Sunday, January 17, 2010

Chuckles, New and Improved

I don’t know if any of you remember Chuckles, but they are one of my husband Dicky’s favorite sweets. Chuckles are the industrial American version of the classic French confection, pâte de fruit. Pâte de fruit can be made with either fruit puree or juice, and the flavor variations are limitless. Conversely, the Chuckles selection is limited to orange, cherry, lime, lemon and licorice. (In Puerto Rico, however, they don’t include the licorice, but they give you an extra orange piece. I guess Puerto Ricans don’t like licorice.) Pâte de fruit with fruit juice is very easy to make, but it does require liquid pectin, which can be tricky to find, at least in New York. I’m sure it’s easier to find in the suburbs, where canning is more likely to occur. If you have a juicer, you can make your own exotic fruit juice combinations, or you can buy prepared juice. There are some interesting prepared flavors on the market—I chose a pomegranate-nectarine for one, and a fresh tangerine juice for my second flavor. Whatever you choose, it's bound to be a massive improvement on Chuckles.
Pâte de Fruit

Makes 45 confections

2/3 cup fruit juice, such as fresh tangerine or pomegranate
6 tablespoons apple sauce (smooth, not chunky)
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar, divided
1 3-ounce envelope liquid pectin
2 teaspoons lemon juice

1. Lightly oil a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Line the pan with plastic wrap, letting it extend beyond the short ends of the pan, and lighlty oil the wrap.
2. In a medium, heavy saucepan, stir together the juice and apple sauce until well combined. Stir in 1½ cups of the sugar. Open the packet of liquid pectin and stand it up in a glass so it can be added quickly to the mixture when it’s ready. Cook the juice mixture over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture registers 238°F on a candy thermometer. Add the pectin and continue to boil for 1 minute. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Immediately pour the hot mixture into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the top of the candy with a thin layer of granulated sugar. Let stand until set, about 1½ hours.
3. Using the ends of the plastic wrap as handles, carefully lift the confection out of the pan. Cut the pâte de fruit into 1 inch squares (or any size or shape you like) and roll them in the remaining sugar until they are well coated on all sides. Store the pâte de fruit in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 month.