Hard Candy & Lollipops
Wednesday, January 3, 2007
This was my traditional birthday cake throughout my teen years: The Peppermint Stick Layer Cake. My mother came up with it as a way to use up the remaining candy canes from Christmas but it’s a great cake to make any time of year. The whipped cream is lighter tasting and less sweet than a buttercream or sugar frosting, but you’re free to create your own adaptation with your favorite frosting recipe. When the cake is well chilled it’s almost like an ice cream cake.
I like mine as a four layer cake because it means that the ratio of whipped cream to cake is about equal.
Allow your cake layers to cool completely before assembly.
Chilling is essential to great whipped cream. I make mine using a two bowl method.
Take a large pasta pot and fill the bottom with ice and then a bit of water. Fit a mixing bowl over it (I have a lipped bowl that fits inside my pasta pot well). Make sure the ice water mixture comes up to at least 1/3 of the side of the mixing bowl.
Pour in your pint of whipping cream. Add a dash of salt.
Whip using an electric mixer or whisk well.
At about the halfway mark (when the whipped cream starts to hold its shape) start adding your crushed peppermint candy.
Continue to whip and taste as needed.
I prefer my whipped cream a little less sweet but your mileage may vary depending on how chunky your candy is and how sweet you want it. Be prepared to add between 1/4 to 1/2 cup of crushed candy. If you want it really minty, add some peppermint extract. If you want it really pink, add some red food coloring.
Once your cake layers have cooled, make sure that they are flat (cut off any mounding).
Either cut carefully or use dental floss to split each of the layers into two. (I’ve found cutting them easier if the cake is frozen.)
Place first layer on cake plate. Mound some whipped cream on layer and spread evenly.
Place next layer on top of that, repeat with as many layers as you have.
Frost top. Depending on how generous you’ve been with your whipped cream, you can also ice the sides, I kind of like being able to see all the layers without it being cut.
Dust the top with some remaining chunks of candy canes or whole starlight mints. Don’t add them until you’re ready to serve, they get a bit runny after about an hour in the whipped cream.
Chill cake if you’re not serving immediately. You can even freeze it and serve it that way.
● Use Cinnamon Candies instead of Peppermint
Sunday, December 31, 2006
Every once in a while I get a hankering for peanut brittle. But aside from buying a tin of it or making it myself, it’s not that easy to find.
Enter the Munch bar. Billed on the label as “Only 6 Simple Ingredients” it’s just a buttery hard candy studded with peanuts. In fact, there’s more peanuts in here than most brittle I’ve had. The ingredients are: peanuts, sugar, butter, corn syrup, salt and soy lecithin.
The bars aren’t that easy to find, which is a shame, because they’re a nice alternative to a chocolate bar. Kind of like a Payday. Mars actually markets it using its wholesomeness as a selling point. I like it because it’s sturdy. You can expose it to higher temperatures without it losing its shape and taste.
The candy part of the bar is sweet and crunchy, not quite toffee and more solid than the usually slightly foamy peanut brittle candy. It’s buttery and has a light salty hit. The peanut flavor is, of course, the attraction. I love peanuts. There are 6 grams of protein in this bar, and at less than 1.5 ounces, that’s a lot of protein which makes it quite filling and satisfying.
They’re an excellent summer bar and worth the work at finding them. There’s another version of this made by Planters, I’ll try to have a review of that soon.
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
We had a Secret Santa exchange at the office, and of course my Secret Santa knew my fondness for candy (who doesn’t?) and bestowed upon me a box of retro items. Inside was a string of Zotz in Apple.
I don’t know much about Zotz. They’re made in Italy and are composed of a fizzy sour powder center inside a hard candy shell. They currently come in three flavors: Cherry, Watermelon & Apple. They come in a string of four packages (though as a child I’m quite sure the strings were longer, like you could get a yard of lollipops). I also recall they came in Lemon, but I can’t find much chatter online about them.
They’re awful cute little candies. They’re pretty big as well. I have two methods for eating them. The first is to suck on them really hard. There’s a little hole or seam in one end and if you suck hard enough you can get the fizzy powder to come out. The other method is to skip that patience thing and just crunch into it, which is usually what I do.
There is a serious amount of fizzy powder inside, a lot more than I remember. The fizz is pleasant and froths up into a rather creamy fluff inside the mouth. They’re not quite as fun as I remember, the fizz was certainly plentiful, but the flavor (perhaps because it was apple) wasn’t really that compelling.
The grown up version of these are the Napoleon Lemon Sours (from Belgium), which I’ve been eating for years and have always cleaved open the candy hoping to find a huge reservoir of the fizziness (and have always been disappointed and then put another one in my mouth). There are also Japanese versions of Zotz that I’ve seen at the stores but haven’t tried yet, maybe that’s something to put on my New Year’s list.
What flavors do you remember Zotz coming in?
Monday, December 18, 2006
My sister sent me a wonderful Christmas gift, which I opened early. It was an assortment of Clear Candy from Regennas in Pennsylvania. They were adorable little red, green and yellow hard candies in different toy shapes.
My assortment did not disappoint. I was a little sad that four of them were broken beyond practical use. The group of twenty included a few duplicates and unfortunately one of the uniques, a red steamboat, was among the broken. Other shapes included a nursing cow, chicken, duck, elephant, rhinoceros, cow, tin soldier, dog, cat (with a broken ear, just like my mother’s real cat!), pig, locomotive, a wolf and finally the most enigmatic of them, an angel on a lion. All the toys are three dimensional (some, like the locomotive are kind of flat, but shaped on both sides) unlike other more common lollipops which are shaped only on one side. They all have a little base and can stand up, it might be fun to have a chess set made out of these (well, not if you live in a humid climate).
My favorite has to be the least toy-like of all of them, the wonderful green alligator (or maybe it’s a croc, it’s hard to tell).
If there’s anything bad about these, it’s that they’re so dense that it’s hard to break the more solid and prickly ones in order to eat them. The toy shapes don’t really lend themselves to sucking whole unless you’re keen on making lots of noises (I guess that’s why the lollipop versions are so popular).
The taste is like cotton candy or sunshine or love ... one of those, or maybe they’re all the same. They’re smooth, with few if any voids, delicate and soft on the tongue as they melt ever-so-slowly. All the colors are the same mellow sugar flavor. They are absolutely the best barley sugar candies I’ve had in my adult life. Some places flavor them, I like the plain sugar flavor best.
The only real detraction for me with these was the slight metallic flavor when you first start eating them. My guess is it’s either the mold or the light oil coating they have to keep them from sticking. I didn’t notice it on all of them, but when Amy also mentioned it, at least I knew I wasn’t imagining it. The other bad thing, of course, is that they’re so freakishly hard to find.
It’s sad that barley sugar candies aren’t made much any longer. I know they’re not as flashy as some of the new themed candies, and I understand the labor involved in these and the craftsmanship involved with the original molds is substantial. Regennas, in its fourth generation, only makes sweets for Christmas and Valentine’s Day and they’re all done for this year.
There’s another barley sugar candy company that I know of by Melville’s (you can order them here) which has an annoying site that plays music you can’t turn off. They have a huge variety of pops (including the excellent honey spoons).
Friday, December 15, 2006
While at the All Candy Expo over the summer, there was some excitement over the new chocolate Pop Rocks to come out later in the year. I got a sample of them there, in a little cup, not a packet with the final design. In fact, when I saw the packet at the 7-11 last night, I didn’t even recognize it. The colors on the package look more orange than chocolatey brown (and I was actually interested in orange pop rocks).
The Pop Rocks Bubble Gum was a bit of a disappointment. I was expecting it to be like the bubble gum cotton candy I had earlier this year. Instead it was a little bits of white bubble gum mixed with even smaller bits of rather unflavored Pop Rocks in light orange and pink. The fun is gone in a matter of seconds. Either you chew up the gum part and all the pop rocks go off at once or you leave it in your mouth and have the gummy unreactive lumps at the end.
The gum itself is nice, soft but it takes about half the packet to create enough gum to make a bubble.
The Chocolate Pop Rocks are very light in color and look kind of like little crisped rice, but about the size of sesame seeds. In fact they remind me of Cocoa Krispies. The popping is light and refreshing, but not as pronounced as the Green Apple I’ve had recently.
But Pop Rocks are not the only game any longer. There is a Turkish company called HLeks that’s making carbonated candy as well under the name Shoogy Boom. They have a nice range of flavors, including lemon and cola. I picked up the comparable flavors: Chocolate Covered and Bubble Gum. They also have a freaky chinless clown as a mascot. Seriously, this cannot be endearing to children.
Shoogy Boom is a slightly smaller serving, at only 7 grams per packet instead of the 9.5-10.5 grams you get with Pop Rocks.
The Shoogy Boom Popping Bubble Gum had a similar format to the Pop Rocks, just a mess of little gum bits and some light orange popping candy pieces mixed in. I have to give it to Shoogy Boom, they deserve their boom name, the popping is definitely active, more than the Pop Rocks. However, the gum absolutely sucks. It was like when you decide to eat a piece of paper and eventually get that stiff unchewable piece of fiber. Only this had a light bubble gum flavor.
The Chocolate Shoogy Boom were darker than the Pop Rocks and a bit rounder. The chocolate tasted much more like chocolate instead of cocoa. The popping though was far and away better than the Pop Rocks. A slight tartness to the candy inside but overall a good noisy affair. They’re both a tasty and interesting change from the original.
I think what’s best about them is that they don’t have the same tendency to lose their pop over time because of humidity that the regular popping candies can.
An internet search revealed nothing about any retailers in the US carrying Shoogy Boom, so please leave a note here if you’ve seen them sold anywhere.
Other Reviews: Candy Addict (Chocolate)
Monday, December 11, 2006
I guess the newest thing in candy canes in the past 50 years was the introduction on different flavors. Yeah, there are also different shapes and sizes as well, but the candy cane is pretty much a hard candy.
The Chocolate Filled Handmade Candy Cane seeks to be beyond the plain hard candy stick. This seven inch cane in peppermint has stunning red and opaque white strips and of course the advertised chocolatey filling.
The hard candy shell has a chocolatey filling twisted through it. It’s not a lot of chocolate, I had three of these canes and the one pictured above is the most chocolatey of the three. The mint candy is nice with a strong peppermint flavor. The inside features a pink and slightly foamy center which gives the whole thing a good crunch.
The chocolatelyness is not that intense, it certainly mellows out the intensity of the peppermint and gives a little fudgy burst every once in a while. As a chocolate person, I was a bit disappointed. As a hard candy fan, it was far superior to those “chocolate” starlight mints (I usually spit those out). The chocolate here is made from cocoa and coconut & palm kernel oils ... so not really chocolate at all, just a chocolate syrup.
They’re a bit on the expensive side but they are drop-dead gorgeous and a great upscale stocking item. I’ve seen the Elegant Sweets line around a bit more lately. I saw some of their Christmas tree shaped lollies (in cherry & green apple) at a store called Cuvee on Robertson in Los Angeles yesterday and ran across these canes at Harry and David while I was in San Francisco the weekend before.
Besides their holiday line, they have some freakishly stunning candies all year round. You can expect them to turn up here again in the future.
Monday, December 4, 2006
There are a lot of different kind of flavored candy canes out there. I could probably start a blog and post about a different one each and every day. And bore myself and you to tears.
I rather like hard candy and I rather enjoy candy canes. I’m more interested in the minty and spicy flavors as I like that combination during the winter, not the fruity flavors. If I had to give holiday seasons a flavor set it would go something like this:
Halloween = Milk Chocolate and Nuts
Of course the product above from Hershey’s has very little to do with that list. The Hershey’s Chocolate Mint Candy Canes are really lovely. A white cane with small green and red bands and a larger brown stripe winding its way around the generous 5 1/2 inch cane. I would guess that some folks would pick these up more often because of the pleasant color scheme than the taste.
Because they’re not that tasty.
The candy is nice and solid without that foamy crunch that some canes have. These have a mild minty taste and an overwhelming cardboard chocolate flavor. The word chocolatey doesn’t do it justice. It’s like someone watered down a Tootsie Roll with sugar and a dab of peppermint. The stale and plain chocolatey taste has no relation to much of what’s great about chocolate itself. It’s not rich, it’s not creamy, it’s not complex, it’s not fulfilling or addictive. I had a lingering aftertaste of packaging material with a minty hint.
So what makes them like this? Here is the list of ingredients: Sugar, Corn Syrup, contains 2% or less of: Natural and Artificial Flavor, Artificial Color and Soy Lecithin. So there you go, there’s no chocolate in there.
If you’re looking for candy canes to decorate with and this fits your color scheme and you’re one of those people who never actually eats them, well, these are definitely for you. Oh, and they’re Kosher!
Saturday, November 25, 2006
People complain that Christmas comes earlier and earlier each year in the retail world. The decorations are out before Halloween in some stores. It’s kind of funny, I was watching the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special and he was complaining about the same thing ... which leads me to believe that it’s been going on for a very long time. The funny part of that is that in some factories, it’s always Christmas.
Candy Canes are big business, especially for Spangler, which has two factories. Their primary facility is in Bryan, Ohio but they have another factory in Juarez, Mexico as well. The Bryan factory has been operating in three shifts since May just to keep up with demand, churning out 18 tractor trailer loads each day. (Their website says they make 25 million candy canes each year.)
Spangler makes more than just the plain old six inch shrink wrapped cane. They have a huge selection of different shapes and sizes, in more than the traditional red & white peppermint flavor. They make the candy canes for Jelly Belly, Disney and DumDum in all sorts of kooky flavors. I’m a bit of a traditionalist and got a hold of a pretty good cross section of their offerings.
Spangler always packages their canes well, so I rarely get a broken set. The flavor is a mild and pleasant peppermint. Not blastingly strong like an Altoid, more like a starlight mint, but less “foamy” feeling on the tongue.
Right now I’m pretty keen on the Candy Cane Wreaths. They’re a hoop of candy cane (but not joined at the top) around 4” across that have a gift tag already on them, in case you want to use them for decorating packages or gift bags. They’re easy to put on a Christmas tree, and I’m thinking about using them as napkin rings for the dinner table this year.
What’s especially cool about them is that all pieces are curved. I love the curve of a candy cane, how I can break off that piece and place it behind my front teeth and suck on it. Well, this is all curve!
I think if I my favorite size though is the tiny one. I know they aren’t wrapped quite as pretty (they’re in a cello pouch that doesn’t allow for hooking the cane on anything) but they’re easy to eat. I just snap it in half at the middle of the straight part of the cane and put the whole thing in my mouth. No muss, no fuss.
The last kind they make is the super-large pole.
I remember getting one of these when I was a little kid. I went with some neighbors to a parade where Santa rode in a red fire truck and gave these out. As a kid it was a huge amount of candy. A stupid, messy amount of candy. After a while it got very sticky and may have had cat hair on it or lint. So I would keep rinsing it off in the sink, and it would get clean, of course, but smaller and smaller. I seriously doubt I finished it.
As part of my new recipes starting in the New Year, I’ll have some fun tips for what to do with leftover candy canes.
Meticulously photographed and documented reviews of candy from around the world. And the occasional other sweet adventures. Open your mouth, expand your mind.