To recap, in my desire to over-achieve the crap out of Christmas this year, I prepared Jonathan’s to-Afghanistan holiday care package with both the sweet and the sentimental. So, naturally, I had to prepare an element that melded the two ideas, while also oozing Christmas spirit. Which sounds kind of gross, but I promise it’s not.
I found these chocolate candy cane hearts on Not So Idle Hands, and I should have been more aware that this was a craft blog and not an anybody-can-do-this-go-ahead-and-try! blog. Because, as much as I like crafts and baking, I will easily admit that I’m not actually that good at crafts and baking. Which is evidenced by the fact that I can only crochet things that basically go in a straight line, and I think I’ve given more than enough proof on this blog that I can even mess up a simple brownie recipe, so I’m not going to elaborate.
But what I lack in skill I make up for in intense neurotics and an extreme fear of total failure.
This task required a lot of room, so I waited until a weekend when I could take advantage of my parents’ huge (pink) kitchen, and also of my mom’s willingness to help despite my aforementioned neurotics. The process itself looked easy enough:
1. Unwrap the candy canes and arrange them on a baking sheet with lollipop sticks.
WRONG. It should have been a sign of things to come that the very first step (unwrapping the candy canes) took about an hour longer than I expected it to. Can you recall the last time you unwrapped a candy cane from its DELIGHTFUL cellophane packaging? Can you recall the last time you unwrapped a candy cane from its NOT-AT-ALL-IMPOSSIBLE cellophane packaging without breaking the candy cane? Can you recall the last time you unwrapped a candy cane from its APOCALYPTIC cellophane packaging without that cellophane packaging clinging for dear life to your hands, and then to your shirt, and then to your arm, and then to your hands again, but NEVER TO THE TRASH CAN?
It was about at this point that the F word became the only word I was capable of saying out loud. Which usually upsets my mom, but I think she was with me on this one.
2. Stick the baking sheet of cane pops into the oven for a few minutes, being careful to remove them just as the candy is melting to the stick.
WRONG AGAIN. See, the great thing about parchment paper is that it prevents your baked goods from sticking to the pan. But the inconvenient thing about parchment paper is that it doesn’t prevent a smooth, glossy piece of candy from sliding all the fuck over the place. Especially when you need it to remain purposefully touching the rounded edges of a lollipop stick in several places.
I remedied this by walking the pan over from the counter and into the oven as slowly as was humanly possible for me to move. Then when the candy canes all slid around anyway, I just stuck my face and the upper half of my body into the oven to fix it. Which is also what Babe from Crimes of the Heart did when she wanted to murder herself. So try not to read too far into this.
3. Working quickly, remove the candy cane pops from the oven before they melt into a pool of peppermint-flavored corn syrup, and carefully press the ends to secure them to the lollipop stick.
SOUNDS TRICKY? YOU ARE CORRECT. Even though I’d stuck my head into the oven to make sure the candy canes were touching the lollipop sticks properly, most of them decided to freak the fuck out when I closed the oven, and flee from their sticks. So I got into the habit of opening up the oven every 30 seconds, sticking most of my body back in, and attempting to move the candy back onto the stick while it was melting.
When I took them out of the oven completely, I at first tried using the rounded ends of two table knives to gently press the melty candy to the lollipop sticks. But I quickly realized that the utensils were too heavy for this delicate task, and pretty much just squashed the candy cane ends into misshapen, flat little failures. But since the candy hardens again extremely quickly, I had to think on my feet.
Or, more accurately, on my fingertips, all of which I spent the next few hours burning so badly that I could probably apply to be a Men in Black agent now.
At this point, I think my mom asked if I wanted a drink.
4. Let the candy cane heart pops cool. Meanwhile, prepare your toppings.
This part actually was easy, because my mom offered to do it. Which I think was partially because she was still pissed about how many candy canes we broke while attempting to unwrap them, and needed to channel her rage appropriately.
5. Melt your chocolate, fill the pops, and add your toppings!
The instructions indicate that this part is actually a bit difficult; while the melted chocolate (or candy melts, which I used) will dry quickly once poured, if you add the toppings too soon they will weigh down the chocolate and create a sunken effect.
If you’d like an example of that incorrect sunken effect, please see all the above photos.
(If you see any that do not appear sunken, it’s because my mom did those ones.)
What the directions do not indicate is that, after you’ve applied maybe 70 candy canes to the lollipop sticks, burned off your fingerprints, and waited for them to harden again before filling them with melted chocolate, probably half of those candy canes will decide, once hardened and dry again, that they no longer feel like staying on the lollipop sticks. You will find this out when you pick up one of the finished pops, and it crashes to the beautiful pink floor in your parents’ kitchen, dusting a three-foot radius with your shattered, minty dreams.
The rest won’t be nearly as dramatic, but they will prompt you to furiously stick them back in the oven in an attempt to re-melt them to the sticks, which works a couple of times, but mostly just seems to piss off the candy canes more. And it also seems to piss off your mom, who is at this point telling you to stop fucking saying “fuck” so much, but is otherwise being a lot nicer to you than you deserve.
6. Allow to cool, then package.
(The bow looks good because, obviously, my mom tied it.) As you can see, the candy bags I chose didn’t quite fit the massive heart pops. So my mom and I formed an assembly line, in which I would tape the bags to the pops while doing everything in my power to prevent them from snapping off the sticks, and she would tie them beautifully into a selection of ribbons I got from a holiday ribbon display at Michael’s. Some of which my mom said were perfectly fine to work with. Others, like the one seen above, coated her hands in cheap blue glitter.
7. Realize you’ve only made about half the pops you need for various care packages and holiday gifts. It’s 9:00 at night, and you’ve gotten nothing else accomplished today. Go get a drink with your friend Becky. Say you’ll make the rest later.
Clearly that does not happen. You cut your losses and use the extra materials to make candy cane bark. It is delicious. Punch yourself repeatedly in the face for not just making candy cane bark in the first place.
8. Transport them back to your apartment.
Luckily your mom has some bubble wrap that you layer between the layers of pops, and there are minimal casualties.
9. Prepare for shipping. Realize they are traveling via USPS to Afghanistan, and you could barely keep them from breaking just from picking them up and putting them back down. Rethink your future as an army wife.
10. When Jonathan receives the package and informs you that the chocolate candy cane heart pops arrived intact, pretend it’s not that big of a deal, but secretly celebrate for the rest of the day.
11. Move onto the three gifts still left for Jonathan’s care package.