Posted on April 3, 2012
One of my new rules about sugar is not to eat sweets unless I make them from scratch. This excludes chocolate Easter bunnies, ice cream, and M & M’s. It’s important to put a few obstacles in front of sugar. Unfortunately, I discovered this lovely, simple, and indulgent treat. So put away the Cadbury eggs…
If you’ve never made candy (like myself until now) these are a great thing to try, as they are a cinch to make. You do have to stand a around and wait a bit, stirring and watching.
So many of the Mexican candies sold at the local eateries and shops are made of corn syrup, and they are so sweet and gooey I cannot bite into them. These beauties have a smoky fruity sweetness because they are made from a cone of piloncillo, an ancient unrefined sugar, now sold in the produce section.
Pecans, of course, are the regional favorite for confections. Fany Gerson, author of My Sweet Mexico calls this candy an heirloom sweet. In her research and travels she says most of the candy cookbooks were handwritten manuscripts. The point of these books was not only to preserve a recipe, but be a “guide for traditional life” that candy making is a part of in Mexico. She goes on to describe the history of this art form:
Most of the art of candy making was taught in small schools for indigenous and mestizo girls and teens…Patiently and with devotion, many a cook stirred these sweet concoctions in copper and clay pots, strained them through fine-mesh sieves, poured them into handmade molds, and shaped them into wonderful , delicate deliciousness. They were served on handcrafted platters made from talavera, ceramic, or silver. Eventually some of these candy artisans went out onto the streets to sell their handiwork, singing creative poems and rhymes to lure customers: Si no me compras el dulce mi amor, te come el tlacuache. (“If you dont buy my sweet, my love, the opossum will eat you.”)
Yum. It is easy to keep the opossum at bay.
Piloncillo Candied Pecans
adapted from The Tex-Mex Cookbook by Robb Walsh
8 oz. piloncillo cone
1/3 cup water
1 cinnamon stick
1/8 tsp salt
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 and 1/2 cups pecan halves
Grate the piloncillo in a food processor using a grater attachment. Dissolve the piloncillo in the water in small sauce pan. Add the cinnamon and salt and bring to a boil on medium-high heat. When the mixture reaching a soft-ball candy stage (238 degrees) you will know because the large clear rapid bubbles will turn to a foamy even more rapid state. Remove from the heat and remove cinnamon stick. Add butter and vanilla and stir with a wooden spoon off the heat until the mixture begins to thicken. Add the pecans and mix them quickly into the mixture. Drop onto greased foil covered cookie sheet into ping pong ball sized clusters. Allow to cool 30 minutes.