Every December for the past few years, my mom and I have gotten together to make food gifts for family and friends. So far, we have made marmalade, candied and spiced nuts, mango chutney and brittles. This year, I thought we should do something easy and simple, like making candies.

Here is what I learned this weekend:

1. Candy is insanely time consuming and not easy to make.
2. Sugar is hot.
3. You really do need to grease the pans well.
4. Using recipes that can’t be doubled or tripled is not smart.
5. You should always set a timer when toasting nuts in the oven.
6. When the recipe says to get the candy to a specific temperature, this is for a very good reason.
7. Burnt caramel smells really bad.
8. Drinking hot toddies in the middle of the day makes you sleepy.
9. Hand chopping six pound of nuts to make them ‘really even’ is really stupid. Especially when you have a cuisinart.
10. There is no easy, nor fool-proof way to temper chocolate.
11. Dipping over four hundred individual pieces of candy in chocolate takes a very long time.
12. Caramel and toffee turn back into liquid form if you store them near a heat vent overnight.
13. Candy thermometers are wildly inaccurate.
14. It actually is possible to eat too much caramel.
15. Alcohol does not counter a sugar high.
16. Never attempt more than one new recipe at a time. I know this rule by heart and even quote it to other people, yet I always seem to ignore it.

Despite a grueling weekend in the kitchen and more than a few burnt disasters, we ended up with a great batch of candies.

Toffee covered in bittersweet chocolate and almonds/pecans – After this recovered from the heat vent melt-down, it was great. Still a little chewy, but I expect it to set up a bit more over the next day or so.

Plain caramel – This batch of caramel didn’t reach a high enough temperature so it was really soft; when dipping it in the chocolate, it just melted. They tasted great though, so we just wrapped them up plain.

Caramel dipped in bittersweet chocolate sprinkled with Alaea Hawaiian Sea Salt – Beautiful. Tasted just like Fran’s!

Caramel dipped in milk chocolate sprinkled with Maldon Sea Salt and Grey Sea Salt – These were my favorites. Mmmm.

Macadamia nut brittle – This turned out not to be a brittle, but more like sugar coated nuts.

Almond brittle – This tasted okay, but was so pale it looked anemic.

Peanut brittle – A strange, bright orange color (because we didn’t have any dark corn syrup), but it tasted fantastic.

Next year, I’m thinking every one gets a package of hot cocoa that I’ve spooned into a fancy bag.