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Chocolates are swell, but what about a sweet that lasts longer than a single bite? Lollipop valentines may be your answer, whether you're looking for something sweet for your sweetie or trying to come up with a fun alternative to the usual cards that your kids hand out in class.

What follows are directions for making hard-candy lollipops with baby jellybeans inside. We twist strings of raffia around the stick and finish the whole thing off with a candy card.

Note for parents: Boiling the sugar to make the lollipops requires extreme caution. If working with young children, it's best for you to do this step yourself and let the kids fill the molds with jellybeans and make the sticks and cards. Be sure to use a high-sided saucepan and constantly watch the temperature as the sugar boils; it can jump quickly past the desired temperature, causing the sugar to burn. While you're doing this, the kids can be stamping the cards.

And if you'd rather not boil sugar to make the hard candy, there is one more option: melt chocolate over a double-boiler and pour it into the prepared molds. When the chocolate is almost firm, press in the jellybeans.

Lollipop Valentines

* Equipment you will need:

3 plastic trays with heart-shaped lollipop molds, 1 bag (100 per package) lollipop sticks, 1 kitchen sponge, 42 (24-inch-long) pieces of raffia (buy at least two colors), 1 (35-card) package blank gift tags, 1 (8-ounce) bag candy message hearts, 1 (4-ounce) box decorative baby jellybeans, plastic wrap, red acrylic craft paint and white household glue.

* Sources:

Lollipop molds, sticks, jellybeans, colorings and flavorings are sold at Gloria's Cake & Candy (3755 Sawtelle Blvd., West Los Angeles, [310] 391-4557) and other candy shops. Raffia, paint, glue and tags can be purchased at Southland Moskatel's stores and other craft shops. Sponges, jellybeans, candy message hearts, orange extract and plastic wrap are sold in supermarkets.

* Step 1

The Lollipops: See recipe. After removing lollipops from molds, wrap the candy part of each lollipop with a small piece of plastic wrap.

* Step 2

The Sticks: Use 2 (24-inch) pieces of raffia, each a different color, for each lollipop. Shred each piece of raffia into 4 thin pieces. Lay the bottom of the stick in the middle of the 8 raffia strands, leaving an equal amount of raffia on each side. Wrap the strands around the stick crisscrossing in front. When you reach the top, tie the strands into a knot and trim the raffia to the desired length. Repeat for each lollipop.

* Step 3

The Cards: Cut a sponge into a heart shape. Dip the sponge into red paint and lightly dab in on each card. (I like to place the heart at an angle.) Pick candies with the messages you like and glue them to the card using glue. Tie the tag to the lollipop stick. Repeat for each lollipop.


Nonstick cooking spray

1 (4-ounce) box baby jellybeans

3 3/4 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups light corn syrup

1 cup water

1 tablespoon orange extract

Spray nonstick cooking spray on plastic trays of heart-shaped molds. Drop 5 or 6 baby jelly beans into each indentation. Position lollipop sticks on trays. Place on counter, ready for filling as soon as sugar is ready.

Stir sugar, corn syrup and water with wooden spoon in large saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves.

When sugar dissolves, bring mixture to boil without stirring. Place thermometer in pan and let mixture boil until it reaches 290 degrees. Remove from heat.

When bubbling subsides, stir in orange extract. Spoon mixture into molds. Let cool at room temperature. Remove lollipops from mold when candy hardens, about 15 minutes.

Makes 6 dozen lollipops.

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