Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Radical Cooking - Bird's Nest Candies

Cooking outside the takeout box
Better, faster, cheaper, easier - and healthier

Bird's Nests
Yummy, Spring-y and Easy
I love Easter candy but, apart from marshmallow chickens, it all tastes the same no matter how much you pay.

Most of it comes from the same handful of companies so that's not surprising.  Oh, it's packaged under different names and labels but it's still the same stuff.

When a company makes a product for another company it's called "private labeling".  It's done all the time from pasta to laundry detergent and there's nothing wrong with that.  But, when it comes to Easter candy,  most of it is cheap, waxy chocolate underneath fancy foil wrapping and stylish bows.

Can't make candy, you say?
Too much trouble?

Here's a little recipe that will change you mind forever.

Easy.  Yummy and not the least bit expensive plus you'll impress the socks off your gourmet friends!

Birds's Nests
Easy for Easter.  Special for Spring. 
Great gift for your gardening pals.
Simple enough to make for wedding or shower favors, too!

Chow mein noodles are
available in the Oriental
food sections of grocery
stores every where
Makes 3 (4 inch) candies
Special equipment - parchment paper and a cookie sheet

3/4 cup Chinese chow mein noodles (the regular thin kind)

9 pastel colored, malted milk, candy bird's eggs (usually available around Easter)

1/2 cup butterscotch (toffee) chocolate chips (morsels - about 1/3 an 11oz bag)

2 teaspoons white vegetable shortening (like Crisco - butter, oil or margarine not recommended)

Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  You have to work quickly once the chocolate is melted so measure the chow mein noodles and count out the malted balls now.

Use a dish big enough
to add noodles after
melting chocolate
 Microwave the chips and shortening together until the shortening has melted - about 1 1/2 minutes. 

Chips will be soft but will not be melted.  Do not over heat.

Stir to finish melting
Using a rubber spatula, mix the chocolate and shortening together until smooth and blended. 

Fold in the chow mein noodles and mixing well to coat. 

Be careful not to un-necessarily break the noodles although you may break a few.

Divide the mixture into 3 piles on the parchment lined cookie sheet.  Form each into a 4 inch round.  Don't be too fussy or neat. It should look free form.  Make a well in the center to resemble a bird's nest.  Try not to press the mixture down.  To look authentic, it should look fluffy.   

A spoon works well to
form the nest

Immediately position 3 malted eggs in center.  Press down very lightly so they'll stick to the chocolate when set but not so hard that you break the noodles.

(I'm giving you a lot of cautions here but it's really easy -just work with a light touch and you'll be OK.)

Refrigerate till set - about 15 minutes.  You can freeze them, too.  It takes about 5 minutes in the freezer.

When candies are set, they'll be sturdy enough to pick up from the paper.  If you can't pick them up, they're not cold enough.

Work quickly when
adding the "eggs"

Wrap as desired for gift giving or pile onto a serving dish.  

Store at room temperature up to 2 weeks.
Freeze, packed in sturdy containers, for longer storage.  Keeps 6 months to 1 year frozen.   

Karla's Tips
I buy a couple of extra bags of the pastel, malted milk eggs at Easter and freeze them (unopened) in a sturdy container.  This way I have the eggs if I want to make the nests at other times of the year - like for party favors or gifts.

Ready to chill
You can double the recipe, if you work quickly making the nests, but don't make a bigger batch because the chocolate will harden before you have it all formed. 

You can make the nests smaller and use mini eggs, if desired, but don't go any bigger or they loose their cache.

Freeze leftover chow mein noodles to keep them fresh tasting.  They won't freeze solid but do let them come to room temperature before using.  Cold noodles will cause the chocolate to set too quickly. 

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