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Saturday, October 24, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Too Many Cooks

Candy-Making Day with Grandpa

Howard Mahan makes homemade candies with his grandchildren every Christmastime.

This year was no different.

The grandkids, they keep getting older. The first-born, she’s off at college across the state.

But the recipes, they stay the same.

They were passed down to Mahan, 85, of Spokane, by his mother. She was born in 1888. Her mother probably passed them down to her.

They are, Mahan said, likely more than 150 years old.

The grandkids – there are six of them – favor the chocolates. They are fashioned from a secret family recipe for fondant, which is then dipped in chocolate mixed with paraffin. Mahan won't share that recipe. You have to marry into the family if you want to know how the Mahans make their beloved fondant-filled chocolates.

The not-so-secret recipes are for marshmallows and caramels. Sometimes, the family makes peanut brittle, divinity and toffee, too.

Look for a story about the Mahan Christmas tradition, coming soon in The Spokesman-Review. Meantime, here are a few Mahan family recipes to whet appetites.


From Howard Mahan of Spokane

Butter, for greasing pan

2 packages unflavored gelatin

2 cups sugar

Pinch salt

½ teaspoon vanilla

Toasted, shredded coconut, for rolling

Chopped walnuts, for rolling

Grease 9-by-14-by-2-inch pan with butter.

Dissolve 2 packages unflavored gelatin in 2/3 cup water. Set aside.

Combine 2 cups sugar and 2/3 cup warm water. Boil until sugar is dissolved.  Add a pinch of salt and vanilla.

Combine dissolved gelatin mixture with dissolved sugar mixture. Cool until the mixture starts to get stiff. Put the mixture in a large mixing bowl and beat on high until it forms peaks.

Transfer mixture to buttered pan.  After it’s cool, cut marshmallows into ¾-inch square pieces.

Roll each piece in toasted shredded coconut or chopped walnuts.


From Howard Mahan of Spokane

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup white corn syrup

1/2 cup butter

1 cup whipping cream, divided into (2) 1/2 cups

1 teaspoon vanilla

Combine sugar, corn syrup, butter and 1/2 cup whipping cream in a sauce pan. Let the mixture come to a boil.

Slowly add the other 1/2 cup of cream without stopping the boil.

Boil gently until the mixture forms a hard ball when dropped in cold water. Stir in vanilla and pour into a buttered loaf pan. When mixture is cool, remove from pan and cut into pieces.

Peanut Brittle 

From Howard Mahan of Spokane

3 cups sugar

1 cup white corn syrup

1 cup water

2 cups raw peanuts

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla

¼ cup butter

Combine sugar, corn syrup and water in a large sauce pan. Cook to 230 degrees. Add peanuts. Cook to 290 degrees. Remove from heat. Add baking soda, salt, vanilla and butter. Stir until butter melts, then pour onto cookie sheet. When completely cooled, break the candy into pieces and store in a tightly covered container.

Divinity Fudge

From Howard Mahan of Spokane

3 cups sugar 

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup white corn syrup

2 egg whites, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla

Boil sugar, water and corn syrup until it threads a long thread.

Slowly add the syrup mixture to egg whites and vanilla. Beat until the mixture is stiff.  Drop by teaspoon onto wax paper.


From Howard Mahan of Spokane

2 1/4 cups sugar

1 1/4 cups butter

1/2 cup butter


3/4 cup chopped almond, plus ¼ cup finely ground almonds 

3 Hershey chocolate bars

Cook until color of peanut butter, or 275 degrees.

Meantime, place almonds in an 8-by-12 buttered pan, and pour mixture to cover the ¾ chopped almonds.

Melt chocolate bars and spread melted chocolate over the toffee. Dust toffee with finely ground almonds while chocolate is still melty. When cool, remove from pan and break into pieces.

Adriana Janovich
Adriana Janovich joined The Spokesman-Review in 2013. She is the Food Editor for the Features Department, covering restaurants, bars, food, drinks, recipes and other features. Reach her on Instagram at adrianajanovich.

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