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Entries in candy (48)

Wednesday
Sep292010

Maybe I'm A-Maized: A Brief History of Candy Corn

Image originally used for Serious EatsEating seasonal is of interest to everyone these days, and the freshest produce in the world of sweets right now is corn--candy corn, that is.

But in the same way that one might want to meet the producer, why don't we get to know the backstory behind those little sugary cones of delicious sweetness?

Here goes.

First off: Who invented Candy Corn?

According to this article, "Bill Plumlee, the public relations manager of Brach's Candy Co., said George Renninger of the Wunderlee Candy Co. created candy corn in the 1880s."

And, to answer another question you have ("what's up with the colors, dude?"), as I also discovered in the same article,

Creators chose the three colors of candy corn, to reflect the colors of the real thing.

"It's supposed to mimic corn," Plumlee said. "Yellow on top, darker as it goes down and whitish as it nears the end."

Now, I have to squint really hard to see it that way, but maybe the inventor had very poor vision (or maybe he was color blind?).

Interestingly, as I found out on Slashfood,

 The design apparently made it popular with farmers when it first came out, but it was the fact that it had three colors - a really innovative idea - that catapulted it to popularity.

Of course, though Mr. Renninger is credited with coming up with this sweet idea, many actually assign credit to Goelitz (now part of Jelly Belly) as being the ones who really brought candy corn into the public eye:"1898. Goelitz Confectionery Company begins making candy corn or "chicken feed." They continue to make this Halloween favorite longer than any other company." ---Candy: The Sweet History, Beth Kimmerle (discovered via Food Timeline)

And to expand on that, according to the Jelly Belly site,

Our beginnings are traced back to a family named Goelitz. When two young brothers emigrated from Germany to make their mark in America, they set the family on its candymaking course. In 1869, just two years after arriving in America, Gustav Goelitz bought an ice cream and candy store in Belleville, Ill., and his brother, Albert was sent out in a horse drawn wagon to sell their sweets to nearby communities.

Then the second generation of the family jumped on the band wagon of candy innovations by making a new type of candy, then called "buttercream" candies, including Candy Corn, a sweet we've made since about 1900 (and still use the same recipe). These candies carried the family through the Great Depression and two world wars. Today, the great-grandsons of Gustav Goelitz, the fourth generation, are still carrying on the tradition of making candy.

Was it always a Halloween treat?

Interestingly, as I found on Food Timeline, candy corn wasn't always strictly associated with Halloween, but more with fall--the transition to "Halloween Candy" was perhaps a subtle shift: "Candy corn, like many other candies we enjoy at Halloween, was promoted as treats for Halloween by candy companies after WWII." (a time when, by the way, the art of Trick or Treating really began in earnest). As the writeup goes on, "Candy corn might have been especially popular because it was also a seasonal (fall) confection. Popcorn balls and candied apples are other seasonal (fall) treats conventinetly transitioned to Halloween."

How is it made?

As I learned from this interview on NPR,

In the early days, making candy corn was hard work. It was done by hand. The ingredients were cooked in huge kettles. Then, the hot candy was poured into buckets. Men poured the liquid candy corn from the buckets into kernel-shaped trays. The workers had to make three passes to create the white, yellow and orange layers. Production was so labor-intensive the candy corn was made only from March to November.

Of course, now candy corn is made by machine--I could try to explain it, but the Food Network can show you in living color:

But that's not the only thing that has changed. Per Slashfood, the ingredient list has, too:

Originally, candy corn was made of sugar, corn syrup (not HFCS), fondant and marshmallow, among other things, and the hot mixture was poured into cornstarch molds, where it set up...The recipe changed slightly over time and there are probably a few variations in recipes between candy companies, but the use of a mixture of sugar, corn syrup, gelatin and vanilla (as well as honey, in some brands) is the standard.

Of course, if you're brave, you can make candy corn at home too. I did it last year, for Serious Eats.

How do Mellowcreme Pumpkins play into it?

Mellowcreme pumpkins (and the other weird shapes that come in those "Autumn Mix" assortments) were a later addition:

Candy pumpkins first were produced in mid 20th century using a process similar to that of candy corn. Corn syrup, food coloring, honey, and sugar are beat and heated in large kettles to produce an ultra-sweet syrup.

This slurry generically is called "mellowcreme" by confectioners, since the resulting candy has a mellow, creamy texture.

They are said to appeal in a different way than candy corn because their different volume and weight makes for an "interesting texture". And in case you were wondering--yes, I prefer Mellowcreme pumpkins to candy corn.

The final word?

Even if you believe, like Serious Eats, that candy corn is "the fruitcake of halloween candy" and one of the 10 worst Halloween candies to give out, there's no denying its iconic status as a Halloween classic, and whether it's because of its classic look or simply because it's slowly going stale in your goodie bag, it's not going anywhere.

Thursday
May202010

Cake Byte: This Charming Candy Lollipops Now Available at CakeSpy Shop!

Can you say "Birthday Cake Lollipop"? 

Well, I'm sure you are capable of doing so, but wouldn't it be so much nicer to have your mouth full of delicious birthday cake lollipop?

You're in luck: CakeSpy Shop, my new retail gallery and gift shop in Capitol Hill, Seattle, is the newest stockist for This Charming Candy lollipops! 

These locally handmade, small-batch artisan lollipops are in the shop and available in flavors like Vanilla-cardamom, Birthday Cake, and Salted Caramel! I'm selling them singly, and by the package.

Looks like Capitol Hill just got sweeter!

This Charming Candy Lollipops, now available at CakeSpy Shop + Bluebottle Art Gallery, 415 E Pine Street, Seattle WA 98122, open Tue-Sun 12-7 p.m.!

Sunday
May162010

Just Say Nougat: Delicious Nougat from Sugar and Spice, Taiwan

The tooth fairy was pretty awesome. You lose a tooth and you get money. Sweet!

But getting older, I've discovered something even better: the Nougat Fairy. That's what I've found in Kairu, a customer/acquaintance who recently graduated to this (even better, in my opinion) title.

The first time I met her was in my store, when she came in and picked up a bacon-and-cupcake mug (good choice!). She was in a hurry as she was headed home to pack for a trip to Taiwan.

The next time I saw her, she was back from her trip, and toting a big ol' sack of what she calls the best nougat from Taiwan, from Sugar & Spice, a bakery with several locations.

And while I can't say I have extensive experience in tasting Taiwanese nougat, I can say that this stuff is very, very good--amazingly creamy, and punctuated by crunchy, roasted nuts which act as the perfect complement to the sweetness. Addictive, even, as evidenced by said big ol' sack, which is now lamentably empty.

Other offerings at Sugar & Spice can be spotty according to aforementioned Nougat Fairy Kairu and websites like A Hungry Girl's Guide to Taipei; however, this nougat is highly suggested and definitely worth hoarding by the brimming bag in your luggage.

Nougat from Sugar & Spice, Taiwan; online at sugar.com/tw. 

Tuesday
May112010

Spice Up Your Life: The Wasabi Kit-Kat Bar

Now, I can't say it was an all-out taste test like the recent NPR feature on the unusual Kit-Kat flavors of Japan (thanks Julie!), but we did recently get to sample the unusual Wasabi Kit-Kat Bar.

Said bar was a treat from Danny's associate (and Exohxo violinist) Hiromi, who recently returned from a trip to Japan.

She brought two specimens for our examination: one soy sauce flavored, and one Wasabi flavored.

Sadly, I'm just gonna have to say it: the soy sauce was simply. Not. Good. 

But moving on, the wasabi presented an unexpected delight.

The first flavor that hits you is the sweetness of the candy coating, which tastes mostly like white chocolate--but then gives way to a surprising, and happily not overpowering, spiciness. Without having had the benefit of knowing the flavor, I'm not sure that we would have been able to detect exactly what it was--it didn't have that nasal passage searing quality usually associated with wasabi--but it did offer an intriguing dimension to the sweet candy.

This is all to say, if you're headed to Japan, the wasabi Kit-Kat gets a thumbs-up.

Read more about the Kit-Kat taste test on NPR here; learn more about the Kit-Kat variations available in Japan on Wikipedia.

Tuesday
May112010

Sweet and Tart: White Chocolate Cranberry Pistachio Fudge by Rose City Sweets, Portland OR

As a card carrying member of the White Chocolate Lovers Club, I'd like to introduce you to my newest obsession: 

White Chocolate Fudge with Cranberries and Pistachios.

This sweet manna from heaven is produced by the brand new Portland, OR-based confectionery company Rose City Sweets--in fact, they're so new that they just made their public debut last week at Crafty Wonderland, and their online store doesn't even have stock yet (I know, it is pretty mean of me to tell you about them, considering this). But when their store is stocked, you can expect to find small batch fudge, caramels, toffee, and other confections.

But what's so great about this white chocolate-cran-pistachio business?

For one thing, the fudge is unbelievably smooth and creamy--it is not plagued by the gritty candy-sand texture that is a characteristic of inferior fudges--not to mention extremely rich and flavorful. The sweet white chocolate flavor is perfectly accented by the slight savory saltiness of the pistachios, and nicely punctuated with tart bits of cranberry.

Let's just say that the brick of fudge I obtained at aforementioned Crafty Wonderland did not last long, and I predict a very sweet future for Rose City Sweets.

There's nothing in the shop now, but for future reference and shopping, bookmark the Rose City Sweets Etsy page.

Monday
Apr192010

Lucky Charms: Lollipops by This Charming Candy

Photos c/o This Charming CandyLollipops are an inherently happy food. They're the reward at the end of childhood doctor visits or trips to the bank--a small and innocent nugget of sweetness on a stick. 

But even happier is when they actually taste good. So it was very delightful to receive a tip about This Charming Candy by Melanie of Starry Nights Catering (featured on CakeSpy a while back), who has this to say about them: "They do amazing handmade lollipops featuring crazy-good flavor combinations like coconut-caramel and coffee-hazelnut. They have flavors to appeal to both kids and adults, and man do I love them!"

Certainly above and beyond the average lollipop, these handcrafted hard candies are made in small batches in the Seattle area. Not only are they visually stunning, almost like little confectionery stained glass objets d'art, but they come in a dazzling array of creative flavors such as Vanilla cardamom, Salted caramel, Pistachio-marshmallow, Nutmeg creme, and Honey Jasmine.

Special flavor collections--paired by seasonal flavors or themes, like the "Twilight"-inspired collection of "bloodsuckers" (above) are also available, as are Lollipop of the month subscriptions.

And--just saying--they have Birthday Cake flavored lollipops. Birthday! Cake! Flavored! Lollipops!

But really, I've said enough. At this point, I'm surprised you're still even reading this--don't be a sucker, go order some!

Find out more about This Charming Candy on their website; buy enough lollipops to make your mouth happy for a long time at their online store!

Wednesday
Feb102010

Sweet Hearts: Homemade Conversation Hearts for Serious Eats

Sure, conversation hearts are a sweet gesture. But are you sending the wrong message?

Do you really want, for instance, to say "text me" to someone from whom you'd rather not receive digital missives, or to downplay your serious crush by leaving it at "U R Special"?

Avoid etiquette blunders and tell them how you really feel by making your own personalized homemade conversation hearts. They're surprisingly easy to make, just as sweet as the store bought kind, and you have the freedom to set the tone you want--whether it's sweet, snarky, or confessional.

Find the full writeup and tutorial over at Serious Eats! Oh, and happy freaking Valentine's Day!

Monday
Dec142009

Stalking Sweetness: The Tale of the Modjeska


While leafing through the most recent Williams-Sonoma catalogue, my attention was captured by this description of their caramel marshmallows (pictured above): "dubbed 'modjeskas,' these soft caramel confections were named in honor of a beautiful Polish actress by a fervent admirer".

Sounded like a nice way of saying "serious candy stalker" to me--that is to say, I had to find out more. A bit more lore was available on the Bauer's Candy website:

It's not a word you'll find in Webster's dictionary; it's the name of a Polish actress. Madame Helena Modjeska, famed queen of the European stage, appeared at the McCauley Theater in Louisville, KY. Her appearance in 1883 was the U.S. debut of the play "A Doll's House" written by Henrick Ibsen. Her theatrical performance was enthralling to a patron attending this debut, Mr. Anton Busath, owner of Busath Candies, who was honored by an introduction to the beautiful actress. He asked and was granted permission to name his confection after her. After Busath Candies closed in 1947, we began calling our "Caramel Biscuit" the "Modjeska" in honor of the creator, Anton Busath.


Not only did Modjeska grant permission for her name to be used, says this site, but "in fact, she even agreed to autograph a photo, which Anton then used to promote the candy—an early example of a celebrity endorsement. The rest is confectionary history."

Alas, no information was available on whether or not there was a Mrs. Anton Busath, and if so, how she felt about the candy's name.

What else can be said? Stalking has never been so sweet.

To purchase modjeskas, visit williams-sonoma.com or bauerscandy.com.

Wednesday
Nov182009

Pastry Road Trip: Sweet Treats at Laura Little's Candies, Prairie Village, Kansas

Laura Little's, Prairie Village KS
It's hard to avoid a "you're not in Kansas anymore" pun here--but according to Cake Gumshoe MJ, Laura Little's, a chocolate and confection shop in Prairie Village, Kansas, will have you wishing you were in the state immortalized by The Wizard of Oz.

The shop, which is homey and sweet, offers a great variety of confections, including chocolates, fudge, brittles, pretzels, and toffees. But it's the fudge, says MJ, that is completely unbelievable. Just one look at their site reveals a tantalizing array of fudge, sold in thick slabs in flavors varying from vanilla and chocolate to more elaborate flavors like chocolate black walnut, chocolate cherry amaretto or penuche. And best of all, even if you're not in Kansas, you can order online and have it shipped anywhere.

Though the state's motto may be "to the stars through difficulties", obtaining and enjoying this fudge seems easy as pie (of course, the store has even more goodies, so if you're in Prairie Village, you know where to go!).

Laura Little's Candies, 2100 W. 75th St., Prairie Village, KS; online at lauralittlecandy.com.

Wednesday
Nov182009

Good to Gobble: Cookie Turkeys for Serious Eats

Cookie Turkeys for Serious Eats
Easy as pie? No, these cookie turkeys are even easier! I actually came across this recipe when I was assigned to illustrate it for a Taste of Home coloring book, and was so smitten that I had to test it out for my weekly entry on Serious Eats. They're not only simple but pretty delicious (in an admittedly guilty-pleasure sort of way) too!
Cookie Turkeys for Serious Eats
Check out the recipe here.

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