Forget the vampires and ghouls. The scariest thing about Halloween is spending a ridiculous amount of money on prewrapped candy miniatures and getting stuck with them. Of course, the degree of danger depends on personal taste and inclination for candy eating: Though a handful of extra Mounds bars at the end of the night might seem easily manageable, a shissel of Peanut Chews may not.
There are plenty of ideas online for repurposing Halloween spoils, but we can't in good conscience recommend M&M-covered cheese balls or something called a candy brownie trifle. Instead, we turned to some local sweets makers for advice on the matter.
Please note: None of these solutions reduces the amount of sugar involved, and in many cases they may add to it. If you're looking to rid yourself of temptation altogether, see Halloween Candy Buy Back, Operation Gratitude, or Ronald McDonald House and enjoy your hard-won sense of superiority.
Though Jenn Satinsky of Weckerly's Ice Cream wondered if our question was a prank — "There's no such thing as leftover candy, is there?" she asked. "That's just candy you haven't eaten yet."— she humored us and offered some suggestions: Using M&Ms in place of chocolate chips in cookies and brownies. Baking single chocolate miniatures into bite-size cupcakes, dolloping the batter around them. Chopping up any kind of candy bar and folding it into vanilla or chocolate ice cream or blending it into a shake. Or designing your own ice cream flavors that incorporate candy as a mix-in.
"We once used Goldenberg's Peanut Chews in a beer-flavored ice cream, and it was great. In general, salty candy works really well — anything with peanuts or peanut butter, like Reese's, Mary Janes, Butterfingers. Those will all help cut the sweetness of ice cream and add texture," she said.
Two Halloweens ago, Weckerly's sold a candy-bar ice cream sandwich that used homemade pretzel candy bars in place of the traditional cookies. It worked deliciously, Satinsky said, though it was a bit messy to eat.
If "too sweet" is not a thing in your household, try using candy in a cereal marshmallow bar. Cake Life's Nima Etemadi suggests Cap'n Crunch bars studded with M&Ms, Reese's Pieces, or, the best of both worlds, peanut butter M&Ms. Topped with a layer of semisweet chocolate and a sprinkling of crushed peanut butter cups, malted milk balls, or other candy bar, these confections are truly over the top.
"No matter how many fancy pastries I learn how to make, I always come back to a cereal square," Etermadi said. "You can also use Rice Krispies or Cocoa Pebbles, but the Cap'n Crunch adds a nice counterpoint with the corn flavor. Or if you have Cinnamon Toast Crunch, you could make them with leftover toffee bars and pieces of apple rings — that would be very seasonal and delicious."
A slightly more insulin-aware approach might be to use gummy candies or chocolates in popcorn balls, or in a trail mix that includes mostly nuts or cereal with just a bit of candy.
Not terribly cloying baked goods like scones can be peppered with bits of candy bar for added crunch and surprise bursts of richness. In a similar vein, mini pain au chocolates, made from frozen puff pastry dough wrapped around Hershey's miniatures, can turn the most unassuming candy into an elegant little patisserie.
Errant Jolly Ranchers can be melted down to make "stained glass" for window pane cookies and gingerbread houses, a great boon to the ambitious holiday baker. Likewise, gummies of any shape can be heated to liquid and placed in molds to form bigger, better gummies, like this DIY R2-D2.
In the making new candy from old category, leftover Halloween bark transforms all the odds and ends into a patchwork of textures and colors that could serve as a Thanksgiving host gift — if it lasts that long. This is an ideal application for candy corn and nonpareils, especially with a white chocolate base. Gummies might also be OK, if, say, the intended audience featured many elementary school students. Sandwich cookies, graham crackers, and salty elements like pretzels, potato chips, nuts, Ritz cracker pieces or puffed rice should be included to break up the sugary monolith.
Try as we might, there were no good edible uses for Laffy Taffy, Bit-o-Honey, Airheads, Necco Wafers, Smarties, gumballs, and Tootsie Rolls and all of their new-school variants. Perhaps some candy is meant to be enjoyed as is or not at all.
Candy Crunch Bars
Yields 20 bars
18 ounces Cap'n Crunch cereal (Original or Peanut Butter)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
16 ounces Jet-Puffed Marshmallows
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt
1½ cups Reese's Pieces, M&Ms or other candy-coated chocolate
12 ounces good quality semi-sweet chocolate chips or melting chocolate
1½ cups assorted chocolate bars or peanut butter cups, roughly chopped
Grease a 13 x 9 inch baking pan with 1 to 2 tablespoons of the softened butter. Add the cereal to a bowl and set aside.
Melt the remaining butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Add marshmallows, vanilla, and salt. Cook, stirring constantly, until the marshmallows have melted into the butter.
Immediately pour the marshmallow mixture over the cereal, add the Reese's Pieces and other candy-coated chocolate, and stir with a large wooden spoon until all dry ingredients are evenly coated with melted marshmallow.
Spoon the mixture into the greased pan and, with buttered hands, gently press on it, evenly compacting the mixture into the pan.
Let the mixture cool completely before inverting the slab onto a cutting board. Cut slab into individual bars.
In a small bowl, melt chocolate chips in the microwave at 20-second intervals, stirring each time until chocolate is completely melted. (If chocolate seems too gloopy, stir in 1 teaspoon of vegetable shortening).
Dip the top of each Crunch Bar into the melted chocolate, shaking off the excess before placing it on a parchment- or wax paper-lined baking sheet, chocolate side up.
Before the melted chocolate sets, sprinkle the top of each Crunch Bar generously with chopped up chocolate bar pieces.
Allow melted chocolate to set completely before serving or storing in a sealed container.
— Courtesy of Cake Life Bakery
Candy Bar Scones
Yields 16 scones
2½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
heaping ½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup sugar
2¼ teaspoons baking powder
3/8 cup (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into pats
¾ cup cream (half & half, light, heavy, or whipping)
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1½ to 2 cups chopped candy bars (recommended: Kit-Kat, Hershey's and/or Heath bar)
coarse white sparkling sugar or Demerara sugar, for topping
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) a baking sheet.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder until thoroughly combined. Add the butter, working it in until the mixture is unevenly crumbly.
Whisk together the cream, eggs, and vanilla. Set aside 2 tablespoons, and add the rest to the dry ingredients, along with the chopped candy bars. Mix to form a moist dough.
Transfer the sticky dough to a heavily floured rolling mat or other work surface. Gently pat and round it into an 8″ circle. Brush the dough with the reserved egg/cream mixture, and sprinkle heavily with coarse sugar.
Dip a 2″ round cutter in flour, and use it to cut out a total of 16 scones; you'll have to gather the scraps and reshape the dough once. Space the scones evenly on the prepared pan.
Bake the scones for 20 minutes, until they're golden brown. Remove them from the oven, and serve warm. If not serving immediately or within a couple of hours, store in an airtight container. To reheat, wrap loosely in aluminum foil, and bake in a preheated 350°F oven for about 10 minutes.
— Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Leftover Halloween Candy Bark
1¾ pounds good-quality 60% cacao semisweet chocolate, chopped
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2½ cups chopped candy bar pieces, chocolate candy pieces, broken cookie pieces, crushed pretzels and/or mini marshmallows
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place the chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl and melt it in the microwave in 10-second intervals, stirring often, until smooth. Add the vanilla and stir well. Gently stir in half the various candy, cookie, pretzels, marshmallows, or what have you.
Using a rubber spatula, spread the chocolate mixture evenly into the prepared baking sheet and smooth the surface as best you can. Sprinkle with the remaining candy, cookie, pretzels, marshmallows or what have you. Loosely cover and refrigerate until the chocolate is set, 2 to 4 hours.
Break the chilled bark into pieces. (You can store the bark in an airtight container, stacking the layers of bark between sheets of parchment or wax paper, at room temperature for up to 1 week.)
— Adapted from Leite's Culinaria