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Chocolate truffles, nut rolls: they can be made at home

What in the world has happened to candy? Such a simple, childlike joy of life has turned elitist -- not only a box of molded chocolates, but the candy bars and specialties that are turned out by fashionable candymakers.

Expensive candy is delicious, with hard shapes that hold their corners and faithfully reproduce a heart, tennis racket, or scallop shell every single time.

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American chocolates of yore were hand-dipped and were made by manufacturers whose names sounded like jolly ladies who would be at home in any kitchen. An amorphous opera cream is just what you would expect from a Fanny Farmer, and an intricately filigreed medallion is just what you would expect from a Godiva.

Many of us who have built our life around food began by making candy. After the dinner dishes were washed, the kitchen would be turned over to me. Not one adult stayed in view, although my head just cleared the pan of boiling syrup on the stove.

Taffy is tricky -- and the source of my bitterest disappointment, when the pieces turned to sugar the next day. This failure may be the reason that I never make a butter cream with a sugar syrup beaten into eggs. Instead, I stick to a custard base.

Chocolate fudge, liberally laced with peanut butter, is a favorite in my family. The date-nut roll is new for us, a recipe found in an old Southern cookbook and given a jolt with lemon rind. The orange-nut squares are the old-time dream bars cut into tiny pieces.

And for those who will always choose molded chocolates . . . molds have appeared on the market in clear, durable plastic. Keep your eyes open. Then you just have to find the right chocolate, learn how to melt it, collect the tricks for getting the centers in the center . . . oh, it is an art. How about some truffles? Chocolate Truffles 1 6-ounce package semi-sweet chocolate bits 2 tablespoons butter 1 cup sifted confectioner's sugar 2 tablespoons hot water 2 egg yolks or 1 egg 2 tablespoons heavy cream or sour cream Cocoa

Melt chocolate in top of double boiler over hot water, or in bowl that fits snugly in small saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in butter. Add sugar, hot water, egg yolks, and cream. Beat with a whisk until the ingredients are thoroughly combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Sprinkle cocoa on sheet of wax paper. You will be able to return any unused cocoa to the original container. With a small spoon, scrape up enough truffle mixture to make a 1-inch ball, roll in the palms of the hands, and drop onto the cocoa, rolling it around to cover lightly. Repeat until all the chocolate has been used. Refrigerate or freeze until needed. Serve at room temperature. Makes about 13 ounces of candy. Date-Nut Roll 2 cups sugar 1 cup milk 10 ounces pitted dates, cut in small pieces Grated rind of 1 lemon 1 1/2 cups finely chopped nuts

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In small saucepan, combine sugar and milk and cook over moderately high heat until mixture comes to 236 degrees on a candy thermometer or makes a soft ball when a little is dropped into a cup of cold water. Add dates and lemon rind and stir off the heat until dates have almost all melted into the syrup.

Dampen a tea towel and make 2 cylinders of date mixture one at a time by dropping spoonfuls in a consecutive line and then rolling it with the help of the towel until it is firm and 1 1/2 inches thick. Spread the chopped nuts on a piece of wax paper and roll both date rolls in nuts, pressing to make them adhere. Cool for 3 hours. Cut in 1/2-inch slices only when ready to serve. Store candy carefully wrapped in a cool place. Each roll will make 40 pieces. Orange-Nut Squares 1/2 cup butter 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed 1 cup unsifted all-purpose flour 2 tablespoons flour 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon baking powder 2 eggs 1 cup brown sugar, firmly packed 1 teaspoon vanilla Grated rind of 1 orange 1 1/2 cups shredded coconut 1 cup chopped walnuts 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate bits

Combine flour and brown sugar in medium size bowl and cut in stick of butter with a pastry blender until mixture is the texture of coarse meal. Sprinkle into a 9 by 9-inch square pan and press firmly to an even thickness. Bake in preheated 350 degrees F. oven for 12 minutes, or until golden. Cool to room temperature.

Combine 2 tablespoons of flour with salt and baking powder in a strainer and sift onto a piece of wax paper, then sift again. Beat eggs until very light and add brown sugar, vanilla, and grated orange rind. Stir in flour mixture and fold in coconut and walnuts. Spread on cooled pastry and bake in a 350 degree F. oven for 25 minutes.

In the meantime, heat chocolate bits in small cup set in hot water. Drizzle over cookie-candy mixture while still warm and immediately cut into small squares. Do not remove squares from the pan until cool. Makes 49 pieces. Peanut Butter Chocolate Fudge

Just follow any fudge recipe that begins with 2 cups of sugar and 1 cup of milk and 2 ounces of baking chocolate. When it has reached 236 degrees or makes a soft ball in cold water, remove from heat and add 1/2 cup peanut butter, creamy or chunky. Beat immediately for a grainy fudge, or let mixture cool and beat until creamy.

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