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    Among all of the traditions that come with the holiday season, the holidays always bring sweets. If you are looking for some new candy recipes to prepare for gift baskets or the buffet table, try some new, creative approaches to the traditional candy spread and you’ll be sure to have your guests talking about it until after the New Year.

     

    Divinity

    Divinity is an elegant candy that resembles fluffy, cloud-like pillows when it sets. The mild, nutty flavor will have your guests coming back for more. Make it ahead and keep it safely in an airtight container. The candy will remain fresh for 2 weeks when it is stored properly.

    Combine four cups of sugar, 3/4-cup of lukewarm or cold water and a cup of corn syrup in a medium saucepan. Place the pan over medium heat and stir the contents until the sugar is dissolved. Once the sugar dissolves, stop stirring and let it sit undisturbed over medium heat until the mixture reaches 250-degrees Fahrenheit.

    While your syrup heats undisturbed on the stove, add 3 egg whites to a mixing bowl and beat them with an electric mixer until they form stiff peaks. Slowly pour the heated sugar mixture into the egg whites, beating consistently on high speed. Add a teaspoon of vanilla and leave the mixer on high speed for 5 minutes, or until the candy mixture starts holding its shape.

    Add two cups of chopped pecans and stir until the nuts are distributed throughout. Place a sheet of wax paper on a large sheet pan. Drop the divinity batter by the teaspoon, using a second spoon to push the mixture off the spoon onto the pan. The batter will form small, fluffy rounds.

    This mixture cools and sets very quickly, so drop the candies quickly. If it stiffens while you’re working, add a few drops of very hot water and mix it just until it loosens up. Let the candy cool and set before serving it.

     

    Hazelnut Brittle

    Forget the typical peanut brittle. Wow your guests with a unique take on this crunchy, nutty treat by making hazelnut brittle instead. Toasted hazelnuts make all the difference in this candy recipe.

    Mix a cup and a half of sugar with a cup of water and a half-cup each of light and dark corn syrup in a medium saucepan. Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves. Let the sugar sit over medium heat without stirring once the granules have dissolved until the solution reaches 260 degrees Fahrenheit. It can take 15 to 20 minutes to heat.

    Turn the heat down to medium-low once the temperature reaches 260 degrees. Add two and a half cups of chopped toasted hazelnuts, two tablespoons of butter and a half teaspoon of salt. Mix the ingredients well, and let it sit over medium-low heat, stirring it constantly, until it reaches 295 degrees. Mix in a teaspoon of baking soda, and then turn the solution out onto a baking sheet lined with wax paper.

    Spread the candy mixture as thin as possible on the baking sheet. Let it sit until the candy cools and hardens, then break it into smaller pieces for serving. Store the leftovers in an airtight container or sealed storage bag.

     

    Sugar-Free Chocolate Fudge

    A struggle exists during the holidays for individuals with diabetes or other sugar-restricted dietary needs. Sugar is a central ingredient in many of the holiday treats we all enjoy, so anyone with these diet requirements can feel left out of the candy spread. This sugar-free chocolate fudge is a rich, creamy alternative to the high-sugar variety typically found at Christmas.

    Place two 8-ounce packages of cream cheese on the counter to soften until they reach room temperature. Melt two ounces of bittersweet chocolate then let it cool slightly. Add the chocolate to the cream cheese in a medium-size mixing bowl. Add 3/4-cup of a measures-like sugar sweetener and a teaspoon of vanilla extract. If you prefer nuts in your fudge, add 1/2-cup of chopped nuts.

    Spread the mixture into a foil-lined 8-inch square dish. Cover it tightly and refrigerate it overnight for the fudge to set. Serve it cold, as the cream cheese can soften significantly if it is at room temperature. When you cut this into 16 pieces, each piece contains approximately 5 grams of carbohydrates. Select low-fat cream cheese to reduce the fat content, an important consideration for individuals with diabetes.

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