Showing someone you love them can be as simple as opening a recipe book. Valentine's Day comes once a year, but it often comes with a hefty price tag. This year instead of spending a lot of money on your loved ones, show them you love them with the gift of your time--and candy. With a little planning and some creativity you can give a gift that is personal, thoughtful and tasty.
When planning to give a gift of homemade candy the first step is to come up with a budget of money and time. Chocolate and nuts tend to be expensive, but pretzels and almond bark are fairly affordable. How much money you want to spend can give you a starting point for finding a recipe. How much time you want to spend also can shape your candy-making options. Some candies, such as fudge, are relatively quick because you just have to cook them and pour them into a pan--no hand-shaping required. Truffles, chocolate-dipped strawberries and pretzels dipped in almond bark can be time-consuming because each candy must be done by hand. These elements also can determine whether you want to make one type of candy or several.
Before you start making candy, read through your recipes and make sure you have all the ingredients and equipment handy. Candy making often requires a syrup mixture to be cooked to high, exact temperatures. You don't want to spoil a batch of candy because you are trying to find your candy thermometer. If you don't have a candy thermometer you can use the cold water test. The guidelines for this test can be found at http://www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/candy/sugar-stages.html. If your recipe calls for candy to be dropped onto wax paper, lay it out before you start. Grease pans if necessary and know exactly what process you need to follow.
Since most candy involves very high temperatures, take precautions to avoid burns or spills. The cooking stage of candy making is not a good time to get children involved.
When it comes to packaging the candy, let your creativity kick in. The important thing is to keep the candy as fresh-tasting as possible, so consider wrapping it in plastic wrap, sealing it in a plastic zipper bag or packing it in an airtight container that the recipient can reuse.
If you are trying to save money, look around your house for containers you can reuse and decorate. You can paint or cover containers with paper to hide their original purpose. Thrift stores often have inexpensive coffee mugs that you can put candy in and wrap in seasonal cellophane. You also can spend a few dollars on a special plate and wrap the plate and candy in colored plastic wrap.
You can buy pleated paper cups to package individual candies or individual servings of candies. Before Valentine's Day you should be able to find these with seasonal decorations on them. Look through the Valentine's Day aisle at your local discount store. You may be able to find things to spark your creativity, such as tissue paper, cellophane bags, tins or gift bags that are seasonally decorated. If plan ahead you can find these types of seasonal products on sale after Valentine's Day and store them for next year.