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Entries in confections (20)

Thursday
Jun022011

Sweet and Salty: Cashew Bacon Brittle Recipe by Seattle Pastry Girl

Photo: Seattle Pastry GirlCakeSpy's got a sweet crush on Seattle Pastry Girl.

Now, it's true that her sweet blog is full of sweet and buttery recipes, and we seem to be sympatico in many of our cookbook and baking loves.

But the biggest reason at the moment for my crush is your delicious, sweet-and-salty-and-so-decadently-indulgent Bacon Brittle.

After picking up a sack of this sweet n' salty stuff at the Bakesale for the South at CakeSpy Shop, it was basically love at first bite. More substantial than typical nut brittles, the caramelly sweetness was gorgeously paired by the salty bacon, which also kept the treat from being achingly sweet (a problem with so many brittles!).

Now, Seattle Pastry Girl doesn't sell this sweet treat around town in general, but its sweet and salty deliciousness can be attained at home--I found the recipe on her website.

That's right: make your own Cashew Bacon Brittle at home. Here's the recipe.

Wednesday
Jun012011

Where I Want To Live: Taffy Town, Salt Lake City, Utah

Taffy Town, Population: YOU.

Or at least it could be. Because friends, this place actually exists. It is a candy factory, located in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Now, this company is magical in more ways than one. First of all, it opened my eyes to the fact that Saltwater Taffy, which I knew from growing up by the Jersey Shore, exists outside of the tri-state area. True, many accounts point to it being invented there (NJ pride!), but there are pockets of Taffy Territory elsewhere in the US: notably by the Oregon Coast, and also--news to me--in Salt Lake City.

I learned of this company in a roundabout way--while visiting a Bavarian Village in Central Washington. It's true. While visiting a Das Sweet Shoppe, a candy shop in Leavenworth, WA, I was impressed with the vast array of taffies in flavors from Buttered Popcorn to caramel to Cinnamon Bun (!) to Apple Pie to Huckleberry, and asked "are these made on premises?". 

No, the kind employee informed me, almost apologetically, the candies came from a company in Salt Lake City. 

Say what?

It's true, she said: these taffies were made by a company called Taffy Town, which had the best taffy she'd ever tasted--worth shipping, undoubtedly--made using salt from THE Salt Lake.

Well, that was interesting enough to get me to buy a half pound of the sweet stuff (one of which had a heart--no, really! I checked the site, and they don't usually), and to (with mouth full of taffy, which was, as hoped, salty-sweet-smooth and delicious) check out their website.

It's true, this company is like...Taffy City. Or at least Taffy Town, which makes their company name apropos. Apparently, after many years in the candy biz, they decided Taffy was their...ah, sweet spot:

For over 79 years we were known as Glade Candy Company offering individuals the finest in Gourmet Taffy.  In 1995, our name was changed to "Taffy Town"  to reflect our total dedication to taffy excellence.  We then expanded to serve a World Wide market.  Using a whipped process that produces a soft texture taffy that simply melts in your mouth, we then add the finest in domestic and imported flavors to obtain perfection in confection.

In case you didn't catch it, my favorite bit: "total dedication to taffy excellence."

While they make it VERY CLEAR IN ALL CAPS THAT THEY DO NOT GIVE TOURS OF THEIR PRODUCTION FACILITY, you can get the following from a visit:

Come in today and see over 60 different flavors of our rich tasting taffy to delight every palate.  In addition to our taffy, we offer you our NEW fresh creamy smooth fudge, and other gourmet candy creations.  We have all sorts of GIFT IDEAS:  including a Taffy Town Gift Certificate!  Also, we have a video playing on our big screen showing how we make the taffy.

Of course, if this alone doesn't seem worth a visit to Utah, here's a link to their retailers. Check out the Taffy Town website here.

Monday
May232011

Do the Mashed Potato: Chocolate Covered Potato Kisses Recipe for Serious Eats

Desperate times called for desperate measures, and in the 1930s, candy was often made using an unlikely ingredient: mashed potatoes. No, really.

Potato fondant, rolled candies filled with peanut butter, and Potato Fudge were among the potato-rich candies referred to as "depression candy."

Of course, even in less depressed modern-day kitchens, these recipes are worth revisiting: turns out, potato is a surprisingly versatile candy filling, working very well with a variety of flavors and textures and making for a texture that is surprisingly creamy. This recipe for Potato Kisses is one of my personal favorites, rich with sweetened coconut. And of course, like so many things, it tastes even better with a rich coating of dark chocolate.

For the full entry, more cute pictures, and the recipe, visit Serious Eats!

Wednesday
May182011

Sealed with a Kiss: Potato Kisses Recipe

You may not know this, but during the Great Depression, when many ingredients were scarce, an unexpected ingredient had a bit of a heyday in the world of confectionery: the Potato! 

And I don't mean lumpy but delicious baked goods or candy bars named after their resemblance to the potato. I mean treats made with actual potatoes--usually mashed, and added (I imagine) as a sort of flour substitute / body-builder, and as an absorber of other flavors around it.

While the potato's period of vogue as a component of confectionery seems to have faded, it was fun to make this recipe for Potato Kisses; this is the traditional recipe, but for next week's Serious Eats post, I am going to do a modern-day (and in my opinion, more delicious!) version.

I found this recipe in Who Wants Candy? by Jane Sharrock, where she says "once quite popular as an after-dinner treat with our grandparents and great-grandparents, potato candies are now ssomewhat of a novelty, with only a handful of lucky people knowing how delicious they can be." The book also includes recipes for Wacky Potato Fudge and Potato fondant.

Potato Kisses

  • 1/2 cup unseasoned hot mashed potatoes
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 3 1/2 ounces sweetened flaked coconut

Procedure

  1. Cover a countertop area or large baking sheet with waxed or parchment paper.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the mashed potatoes and butter, mixing well. Gradually add the sugar, blending until smooth. Stir in the almond extract and coconut; drop by spoonfuls on to the paper. Store in an airtight container.
Thursday
May122011

Sweet Honey: Homemade Honeycomb Recipe from Cake Gumshoe Victoria

CakeSpy Note: This is a totally sweet guest post from Singapore-based Cake Gumshoe Victoria, who blogs here.

Honeycomb; noun: A wax structure made by bees featuring hexagonal cells where they store eggs and honey.
Sounds a little... gross.

Honeycomb; delicious: An amalgamation of honey, sugar and glucose lifted to bubbly heights with the addition of baking soda. Promises to melt into almost nothing when you crunch into it. Much better and made even better when coated in dark chocolate. It’s like a whole fleet of honeycomb pieces entering a diving competition.
 
My first encounter with the confection was when my sister introduced me to Violent Crumble; similar to Crunchie. It was strange, like cotton candy, it looked so large yet dwindled into sugar sweet nothing in your mouth with only an aftertaste of honey lingering. I’m not even sure it was real honey now that I think of it. Their ‘pores’ were uniform, definitely not hexagonal and much smaller than the ones found in homemade honeycomb. I wonder how they did it.
 
So today I decided I’d try my hand at making my own. It’s simple enough, starring only a few main characters; sugar, honey, glucose and baking soda. It starts with a big pot, a minor effort of stirring and a huge uproar of sugar-ness rising once the baking soda comes into contact with the hot caramel-like liquid. It’s pretty fun to watch, like a school volcano project, only this time, completely edible.
 
They’re great covered in dark chocolate, or if you’re feeling quite hardworking, bake a batch of cupcakes and use these babies as their crowning glory.

Honeycomb
(from Home Cooking by Rachel Allen)
  • 1 tsp sunflower oil
  • 325g caster sugar
  • 50g honey
  • 125g glucose
  • 1 tbsp baking soda
  1. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper and grease lightly with the oil.
  2. Place the sugar, honey and glucose in a large pot. Add 4 tablespoons of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves and stay away once it does; just let it boil in peace. Simmer, without stirring, for 5-10 minutes or until it reaches 149°C (300°F).
  3. Immediately remove from heat and quickly whisk in the baking soda. The mixture will grow very quickly. Pour into the prepared baking tray, swirling to spread the mixture evenly. Leave to cool completely before breaking into chunks and shards. Store in an airtight container.
For chocolate coated honeycomb chunks, melt 150g of chocolate in the microwave and then after it’s cooled down, spread it evenly with a spatula over the honeycomb pieces or just let them plunge into chocolate heaven. Leave to set completely on baking paper.
 
For more great recipes, visit Victoria's blog!
Sunday
Apr172011

Sweet Love: Sweet Art in Bellingham, WA

It's official: I am in love with Sweet Art in Bellingham, WA.

Why? Let me count the ways.

Let me start by sharing with you their self-description, as written by co-owner Jerry:

A small mom-pop type retail candy store and art gallery where my wife is the artist and I'm the candyman. She paints oils of flowers & landscapes and I dip chocolates and make candy.

That's right: an artist wife and confectioner husband who have teamed up to open the sweetest little spot--one that makes you feel as if you've entered Alice in Wonderland's rabbit hole when you walk in.

Curios and art line the shelves (there's even a little diorama to peek in from the outside), and in the candy cases, row after row of confections:

Fudge, English toffee, Czech Toffee(!?), chocolate dipped strawberries, turtles and so, so much more.

...yes indeed, this is a special place to discover. But even better? The chocolates are delicious. It was after much debate that I finally settled on the fat little mint truffle, known as the "Bombay Mint Truffle", featured at the top of the post. 

If I've ever tasted chocolate-coated bliss, this was it. Rich, buttery, minty ganache that coats the mouth in the most delightful, flavorful way, this is one of those "I think I will close my eyes for a moment now" types of treats. In fact, I solemnly vow to make this a destination for every Bellingham trip, from now until eternity.

Sweet Art, 1335 Railroad, BellinghamWA.

Monday
Feb212011

Cake Byte: Introducing Madyson's Marshmallows

Oh, great. Another talented kid has come along to remind me of how little I was accomplishing at age 5.

At said tender young age, your dear spy was showing a great talent for eating macaroni and cheese, watching Danger Mouse on Nickelodeon, and playing with her favorite My Little Pony (her name, not that you asked, was Molly Ringwald). 

Impressive, I know, but not much compared to Madyson Wetzel, the wunderkind entrepreneur behind Madyson's Marshmallows. This 5-year old confectioner's tale goes thusly:

Madyson's Gourmet Marshmallows started with a young girl who asked her Daddy how to make a homemade marshmallow. They played around with different recipes and came up with a unique recipe that made their mouth water! They started blending and mixing this delectable treat together in their small kitchen. The first batch was so fantastic that they made another the very next day. They started sending their homemade marshmallows to friends and family and soon, word of mouth spread like wildfire and everyone they knew was calling to get these tasty homemade marshmallows.

Now, dad has a bit of a flair for cooking. In fact, he really should have gone (and he still should go!) to culinary school. Not too long after the first few batches of gourmet marshmallows, dad and Madyson were taking it up a notch and experimenting with chocolate dip, caramel drizzle, graham cracker bottoms, and peppermint flavoring in the marshmallows. If they could dream it, they would try it. Now, we're dreaming up new flavors every day! Our family is glad to be able to share these delectable chocolate dipped marshmallows with you. Our dipped marshmallows are perfect for so many occasions!

 

Whatever. Her parents help. (this makes me feel better).

Of course, proof is in the pudding, so how do these 'mallows taste? I haven't had the pleasure of sampling them myself (yet), but doesn't that story make you so, so curious? Especially since the online store has not only basic marshmallows, but all manner of marshmallowey goodness, including marshmallow candy bars, caramels, and espresso marshmallows? Oh yes.

Madyson's Gourmet Marshmallows are sold fresh from the Seattle area and are available to ship within the United States. They ship on Mondays so marshmallows will usually arrive fresh by end of week. You can order here, and follow them on Twitter here.

Sunday
Dec192010

Gluten Freedom: A Totally Sweet Gluten-Free Cake Pop Adventure

Here's a recipe for what recently proved to be a wholly awesome afternoon:

  1. First, start by obtaining a copy of Bakerella's most excellent book Cake Pops: Tips, Tricks, and Recipes for More Than 40 Irresistible Mini Treats. Be inspired by the cuteness.
  2. Add Shauna of Gluten-Free Girl, who invited me (that's CakeSpy) over to make a batch of these babies, gluten-free. "The cake I can do," she explains, "but I need some help on the cute part."
  3. Cue CakeSpy, who you know is simply made of cute.
  4. Add in a dash of surprise awesome by way of Megan (aka Not Martha), who also found herself free on the same day so joined in on the fun!
  5. Pair all this with an adorable toddler (Lucy, Shauna's daughter) and you've got yourself a batch of total sweetness.

My hands, and Lucy's. Photo by Gluten-Free Girl.Well. All of the pieces were in place, but how do you turn these prime ingredients into sweet success?

First, start with the perfect cake. As previously mentioned, Shauna prepared a gluten-free cake (which was also dairy and egg-free!). But this cake should not merely be praised because it's appropriate for people with a variety of different allergies--it should be praised because it is delicious. And to my delight, it was from a book I had as a child, Alpha-Bakery Children's Cookbook (I remember mailing in cereal box tabs to get our copy in the mail!). As Shauna said,

When I showed my copy to Jessie, before we began baking, she blushed and almost jumped. "I had that book when I was a kid!" She told me she had made everything out of the book, more than once. (Even the Quick Cheeseburger Pie, which I am dying to make for the 1/3 cup of pickle juice in the ingredients list.) And the "X-Tra Special Celebration Cake"? She made it all the time. "This afternoon just got three times better," she told me. 

Next, add a touch of improvisation. Having heard that some candy melts were not safe for gluten-free eaters (and so few of them are labeled with ingredients in craft supply stores!), I was nervous about making someone sick...so I picked up some marzipan (reading the ingredient list carefully) instead, and we also employed some chocolate which Shauna had on hand. 

Don't forget to add variety. While waiting for the cake balls to chill, we also maybe snacked on a lemon bar or macaroon or three from Shauna's kitchen. Le yum.

Learn a little. While decorating, preparing, and baking, I learned a little bit about gluten-free baking. I learned a bit about flour(s). I learned a bit about the whirlwind of excitement that comes with having your book, Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef, cited as one of the best of the year in the New York Times (from Shauna). I got excited all over again about mini gingerbread houses (from Megan). 

Get excited. We all got excited during this baking adventure. Several times each, I think. Perhaps most charmingly, Lucy got excited about my name being Jessie--just like a character in Toy Story. We all got excited about food, baking, and our various geek-out subjects.

Have Fun. The marzipan pops were the most fun to decorate, and I was employed to make a variety of different ones, ranging from a very...special-looking reindeer

to a homemade version of Hermie the elf

to my personal fave, the zombie santa cake pop.

...which was later devoured by Mr. CakeSpy.

But don't get too complicated. We also had some which were simply dipped in chocolate, and they were pretty fantastic.

Now, these cake pops were totally sweet. They tasted good. But sweeter than any of them? The conversation, camaraderie, and inspiration provided by the great company. 2 Sweet 2 B 4 Gotten, for sure!

Find the recipe and more on Shauna's site, Gluten-Free Girl!

Friday
Dec172010

Such a Flake: Cornflake Wreath Cookies Recipe

This cornflake wreath magically has a star shape in the center!Cornflake wreaths are like the Rice Krispie Treat's Christmas-y cousin, made in very much the same method, but decorated in a far more festive fashion.

They're a classic that many of you probably grew up with, so it's probably not a new recipe for you, but sometimes it's sweet to pay homage to the old favorites, no?

Here's how I make them.

Cornflake Wreaths

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 4 cups miniature marshmallows
  • 1 teaspoon green food coloring
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (can use all vanilla or all almond extract, if preferred)
  • 4 cups Corn Flakes

Procedure

  1. On your stovetop in a saucepan, melt the butter over low-medium heat. Add the marshmallows and mix frequently until they get melty and cohesive.
  2. Add and mix quickly the coloring, extracts, then Corn flakes.
  3. Drop by spoonfuls in to little stacks on greased wax paper; using your fingers, work holes into the center of each stack (I find it easiest to do this as you spoon them). Garnish with red candies if desired.
  4. Let cool, and serve. This recipe makes 15-20, depending on size.
Monday
Nov152010

Life's a Gaz: Delicious Nougat from Iran as Tasted by Cake Gumshoe Nicholas

CakeSpy Note: So, I have a totally sweet customer named Nicholas. He's basically the ideal customer: he comes in and buys stuff, and then tells me all about the delicious sweets he eats when he travels the world. Just looking at his pictures is bound to evoke some seriously sweet wanderlust. Here's where he's been recently:

I've got another exotic treat for you, this time from Iran! No, I haven't been there but living in Sweden means meeting new people from all over and recently a friend of mine gave me a box of "Kermani Gaz" as a house warming gift from his home town, Isfahan in the center of the country. Food knows no borders, so I thought I'd share this with you!

The treat usually goes along with saffron tea and is a nibble, much like tea cookies are. From what I've been told, while it's popular all over Iran it's a specialty of Isfahan and this particular brand has been around since 1902. The treat itself is a type of nougat with pistachio, and the nougat is flavored which what I believe is rose water. It's not sweet like brownies, but the rather a delicate floral flavor mixed with a natural sweetness and a slight crunch of the pistachio. A very refined companion for tea!

Thanks Nicholas for making us all jealous! 

Of course, if you're like me, you like knowing the backstory, so here's a bit more lore on Gaz, as discovered on Wikipedia:

Gaz is the traditional name of Persian nougat originating from the city of Esfahan, located in the central plateau of Iran.

The name gaz is associated with gaz-angebin which translates to "sap of angebin"; a desert plant member of the Tamarisk family and native to the Zagros mountain range located to the west of the city.

The sweet, milky sap of the angebin plant is associated with manna, a food mentioned in the religious texts of the Abrahamic religions. This sap is collected annually and is combined with other ingredients including pistachio or almond kernels, rosewater and egg white. This combination of ingredients give gaz its distinctive flavour, rendering it unique when compared to European nougats.

Want more? I couldn't find a place to buy Gaz online; however, this recipe for Persian Nougat looks like it might fit the bill if you're feeling an intense craving.

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