Photos by Jill Strominger

Candy Crush

Guarantee yourself to be the “good house” this Halloween with these homemade candies that are simple enough to make with kids, yet sophisticated enough to serve to judgmental adults. Or don’t share with anyone—dump a bag of Werther’s Originals in a pot on the porch, turn down the lights, and enjoy them all to yourself while you watch Hocus Pocus for the 700th time in a row. We don’t care—we just want you to have these recipes, adaptations from the Liddabit Sweets cookbook, just in case:

Gummy Candy


No need to re-read this recipe to make sure you’re seeing correctly: yes it is really this easy! And the candies are so good that without even realizing what you’re doing you will have a stomachache from eating half the batch. (True story.) So go ahead and double it, or have some fun and make two-toned treats: use two different color three-ounce gelatin mixes and split the other ingredients into two saucepans. Pour one color out first and let set for 10 minutes, then top with the other. (makes approximately 20 gummy candies; takes approximately one hour).

Special equipment

Silicone molds, cookie cutters, or a sharp knife

Baking sheet

Parchment or wax paper


Cooking spray or vegetable oil

1 six-ounce box fruit-flavored gelatin dessert mix

1/2 ounce unflavored powdered gelatin

1/2 cup very cold water

1/2 cup superfine sugar (optional)


1. Lightly coat the silicone molds or baking sheet with cooking spray. Make sure to spray from a nice distance so the spray doesn’t leave a thick film on the surfaces. Set aside.

2. In a small saucepan, stir together both gelatins and the cold water. Allow the mixture to sit until the gelatin has firmed up slightly, approximately five minutes.

3. While stirring constantly, melt the gelatin mixture over very low heat until all granules have completely dissolved and the mixture becomes consistently syrup-like, then remove from the heat immediately. (If it boils the candy won’t happen, so no multi-tasking! Stop looking at your phone and stir!)

4. Pour the melted gelatin into the sprayed molds or baking sheet. Place in the refrigerator until completely set, about 45 minutes.

5. Turn the gelatin out of the molds. If you’re using a baking sheet, remove by turning onto a wax or parchment paper-lined cutting board. Spray cookie cutters with vegetable spray to create shapes, or use a sharp knife to cut squares.

6. Place the superfine sugar in a small bowl and roll the candies in it, or mix the sugar and candies inside a ziplock bag and shake them all around. Use a sieve to remove any excess sugar.

7. Store in an airtight container at cool room temperature, for up to 2 months.

Chocolate Bark


A few years ago my youngest brother David and I were at home with a serious need for chocolate candy, but unfortunately without the car necessary to procure it. So we took our sugar-shoving fate into our own hands, raided the cupboards, and invented our own. Here’s how you can do the same with whatever hodgepodge you have handy. (makes approximately xx; takes approximately 1 hour, 15 minutes).

Special equipment

11 x 17 rimmed baking sheet

Parchment or wax paper

Microwave safe or boiler-safe bowl


20 ounces (2 10-ounce packages) chopped high-quality chocolate such as Ghirardelli

1 1/2 cups various small toppings, examples: nuts, candy, dried cereal, sprinkles, potato chips, pretzels, peppermint, or my personal favorite: Fritos chili cheese chips. (Really.)


1. Get your toppings ready and line the baking sheet with the parchment or wax paper, making sure to leave paper hanging as “handles” on each side.

2. Pour the chocolate into the lined sheet. Tap it gently to remove bubbles and make sure the chocolate spreads evenly.

3. Quickly add your toppings to the chocolate. Cover with another piece of paper to protect it from water, impatient fingers, cat hair, etc and let it sit at room temperature for about an hour.

4. Run a knife along the unlined edges of the baking sheet to loosen the bark, then gently lift up on the parchment paper “handles” to remove the bark from the baking sheet. Peel the paper off the underside of the bark, and use your hands to break it into rough two- to three-inch pieces. Store in an airtight container for 2-4 weeks (though toppings will dictate the shelf-life).

Note: if you notice a white-ish discoloration that means water came into contact with the chocolate in some way. It may not look as pretty but don’t worry, it still tastes gorgeous.

Caramel Chews


This is the most challenging of the recipes, but I pinky-swear to you that these homemade caramel candies are worth the effort. My burnt tongue, which could not stop sampling the hot mixture during the cooking process agrees. The notes below call for just salt, but feel free to have some fun adding a half-teaspoon of ground flavor like cardamom, lavender, or chili powder, too. It’s worth noting that although these are good no matter what, dropping a few extra bucks to use a real vanilla bean takes them to a next level Die Antwoord would approve of. (makes approximately 100 pieces; takes approximately 4 hours).

Special equipment

Candy thermometer

Cutting board lined with wax paper

Wax twisting papers, or wax paper cut into squares

A heatproof spatula or wooden spoon

Large 13-by-18-inch rimmed baking sheet


3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 1 teaspoon for greasing the baking sheet

1 3/4 cups granulated sugar

1 1/2 cups evaporated milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 vanilla bean, split open and seeds scraped and pod reserved OR 1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste OR 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1 tablespoon coarse sea salt

Cooking or vegetable spray

1/2 teaspoon ground flavoring, such as lavender or cardamom (optional)


1. Grease the baking sheet with the one teaspoon butter, then set aside on a heatproof surface.

2. Combine the sugar, evaporated milk, heavy cream, and vanilla bean and seeds (if using) in a large (6-8 quart) saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, uncovered and without stirring.

3. Once the mixture starts boiling, insert the candy thermometer into the center of the pan. Add the light corn syrup, and stir gently with spatula until everything is mixed well.

4. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often and constantly scraping the bottom of the pot to keep the mixture from burning. If some accidentally burns though, s’ok. Heat until the mixture reaches 230 degrees, or thread stage.

5. Add the butter, and fish out the bean pod if you used that.

6. Stirring continuously (as in, cue up “This American Life” and get comfortable), cook the caramel until it reaches 241 degrees, or softball stage. Then remove from the heat immediately. It should look exactly how you expect a pot of soft caramel to look—a deep tan color and a smooth and thick consistency, with slow rolling bubbles in the center. (Note: it’s important to remove from heat quickly. If it cooks too long, it will harden to become toffee and yes there are worse problems.)

7. Stir in the salt and any ground flavoring, and vanilla paste or extract if you’re using that instead of a bean. (But please use a bean.)

8. Wearing oven mitts, pour the caramel onto the buttered-up baking sheet. Allow it to cool completely until it’s firm to the touch, at least 3 hours but preferably overnight.

9. Lightly oil a sharp knife with cooking spray, and run the tip around the edge of the baking sheet to release the caramel. Gently turn the caramel out onto the lined cutting board, and cut it into 1-inch squares. Wrap the pieces in the wax paper, and get ready to never want to eat a caramel that’s not homemade again.

10. Store in an airtight container at cool room temperature for up to 4 weeks. They’ll also last for up to 3 months in the refrigerator.