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Published: 12/23/2008

'Twas The Night Before Christmas: Set out a plate of chocolate mice on a wedge of Swiss Cheese.

BY KATHIE SMITH
BLADE FOOD EDITOR

At the top of my list is Karla Reamsnyder's Chocolate Covered Cherry Mice.

Mrs. Reamsnyder, of Oregon, has been making batches of Chocolate Covered Cherry Mice since early November.

Her first creations of this season were donated to the craft fair and bake sale at St. Mark Evangelical Lutheran Church. The little bags of six candies sold out quickly.

Later she made a batch to take as a hostess gift for a party. She buys a wedge of Swiss cheese, packs the candies in a box, and takes along a silver tray with a red paper doily. When she arrives at the party, she sets up the tray so the candy mice are around the wedge of cheese and on top.

It's always a big hit. At the end of the party, the little candies are eaten; the host keeps the cheese, if that's not consumed already, and Mrs. Reamsnyder takes her tray home ready for the next occasion to make one of her signature items.

Candy is her speciality. "I make five different kinds of candy," says the employee of GM Powertrain. In mid-December she was making the chocolate mice, peppermint candy fudge, regular fudge, chocolate- covered peanuts, and toasted almond toffee crunch.

But those little chocolate mice stand out. "I was at a party and a friend of mine made these, and she said she got the recipe from a magazine," says Mrs. Reamsnyder, who is married to Dean Reamsnyder. He is the vice commodore at Harbor View Yacht Club and she is the vice president of Harbor View's Auxiliary.

The ingredient list is simple: plain Hershey's candy kisses, maraschino cherries with stems, milk or semisweet chocolate for melting, sliced almonds, and a little tube of white frosting and a toothpick.

First melt the chocolate. Meanwhile, drain the cherries, rinse, and pat dry. "I put the cherries between paper towels," she says. Then dip a cherry in the melted chocolate, draining the excess chocolate. Attach the bottom of the candy kiss to the cherry.

With the stem of the cherry which is the tail, "It puts itself in position when placed on parchment-lined tray," she says.

The sliced almonds are the ears. "Add the ears between the body and the nose," says Mrs. Reamsnyder. "They're touchy." The sliced almonds set up in 5 minutes.

The eyes are made with two little dots of the frosting squeezed from the tube and positioned with the toothpick. "Getting the eyes even is the hard part," she says.

A 10-ounce jar of cherries with stem has about 25 cherries, enough for 25 mice.

The confection lasts at least two weeks. Store in an airtight container in a cool place. Do not refrigerate.

If the Chocolate Covered Cherry Mice are for Santa, then sugarplums must be for children.

In keeping with the classic The Night Before Christmas poem, "The children were nestled all snug in their beds, While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;" this is the one time of the year we think about sugarplums.

A sugarplum is defined as a small confection often consisting of fruit such as a candied cherry or dried apricot surrounded by fondant, according to the Food Lover's Companion.

A newer interpretation is a sweet celebration of coconut, honey, and cinnamon served in an Athens Mini Fillo Shell.

Sugar Plum Fairy Shells are great, said Kay Lynne Schaller who tested this delicious recipe for the Blade. "They are almost addicting."

The recipe yields 15 desserts but she found that she had leftover filling making 1-inch balls and that it could yield 21 servings (using 1 and a half boxes of the Athens Mini Fillo Shells). Once you measure the ingredients for this recipe, you simply need a food processor and powdered sugar. There's no cooking or baking to this little dessert.

Easy candy

Not to be forgotten, is fudge, which is among the easiest candies to make because a minimum of ingredients are needed.

This creamy semisoft candy is most often made with sugar, butter or cream, corn syrup and various flavorings. It can be cooked or uncooked but both styles must set up before cutting.

For Easiest Fudge in the World from A Baker's Field Guide to Holiday Candy & Confections, author Dede Wilson (Harvard Common Press, $16.95), uses weetened condensed milk, bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, unsalted butter and vanilla extract.

The lifespan of this fudge is two weeks refrigerated in airtight container in single layers separated by waxed or parchment paper.

In the cookbook the author notes that to make perfect candy at home, use the ingredients called for in the recipe, i.e. do not substitute salted butter for unsalted butter. Measure accurately. Use precise times and temperatures.

Have a sweet Christmas!

Kathie Smith is The Blade's food editor. Contact her at food@theblade.com or 419-724-6155.



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