December 20, 2012

Introducing Opera Crispies

Have you ever heard of Opera Cremes? They are out of fashion now, according to Grandpa's vintage books, because they are tiny and have to be hand-dipped in chocolate. But they used to be popular among Victorian opera-goers, for precisely the same reason. Tiny candies are easier to sneak into long opera performances, and you can eat them surreptitiously. No large nut-cruching to distract the performers, no large mouth movements to give you away.

Grandpa's books have a couple of recipes for opera cremes, one of which includes instructions for topping with a layer of melted chocolate and cutting into pieces larger than 1/4 inches. What's not to love?

I have apparently become accustomed to learning the ins and outs of a new recipe online, with an absurd number of photographs, something notably absent from the books. When the book says, "beat candy until it just loses its gloss", I'm a bit vague on what that means. If it's just lost its gloss, are parts of it still glossy? What is the final texture I should be looking for? How much should I worry about the candy slapping around in the mixer bowl? Should I have avoided the mixer altogether? Is it even possible to mix or beat the candy thoroughly enough by hand, assuming I'm not a mid-1960s Midwest farm wife with upper-body strength augmented by regular wrangling of livestock or prize vegetables?

Opera Not Cremes
These are not Opera Cremes. These are Opera Crumbles.

My current theory is that I didn't recognize the moment of "just lost gloss" and overbeat the candy. At this stage, it doesn't even press together nicely. It tastes lovely (a butter-free caramel with diced pecans), but forget covering it in chocolate and cutting it into squares. It's a crumble through and through.

What does one do with over a pound of Opera Crumble?

Make Opera Crispies!

Opera Crispies
These are basically glorified Rice Crispie Treats (although I did look at the Porcupine Ball recipe from Celebrating Candy). I used corn flakes, rice crispies, marshmallows, mini chocolate chips, plus my opera crumbles, making more or less a double batch of treats to use up all the crumble.

Opera Crispies
Lessons learned: Fresher marshmallows are better. Mini chocolate chips melt at a lower temperature than old marshmallows. Use a stove burner with a reasonable heat output (I managed to caramelize the marshmallows before I melted them!)

These are a strange but tasty accidental creation. The candy bits give the treats a richness that I don't get when I make regular Rice Crispie Treats. And they've got enough oomph - probably thanks to the corn flakes - that a small piece is usually enough (unlike the regular kind, which is unsatisfying in any size smaller than "brick").

The downside, of course, is that to make Opera Crispies again, I'll have to overbeat a future batch of Opera Cremes.

Or maybe I should look at it from the other angle: At least I know what to do when I attempt Opera Cremes again and need to make three batches before I get the beating thing figured out.

Anyone want to come over for post-holiday treats?

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