Candy for Easter is one tradition that shows no sign of fading.
Nationally, we will spend about $864 million on store-bought treats such as chocolate bunnies, eggs, jelly beans and marshmallow chicks, according to William L. Sheehan, manager of communications for the National Confectioners Association. That's up about 2 percent from last year, he says.
Locally, stores that sell candy and stores that sell supplies for do-it-yourselfers also say business is up.
"Easter is later this year, normally we sell more candy because there is more time to advertise," says Richard L. Rudell, vice president of Log Cabin Candies in Fallston. "Plus, sometimes people buy it, go home and eat it and have to come back and buy more."
Easter is the biggest sales time of the year for most candy-making stores, says James B. Conlee, owner of Kake Kraft Korner in Ferndale.
"A lot of people like to make their own Easter rabbits," he says. Hollow rabbit molds between 8 ounces and 1 pound are most popular.
Easter-themed cupcakes and cookies are a hit with shoppers, particularly parents who have to batch-bake for school or church parties, Mr. Conlee says.
Cookie cutters can turn out egg-shaped sugar cookies. In six graduated sizes, a set from Wilton Enterprises Inc. is available at local cake decorating stores for about $3.
The cookies can be decorated many ways. Try, for example, layering smaller cookies on top of larger ones. Ready-made cake decorations, including small chicks or bunnies, made out of icing, can also be used to dress-up the cookies.
A fast, professional base icing can be created using canned icing, says Zella Junkin, Wilton's manager of consumer affairs. Color small amounts of the icing and heat slightly in the microwave to the consistency of thick pudding. Put baked cookies on a cake rack, with waxed paper underneath and pour the warmed icing over top. It will dry to a hard, smooth shine and will be easy to decorate, she says.
The best way to decorate is to use paste food coloring, available at cake decorating stores, she says.
Paste food coloring, also used to decorate our white chocolate eggs, won't thin icing like liquid food coloring does. It also creates dark, rich colors not attainable with liquid coloring.
Chocolate-coated Easter eggs, with creamy or crunchy centers, are also popular during the holidays. The key to perfect eggs, says Ms. Junkin, is to use a confectionary chocolate coating, not regular chocolate. This can be found in cake and candy decorating stores.
It is specially made for melting and dipping and will dry to a high gloss. Regular chocolate, such as morsels, baking bars or candy bars, is made not to melt so it is not a good choice for dipping.
This recipe was adapted from "Gifts that Taste Good" edited by Anne Van Wagner Young, Leisure Arts, 1991.
White chocolate eggs
* Makes about 2 1/2 dozen eggs.
1/2 cup butter or margarine
2 cups finely chopped pecans
3 cups sifted confectioners sugar
2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 ounces white confectionary coating, about
paste food coloring in pastel shades
Melt butter in large saucepan then stir in pecans, sugar, milk and vanilla, blending well. Transfer to bowl, cover and chill 2 to 3 hours.
Shape mixture into 1 1/2 -inch long egg shapes and place on waxed paper-lined baking sheets. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Slowly melt some coating in microwave. Dip eggs. Place on waxed paper in the refrigerator to let coating harden.
To speckle eggs, place small amount of food coloring on paper plate. Crumple a small square of waxed paper and dip into food coloring; blot on plate. Gently stamp candy egg. Carefully blot with paper towel. Repeat with remaining colors. Let eggs sit uncovered in cool place, do not refrigerate, until dry.
This recipe is from The Evening Sun Recipe Finder files. The number of eggs this recipe makes depends on how big you make them.
Peanut butter eggs
* Makes 25 medium-size eggs.
1/2 pound butter (2 sticks) softened
2 1/2 cups crunchy or smooth peanut butter
1 1/2 boxes confectioners sugar
1 1/2 pounds chocolate confectionary coating
Cream butter in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add peanut butter and mix well. Gradually add sugar, adding more or less to make an easily shaped dough. Mix well.
Knead dough a few minutes, by hand or with kneading attachment on your electric mixer.
Mold dough into egg shapes and place on waxed paper.
Using the microwave, melt just a little coating at a time.
Dip eggs into coating one at a time and place on waxed paper in refrigerator until set.
This colorful macaroon recipe is from Kraft General Foods.
' Makes about 18 cookies.
1 1/3 cups (3 1/2 ounces) flaked coconut
1/3 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/3 cup chopped pecans or almonds (optional)
Heat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix coconut, sugar, flour and salt. Stir in egg whites, almond extract and chopped nuts, if desired. Mix well. Drop by teaspoons onto lightly greased cookie sheets. Bake for 20 minutes or until the edges of cookies are golden brown. Immediately remove from cookie sheets to cool on wire racks. Quickly make small indent with thumb or the back of a spoon if you want to fill with jelly beans if desired.