It’s a week out from Halloween, and I haven’t covered any candy yet. That seems wrong… but I’m going to chalk up my failure to the fact that it’s 2020 and everything’s wrong.
Specifically, this year many locations have either banned trick-or-treating or have politely requested parents not let children participate. The idea – and it’s a wonderful idea – is to stem the spread of COVID-19-causing coronavirus.
I’ve mentioned before what my family is doing for the holiday. We’re letting my daughter dress up in at least one costume (probably two or more throughout the day) and we’re going to drive around, delivering bags of candy and small toys to the homes of all of her friends. We’ll take a photo of the costumed child at their door, then drive off and send an e-mail with the photo to the household. The bag can be brought in and set aside for a few days to allay concerns about viral transmission.
But what about the rest of it? The scary movies and decorations are still there, but there’s a tradition of candy on this holiday. And that’s where buddha hand comes in. If you’re not going to be giving away prepackaged candy this Halloween, why not make your own?
Buddha’s hand is a citrus fruit which tends to be available for only a comparatively short time in the United States and at first glance it’s one of the most worthless fruits imaginable. It looks fascinating… like a large lemon comprised of writhing, pointed fingers… but it has almost no edible pulp inside. Purchasing one is often a road to disappointment.
There’s a trick, and it’s a delicious one. It’s making candy from the fruit.
The rind of the buddha’s hand is not merely edible, but it’s delicious. It tastes like a naturally mild lemon with some sweetness and floral elements to it. That said, it is a citrus and it has a mildly acidic quality to it. The taste can be harnessed by scraping pieces of the peel into a pile, minimizing the pith (that’s the white stuff between the peel and the virtually nonexistent pulp) and then candying it. Because of all the “fingers”, there’s plenty of peel you can harvest from a single fruit.
To candy the peel, stir two cups of sugar into two cups of water in a large saucepan as you bring it to a boil. Then drop the peel into the hot sugar, lower the temperature to a simmer, and give it until the white parts of it become translucent before taking them out and allowing them to fully dry. You’ll be left with hard little bits of citrusy goodness.
Once you’ve got your candied buddha’s hand, you’re ready to make some chocolates. Depending on whether you prefer sharp bursts of flavor or a stable taste throughout your confections, you can either chop the candied peel into small pieces or absolutely pulverize it with a mortar and pestle. Whichever you choose, buy some very good chocolate, melt it down, add the buddha’s hand pieces and pour it into molds. Ideally, use the round chocolate wafers for this… they’re designed to be melted and formed.
If you want to produce bars that look beautiful with the glossy finish one expects from professionally made candies, you’re going to be very careful with the melting process. Here’s a link to the Ghirardelli company’s guidelines, complete with video. It’s more complex than just tossing it in a pot, but it’s truly not especially difficult. Even a first-timer should be able to do it, if they follow the basics of the instructions.
As for the fruit itself… here’s a video of one being prepared:
And there you have it. A chocolate treat that you can’t get at most stores, can be given as a gift to family and friends, and involves eating a hand. That’s about as Halloween as you can get, even in 2020.
Question of the night: Are there any candies or baked goods you particularly enjoy making?