Candy Canes come to us from Cologne, Germany where they were created in 1670 when a choirmaster was looking for a way to keep children in his church quiet during the long services of Christmas Eve. He asked a local candy maker for some “sugar sticks” hoping that these would keep the little buggers occupied. In order to justify the practice of giving candy to children during worship services, he asked the candy maker to add a crook to the top of each stick which would help children remember the shepherds who visited the infant Jesus. Plus, he added white color to the red peppermint sticks to teach children about the Christian belief in the sinless life of Jesus.* That’s how we got stuck with candy canes.
Nothing wrong with candy canes of course. It’s still a tasty candy that’s pretty festive. I think however that the world of candy has progressed a lot since the days of peppermint sticks, so given the choice, I’d opt for almost any other sort of candy other than a candy cane. Still, you can’t beat that peppermint taste, especially if you are looking for some minty breath. Plus, peppermint can be good for the digestive system. It’s got function which is always good. And they are festive. You can’t deny that. I always end up hanging them on our Christmas tree just to add a little fun. Inevitably, the kids find them though and then we start finding remnants of candy canes in strange little nooks.
If I were to start a list of cons for candy canes, I would list their brittleness right up there. Sometimes they don’t even make it out of the wrapper before they smash in two, and once you loose the hook of a candy cane, it becomes much less fun. How they are individually wrapped in plastic can be annoying too. You have to release them from their plastic binds slowly and carefully lest you break the fragile cane. But they have their plus side too. They are fun gifts to get from Santa or at Christmas parades when they are hurled off of floats. It’s a little gift of sweetness. And kids still go crazy for them. Maybe they forget that they are peppermints and for that moment they forget about things like Skittles, Nerds and Warheads. The having is part of the fun. Plus adults are always a little more free with sharing candy canes than other sweets. A candy cane grievance of mine is watching that person that slowly and methodically eats a candy cane, sucking on it until the red is gone and they just have the white left. Just finish it! It’s candy – gobble it up!
We were having a pretty lazy day today. The holidays knocked it out of us. Lazy days are good things and I wish we were allowed to have more of them. Once you settle in to them and get past the things you could be doing or should be doing, they are pretty fantastic. Plus, we had a house full of leftovers, so that made it better. We watched a couple of movies, tried to nap (I did, but my snoring kept Lola from enjoying the same). Had some cookies and just chilled. The world will be there for us tomorrow.
After dinner, which was kind of a rehash of our Christmas feast (although I turned Lola’s into a nice French Dip sandwich accompanied by some kale salad), we decided to get our candy cane celebration underway. Rather than just sitting there sucking on a candy cane and gazing into each other’s eyes (that’s what we do on Thursday nights), I decided to make some hot cocoa and I would garnish it with some candy canes. I put some milk on the stove and found a container of specialty hot chocolate from a Lake Champlain chocolatier and scooped some into some festive mugs. When the milk was hot, I poured it into the mugs and gave it a stir. I then plopped in a big scoop of homemade whipped cream which I still had in the fridge. I grabbed two candy canes off the tree and carefully unwrapped each one, then gently placed it into the mugs. Our after dinner treat was ready.
A candy cane in your hot chocolate is actually a nice little addition as it swirls in that peppermint flavor. It melts the candy cane nice and slowly. You can use it for a little bit to scoop up the whipped cream, but eventually it softens and breaks away into the drink leaving you with a hint of peppermint flavor in the cocoa. I was a fan and it was a delightful addition to our lazy party.
To go along with this, we also happened to have a special dessert that I had made for Christmas that was made with candy canes. They were Peppermint-Kahlúa Ice Cream Sandwiches which I found online from the folks at Liquor.com. You take some candy canes and smash them up in a bowl, add in some softened vanilla ice cream and some Kahlúa, then mix it together. You put it back in the freezer so it can firm up and then when it’s ready, you cut out little circles and place them between two chocolate wafer cookies. I made these on a bit of a whim because I was skimming my Facebook feed and the recipe popped up. I asked Lola what she would say to an ice cream sandwich made with crushed candy canes and Kahlúa and she gave me the most enthusiastic, “YES!” So I made them. I busted them out on Christmas after dinner and despite a table full of cookies and sweets and bellies that were full, I got a few takers. They all said it was awesome. That was a good sign. I skipped having it myself on Christmas but decided to have it tonight, appropriately on Candy Cane Day. This was really good. It’s a great combination of all three flavors (ice cream, peppermint and coffee liqueur). Plus the chocolate wafer cookie is the perfect vehicle for it, giving it a sturdy cookie base that has a deep chocolate flavor. These are a star and a great little treat. They were small too, so you didn’t feel like you were binging on a giant ice cream sandwich. They were a bit soft and melted fast (I think this was because of the Kahlúa which probably doesn’t freeze as easy), but so damn good.
So that’s how our Candy Cane Day celebration came to a close. Pretty much a perfect day of relaxation with a peppermint twist to finish it off. You can’t have too many days like this, so when they roll around, you have to take them. I’m glad we are able to celebrate candy canes too. All things considered, they’re not so bad. They bring us minty flavor and they bring us festive fun. Those are both good things to commemorate and something I’d be happy to celebrate on any day, as long as I can be lounging on the couch with Lola. Cheers!
Next Up: National Fruitcake Day