In honor of the holiday spirit and giving our kids something fun AND healthy, I offer you these All Natural Homemade Candy Canes. You will love the delicious combination of healthy clean flavors and familiar holiday taste in this healthy rendition of a classic holiday treat.
First, a little dose of personal background. If you’re not interested in my healthy-mom anecdotes, feel free to skip ahead to the recipe below. Today’s recipe comes from a bout of mainstream-culture frustration turned to outrage. It actually takes a lot to get Mama into an outrage. I’m typically a happy, go-with-the-flow, don’t-waste-my-energy-on-things-that-make-me-angry kind of woman. I had a home birth. I surf every day as part of my workout routine. I’m self-employed. You get the picture. So let me tell you a brief story about today before I hop into this joyful healthy recipe for homemade candy canes that I know you will enjoy!
Today I took my 3 year old daughter to the bank with me, where the so-generous corporation that is our financial institution had placed large bowls filled with candy canes individually wrapped in plastic.
Miss Z did not know what these were until another little girl came in with her Mommy. Miss Z stared in wonder as the little girl helped herself to a candy cane and proceeded to unwrap it. Z looked up at me wide-eyed, “Mommy, can I have one of those candy canes? It’s almost Christmas!” – all repeated vocabulary from our sugar-eating friend.
Deep breath – and then: “No, sweetie. I’m sorry. We don’t eat sugar like that. It’s not good for our bodies. But if you wait, Mommy will make you some yummy healthy candy canes when we get home later. Does that sound good? And we can go get a treat (organic apple juice) after we finish up here, ok?”
Miss Z was totally fine with this arrangement, excited about the apple juice soon to come her way. Begin Mama’s inner controversy: Is it sad for her that I deprived her of the treat the other girl had in order to honor my deeply rooted beliefs about making healthy choices and the addictive nature of processed sugar?
The thing is, I don’t like being a tight & tense anti-holiday-spirit person. But seriously?! I find the sugar conspiracy of our culture ENRAGING at this point. Everywhere we go now they’re handing out highly processed sugary things – the grocery store (Whole Foods wants us to pick a “treat” from the kids tray every time we go!), the airplane (the flight attendant came by with sugary milk chocolate every time my daughter made a peep on the flight home from Germany last month), and now also the bank! Come on, folks. It’s crazy. They were also offering up packages of powdered Swiss Miss hot chocolate with those candy canes today. Just in case those couple of teaspoons of sugar with a dash of corn syrup in the candy canes were not enough to satisfy our sugar needs.
So, in honor of the holiday spirit and giving our kids something fun AND healthy, without further blarb, I offer you Homemade Real Candy Canes. You will love the delicious combination of healthy clean flavors and familiar holiday flavors in this healthy rendition of a classic holiday treat.
- 3 cups coconut palm sugar, maple syrup or raw honey
- 1 cup brown rice syrup
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 tsp all natural peppermint extract
- A few drops of all natural red food coloring: mix red beet powder with water to desired color saturation & strain through a cheesecloth
- Plastic gloves (optional)
1. Prepare two cookie sheets by covering them with a healthy layer of coconut oil (where to buy coconut oil). Preheat your oven to 200 degrees.
2. Combine coconut palm sugar, brown rice syrup, and water in a large saucepan. * NOTE – IF you want to make red and white candy canes, use all light-colored raw honey/ no coconut palm sugar as the latter will yield rich dark caramel colored candy canes. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring continuously, until the sugar dissolves. Insert a candy thermometer and continue cooking without stirring until the candy reaches 285 (this is called the soft-crack stage).
3. Once the proper temperature is reached, remove the candy from the heat immediately and stir in the mint extract. Pour half of the mixture onto the prepared cookie sheet and place it in the preheated oven to stay warm.
4. If you are going for red and white candy canes, add all natural red food coloring (make your own with beet powder & water – see pic below) to the remaining candy. NOTE: As I mentioned before, if you want your candy canes to appear white-ish and reddish, use lightly colored raw honey rather than coconut palm sugar. In which case, you can skip the red food coloring completely. I made mine caramel-brown, and I love that they appear as “natural” as they are.
5. Pour the candy out onto a marble slab or heat-safe cutting board. Allow it to sit briefly until it forms a skin.
6. Generously cover a heat-safe spatula with coconut oil, and use the tool to begin spreading the candy out and pushing it back together, working it across the board and allowing it to cool.
7. As soon as the candy is cool enough to handle but still warm to the touch, begin to “pull” it. You can find out more about pulling candy at this link. Essentially, you twist the candy into a rope, bend the rope in half, and twist and pull it back out inot a rope. If you have plastic gloves, put them on and generously coat the gloves with coconut oil. I did it without gloves and it was fine, but you really need to use a lot of oil to prevent sticking.
8. Continue to twist and pull the candy until it has a satin-like finish and is opaque. When soft enough to work easily, place 2″ thick candy rope on cookie sheet and set in the oven. Turn off the heat, and remove the baking sheet with the other half of the candy syrup. The “pulled” candy will remaining pliable in the warm oven while you work the second portion.
9. Repeat the twisting and pulling process with the second half of candy (the white-ish part if you are using light-colored raw honey). At the end, the candy should be a pearly off-white/ beige color. Form it into a log 2” thick.
10. Remove the first half/ or red candy from the oven. Cut a 5-inch portion from each log, and place them next to each other. Begin to twist the candies together, twisting gradually to form the familiar candy stripes. Once the twisted candy is the thickness you want, use oiled kitchen shears to cut them to however long you would like them to be. Immediately form the hook at the top of the cane, and place it on an oiled baking sheet to set at room temperature.
11. Repeat the twisting with the remaining candy. If the candy gets too hard to pull, place it in the warm oven for a few minutes to soften, but don’t let it sit too long and melt. The candy canes will get very hard at room temperature. Wrap them in cellophane once they are set.
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