine the size of the corn as much as the way you cut it. If the dough breaks, just squish it back together and roll again.

9) Line up one rope of each color next to the others and gently squeeze together to form a long rectangle. Pat down lightly with a rolling pin or smooth-sided drinking glass.

10) With a knife, cut the ropes into little candy corn-shaped triangles. "Some will be white tipped and some will be yellow tipped."

11) Smooth out the edges with your fingers to shape the corn as you like it. Eat. Marvel. Eat some more.

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price per Serving
98 calories, .4g fat, $.14

1 cup sugar: 837 cal, 0g fat, $.57
2/3 cup agave nectar: 642 cal, 0g fat, $1.32
5 tablespoons vegan margarine: 100 cal, 11 fat, $.12
1 teaspoon vanilla extract: negligible calories and fat, $1.16
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar: 1200 cal, 0g fat, $.80
1/3 cup corn starch: 156 cal, 0g fat, $.31
a pinch salt: negligible calories and fat. $.01
red & yellow food coloring: negligible calories and fat, $.02
TOTALS: 2935 calories, 11g fat, $4.31
PER SERVING (total/30): 98 calories, .4g fat, $.14


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