Remember the good old days when folks gathered in the kitchen on cool nights to pull taffy and dip apples in caramel? And how it seemed to take forever for the candy to cook?
Our microwave Valentine's Day sweets cook with near supersonic speed. Best of all, they're easy enough for children to make. But do caution them to be careful. Hot caramel and chocolate are nothing to kid around with.
There's no point in trying to microwave classic fudge or fondant, caramels or taffy, which must be cooked to just the right temperature, because you'll be opening the oven door constantly to check on their progress.
Dangerous to Move
Moreover, these old-fashioned candies don't really cook much faster by microwave than they do on top of the stove, and they bubble and boil so furiously they can be dangerous to move, especially if your oven is placed at a high level such as above your range or counter. So reserve these family favorites for the top of the stove.
The microwave does excel, however, at short-cut candies that involve little more than melting chocolate or caramel. It can even be used to boil up a terrific nut brittle--and from scratch, at that. The recipes that follow have all been developed especially for the microwave oven and if you follow them to the letter, you should succeed every time.
6-MINUTE CHOCOLATE CHIP-PECAN FUDGE
1 (1-pound) box powdered sugar, sifted
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup butter or margarine, cut in small pieces
1/4 cup half and half
1 tablespoon vanilla
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate pieces
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans or walnuts
Combine sugar, cocoa, butter, half and half, vanilla and salt in 2-quart casserole. Microwave, uncovered, on HIGH (100% power) 2 to 2 1/2 minutes, stirring after 1 minute, until bubbling.
Beat mixture until smooth, mix in chocolate pieces and nuts and spread evenly in well buttered 8-inch square pan. Cool, chill until firm, then cut in 1-inch squares. Makes 64 squares.
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1 1/4 cups roasted blanched peanuts
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Combine sugar and corn syrup in 2-quart measure or casserole and microwave, uncovered, on HIGH (100% power) 4 minutes, stirring at half time.
Mix in peanuts and butter and microwave, uncovered, on HIGH 3 1/2 to 4 minutes until pale brown. Quickly stir in vanilla and soda.
Pour onto buttered baking sheet and spread as thin as possible with buttered metal spatula. For extra thin brittle, cook 4 to 5 minutes, then pull and stretch with buttered fingers (mixture should be pliable). When cold, crack into pieces. Makes about 3/4 pound.
NUTTY CARAMEL APPLES
1 (14-ounce) package vanilla caramels
2 tablespoons water
4 wood skewers
4 medium red apples, washed, dried and stemmed
1/3 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
Microwave caramels with water in 1-quart measure on HIGH (100% power) 3 to 3 1/2 minutes, stirring every minute.
Meanwhile, insert skewers in stem ends of apples.
When caramels are melted, stir until smooth. Dip apples into caramel to coat evenly, then roll in nuts. Cool on wax paper until caramel hardens. Makes 4.
Note: In ovens of less than 600 watts, increase cooking times about 15%.