I think we've all met a few people who deserve a lump of coal from Santa, and I'm not talking about the cute candy version I'm sharing with you today!
Years ago, when I worked at a busy art gallery during Christmastime, more often than not, at the last minute before the doors closed on Christmas Eve, we'd get a visit from a high maintenance client. I would inevitably be stuck escorting them around the showroom for a couple of hours after closing.
The last time I found myself in this situation, I had to listen to a man refer to every piece of artwork he spotted as "sexy". Piece of pottery? Sexy. Painting of a dead tree? Sexy. Indonesian cat carving? Sexy. Bronze sculpture of Jesus? You guessed it.
An hour later I was desperate for someone to put me out of my misery. My best friend worked there too, and she tried to
When he finally left (without a purchase, no less), we judged him harshly. My BFF grumbled something about his taste level and I said I hoped Santa brought him a lump of coal instead of fine artwork. Now, that sounds rather mean of me, but please understand... I'd had my fill of "sexy" talk that day. When I think back on the incident, I wonder if he was just lonely at Christmas. I hope by now, at the very least, he's learned a new adjective.
But enough of my reminiscing. On to sweeter things!
Coal candy is perfect for those on your naughty and nice list. It looks much like a lump of coal, but is sweet and sugary with an unexpected crumbly texture. I found it on one of my favorite sites - Fragrante Delicia - which you should certainly check out!
My first batch failed because I cooked the sugar too long and it liquefied. The end result was a shiny block of black candy which was pretty, but far too hard to eat! I got it right the second time, and as it cooked, I wrote down important visual cues to look for as it is being made.
Christmas Coal Candy (Carbon Dulce)
Recipe adapted from Fragante Delicia, with my commentary [click for printable version]
1 egg white
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar divided, plus a little extra might be needed for thickening purposes
1 1/2-2 tsp. black gel food coloring such as Wilton brand
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
- Whisk together 1 cup of the powdered sugar along with the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl.
- Whisk in the remaining 1/2 cup powdered sugar. The mixture should be very stiff as you whisk. Pick up some of the batter with the whisk, and allow it to fall back into the bowl. It should cling to the whisk when you pick up the batter, and fall in thick heavy pieces back into the bowl. If it does not, add a little more powdered sugar until this consistency is achieved.
- Set aside while you cook the sugar (next step).
3 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
- Line an 8x8 (or similar size) heat-proof pan with parchment paper, set aside.
- Combine water and sugar in a large non-stick saucepan. Mix sugar and water together by stirring and mashing them together with a heat-proof spatula until it is the consistency of wet sand.
- Insert a candy thermometer and let the mixture cook until it reaches 258-260 degrees. The mixture will stay grainy and look weird and you might think you've done something wrong but you haven't. When it's close to the 250 degree mark, the mixture may begin to lightly brown from cooking. It should still be grainy and not in a liquid state.
- When 258-260 degrees is achieved, add the black egg white/powdered sugar mixture to the pot and stir (don't whisk) with a heat-proof spoon. The mixture may foam, so be careful!
- When thoroughly mixed, pour into the prepared pan and allow to stand until hardened. When hardened, break into pieces.
- I used a chisel and hammer to break the candy into chunks. It's certainly a hard candy, but it has a break-away crumbly quality too. You might get away with cracking it on the edge of a kitchen counter top, though I'd imagine that method is messier.
- Make sure you achieve a deep black color with the gel food coloring, otherwise your finished candy may have a purplish hue to it. Black food coloring is funky like that.
- Small burlap pouches can be easily made or bought for festive presentation . Tie the bag up with a red ribbon and a "naughty" tag.
- Put a large chunk of coal candy in the toe of a stocking, along with a small hammer.