Last month, the world celebrated what would have been Roald Dahl's 100th birthday. Which led me to wonder: Would you want to visit Willy Wonka's factory?
Yes, there is chocolate. Rivers of chocolate. Waterfalls of "light and frothy" chocolate. It's enough to make anyone long for that elusive golden ticket. But re-reading Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as an adult, I couldn't help but notice the dangers that lurk in every corner. Chewing gum that turns you into a blueberry? Squirrels who chuck people into garbage chutes? (Not to mention those disturbing Oompa-Loompas.)
Despite its charming, candy-filled wonders, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (and the 1971 movie it inspired, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory) has a touch of the macabre, which makes it the perfect inspiration for a Halloween party. It's full of dark, anarchic whimsy.
This weekend, hand your guests their golden tickets to a paradise for candy-lovers. Of course, unlike Willy Wonka, you can invite more than five people. Follow these steps to throw a party that Wonka would approve of.
1 Write your invitations on "golden tickets” and promise . . . Tremendous things are in store for you! I shake you warmly by the hand! Use the amount of exclamation points that someone who has been eating a lot of candy for many, many years would use.
2 Create an edible valley. It may be difficult to procure Wonka's mint-flavored grass, delicious buttercups and foaming waterfall of hot chocolate, but you can certainly re-create the edible weeping willows. All you need is Twig Taffy, which is as much fun as it sounds: You snip coffee-flavored taffy into the graceful shapes of willow branches. Instead of buttercups, serve your guests Flower Lollipops in refreshing fruit flavors.
3 Spend at least a few days training your local squirrels to shell walnuts for you. As an added bonus, these squirrels will quickly dispose of your guests if they find them to be Bad Nuts. "Nobody except squirrels can get walnuts whole out of walnut shells every time," Wonka explains, with understandable pride over his roomful of industrious and slightly homicidal squirrels. On second thought, maybe just buy preshelled walnuts? Then go ahead and make a batch of Spiced Walnuts with cayenne pepper.
4 Excitedly explain your new invention of Hair Toffee, which will make your guests' hair grow so long they'll need a lawn mower to control it. Since you're still tweaking that recipe, offer them a different toffee treat instead: Popcorn Balls with English toffee bits. Babble a little more about your invention.
5 When night falls, begin to sing cryptic songs such as, "Not a speck of light is showing, so the danger must be growing!" Make your guests fear for your sanity. Then feed them chocolate to console them. Go ahead and one-up Wonka: You may not have a chocolate waterfall, but you can serve an adult version of Wonka's famous drink: Stout Hot Chocolate. If possible, take guests on a boat ride along a chocolate river in a Viking-style vessel made out of a boiled sweet. If this is not possible, rethink your life choices.
6 Bequeath your entire kitchen/house/factory to the best-behaved guest. "Best-behaved" basically means they are not greedy; they avoid chewing experimental gum; they do not try to kidnap homicidal squirrels; and they watch an appropriate amount of television. This guest does not even need to express an aptitude for candymaking.
7 Leave everyone with a memory of a magical evening and the knowledge that "however small the chance might be of striking lucky, the chance was there."
Contact Emily Young at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What's it about?
Published in 1964, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory chronicles the adventures of a starving young boy who wins a golden ticket to the most famous candy factory in the world, run by an eccentric inventor. Roald Dahl's beloved children's book has been made into two film adaptations, including the iconic 1971 version starring the late Gene Wilder, and a musical set to open on Broadway in 2017.
Vegetable oil cooking spray
2 ½ cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons liquid glycerin (can be found at baking-supply stores)
1 ½ teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for fingers
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon coffee extract
Coat a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray; set aside. In a medium nonstick saucepan, combine sugar, 1 cup water, corn syrup, cornstarch, glycerin and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon to dissolve sugar. Without stirring, cook until mixture registers 275 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 8 minutes. Remove pan from heat; carefully stir in butter and extracts.
Pour hot mixture onto prepared baking sheet. Allow edges to cool and set slightly. Using a metal spatula coated with cooking spray, fold edges toward the middle (this will help cool taffy). When taffy is cool enough to handle but still quite warm, stretch and pull with lightly buttered fingers, folding the taffy over onto itself before pulling again until just starting to firm up, about 20 minutes.
Before taffy cools and hardens too much, pull off ropelike pieces and, using kitchen scissors, make snips along the sides. Gently stretch and pull snipped taffy on either end, forming thorny twigs. Snip into 7-inch lengths. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and let cool.
Store the taffy twigs in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.
Source: Martha Stewart Living
½ cup water
¾ cup light corn syrup
2 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons flavoring extract, such as LorAnn
1 drop gel food coloring
24 lollipop sticks
In a medium saucepan, combine the water, corn syrup and granulated sugar. Place the pan over medium-high heat and stir until the sugar dissolves. Bring the mixture to a boil, then stop stirring and brush down the sides with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming. Insert a candy thermometer.
Continue to cook the candy without stirring until it reads 285 degrees on the thermometer. Do not overcook it, or it will start to take on a caramel shade and your candy might be an off color. Once the thermometer reads 285 degrees, take the pan off the heat and let it sit for a few moments, until bubbles stop breaking on the surface. Add the flavoring and food coloring and stir everything together.
Spray the candy molds with nonstick cooking spray. Add an edible flower to each mold and carefully pour candy into the prepared molds.
Before the candy sets, add a lollipop stick to each candy, spinning it to make sure the entire end of the stick is coated.
Let the tray of lollipops set at room temperature until hard, about 10 minutes. Store lollipops in an airtight container.
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups walnut halves
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper
In a large nonstick skillet, heat honey, oil and 1 tablespoon water over medium heat. Add walnuts and toss to coat.
Sprinkle the sugar, salt, cumin, coriander and cayenne over the nuts. Cook, tossing and stirring until the nuts are well coated and lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet to cool completely.
Makes 2 cups.
Stout Hot Chocolate
For the hot chocolate:
1 cup heavy cream
½ cup milk
½ cup dark chocolate chips
1 cup chocolate stout beer
2 tablespoons sugar
For the whipped cream:
1 cup heavy cream
⅓ cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons stout
In a pan over medium-high heat, add the cream, milk and chocolate chips. Stir until melted, about 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in the beer. Depending on your personal preference and the level of bitterness in the beer you used, taste and determine if you want it sweeter. Add in the 2 tablespoons sugar for a higher level of sweetness.
Return to heat and stir until desired temperature is reached (usually between 140 and 160 degrees).
To make the whipped cream, add all whipped cream ingredients to a stand mixer and whip on high until soft peaks form, about 3 minutes.
Serve hot chocolate topped with whipped cream.
¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter, plus more for buttering hands
1 (10-ounce) package miniature marshmallows
¼ cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
3 quarts popped popcorn
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup English toffee bits
Melt butter in a large heavy pot over low heat. Add marshmallows and brown sugar and stir until melted. Remove from heat.
Pour popcorn, cranberries and English toffee bits into pot and toss well. With buttered hands, shape into 2 ½-inch balls. Set on parchment-lined baking sheet to dry slightly.
Makes about 12.
Source: Martha Stewart Living