If you're an ardent trick or treater, the idea of leftover Halloween candy might be an unknown concept to you. But hey, sometimes we go overboard and come November 1st or 2nd, the very thought of unwrapping another fun-size Snickers bar is enough to make us queasy.
Throwing out free candy is a treasonous act, and giving it away or hiding it just isn't the Halloween spirit. So what do you do with leftovers? With savory ingredients, leftovers can become soup or quiche in a snap. But for candy, I look to ice cream, dessert's very own recycling program.
The trick, if there is one, is knowing which candies take well to this treatment, and knowing how to pair candy and ice cream flavors so your scoop is the most it can be.
Candy to Avoid
Hard candies like lollipops and Jolly Ranchers turn to jawbreakers when frozen. You can crush them finely and use the bits in your ice cream, but many crush into glassy shards, not brittle candy crumbs. Gummy candies like Dots, Tootsie Rolls, Gummy Worms, and Laffy Taffy become unpleasantly stiff and chewy. They get in the way of a clean scoop and are more work than reward. Milk duds, and raisins in general (ones not soaked in booze anyway), can be troublesome; candy corn is best left unmolested by actual dairy. Sour candies also tend to be gummy ones, but if you feel charged to use them up, try them as a topping for a tart fruit sorbet. Cranberry would be nice.
But most other Halloween staples: chocolate, chewy caramel things, crispy bars, and softer treats are all fair game. Here's how to pick an ice cream to make the most of them.
The Vanilla Family: Crispy, Crunchy, and Bold
While Vanilla ice cream can take pretty much any candy you throw its way, I think it fares best with those that have some bite. That means snappy Heath bars, flaky Butterfingers, crisp Kit Kats, and the like. Think candy that requires a little molar action to punctuate all that creamy vanilla. These candies also tend to be on the salty side, which play nicely with vanilla's milder vibe.
The Chocolate Family: Chocolate Candy with Benefits
Unless you're neighbors with this guy, your Halloween chocolate haul won't have too much high-quality chocolate. And simple milk chocolate doesn't do that much for chocolate ice cream. Instead, use chocolate-based or -coated candies that have some benefits beyond their mere chocolatiness. Longtime readers may remember this malted milk chocolate ice cream with malted milk balls; also consider Crunchy bars, or if you swing towards coconut, Almond Joy and Mounds.
The Caramel Family: M & M's
Caramel ice cream, especially salted caramel, has so much going on in the salty-sweet-burnt-creamy department that it doesn't really need that much in the way of mix-ins. But it's where I'd put M & M's for some crisp, not-too-sweet balance.
The Coffee Family: Chocolate All the Way
Mix crummy chocolate into good coffee ice cream and you have the makings of a tasty iced mocha. Throw your chopped Hershey Bars, Three Musketeers, and M &M's in with reckless abandon. The first recipe below is a spin on cookies and cream with a coffee-flavored base. Skip the Oreos—or don't—and you have a fine, fine coffee ice cream.
The Peanut Butter Family: Salty, Nutty, Chocolate, and Caramel
Peanut butter ice cream is my favorite candy base. Salt, more peanut (or other nuts), caramel, and plain chocolate all rock in PB ice cream form. Go for Snickers, peanut butter cups, Almond Joy or Mounds, Milky Way, and any other candy with a lot of stuff going on. Both recipes below are made with a salted vanilla-peanut butter base that tastes a whole lot like candy nougat; it's great stuff.