The Larder TM_TL_CANDY_FI_001

All Treats, No Tricks

Halloween candy from your kitchen, not a plastic bag


My mom grew up in the fifties and sixties, in one of those idyllic suburban neighborhoods where kids walked to school unsupervised and played outside in the afternoons until the streetlights came on.

There was no better day of the year in her community than October 31. The streets would fill with miniature hobos, ghosts and witches, all clutching brown paper shopping bags to hold their treats, warm winter coats concealing most of their costumes.

These were the days before candy companies got wise and started producing snack and “fun” sized candy bars and long before homemade treats were deemed dangerous. This meant that my mom’s grocery sack ended up filled with full-sized Snickers and Chunky bars, freshly baked gingerbread men from Mrs. Rath and Mr. Brown’s famous popcorn balls.

An evening of trick-or-treating always started at Mrs. Rath’s house as the very top of the block. She made a limited number of her giant, spicy gingerbread men and it wouldn’t have been Halloween without them.

Next was Mr. Brown. He didn’t give out popcorn balls to just anyone who knocked on his door. He believed that you had to perform a trick for your treat. My mom and her friends would practice a song and dance routine for weeks before Halloween, to ensure that they’d go home with a sticky popcorn ball, heavy with peanuts, butter, and molasses.

These days, we’ve fallen out of the habit of homemade candy. And it’s understandable. Thanks to a few bad apples, no parent in their right mind would let their child eat something homemade that was handed to them by a stranger. Thing is, just because you can’t hand it off to your trick-or-treaters doesn’t mean that there isn’t still a place in our lives for some of these old-time, handmade confections.

This Halloween, instead of picking up a bag of mini-Milky Ways, stir together a batch of homemade Rocky Road. Instead of the bag of Reese’s, try your hand at making some peanut butter and chocolate balls. And instead of jawing your way through plasticky-tasting, individually wrapped caramel squares, make a batch from scratch. Your holiday will be all the sweeter for it.

All recipes adapted from Field Guide to Candy by Anita Chu, published by Quirk Books, 2009.

Rocky Road


  • 14 ounces milk or dark chocolate chips (use whichever you prefer)
  • 3 cups mini-marshmallows
  • 1 cup roasted and salted peanuts


Line a square baking pan with parchment paper so that the paper overhangs the sides of the pan and lightly grease with cooking spray or butter.

Melt chocolate in a metal bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water. When chocolate is just melted, remove bowl from pan.

Stir marshmallows and nuts into the melted chocolate. Scrape mixture into baking pan  and spread it out to the edges.

Refrigerate until firm. Lift candy out of baking pan and place on a cookie sheet. Cut into small squares.

Makes: 16 bars

Caramel Squares


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup cane or corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract


Line a square baking pan with parchment paper so that the paper overhangs the sides of the pan and lightly grease with cooking spray or butter.

Combine the sugar and cream in a medium sized, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil and stir constantly.

Add your cane or corn syrup and continue to boil until the mixture reaches 230 degrees F.

Add butter. Stir and continue to cook until it reaches 245 degrees F.

Remove from the heat and stir in the salt and vanilla. Take care, as the caramel will bubble and spit when you add the vanilla.

Pour caramel into the prepared pan and place in the refrigerator until it is firm.

Remove the caramel slab from the pan and cut into squares. Wrap in waxed paper and store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Makes: 25 squares

Peanut Butter Balls


  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, for coating


Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.

Using a hand mixer, beat peanut butter, butter, vanilla and salt together until smooth.

Add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time, blending well between each addition, until the peanut butter mixture is smooth and firm.

Using a tablespoon or dough scoop, measure out portions of the dough and form them into balls. Place them on the lined baking sheet and refrigerate until firm.

Melt chocolate in a double boiler. Spear each peanut butter ball with a toothpick and coat it with the chocolate.

Place the dipped peanut butter balls back on the baking sheet and let them set for at least an hour.

Peanut butter balls will keep in an airtight container for up to one week. They can be frozen for longer storage.

Makes: 24 to 30 (depending on size)

Marisa McClellan is a food blogger, freelance writer and canning teacher based in Center City Philadelphia. She runs a website called Food in Jars, where she writes about canning, preserving and delicious things made from scratch. She regularly writes for the Food Network, USA Today, Grid Philly and Mrs. Wages. Her first cookbook, Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round, is now available.


  1. Kelly says:

    YUM!!! I want to trick or treat at your house!

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