Category Archives: Candy and Confection

Candy Apples

Candy apples, rank and fileI really want to like candy apples.  They are so closely associated with fall and carnivals and country fairs, they seem like a fantastic way to celebrate our local apples.

In practice they are usually disappointing.  They are often died a garish red.  The candy coating is either adamantine, or it sticks to your teeth and threatens to pull out your molars.  And usually the fruit is so large that it cannot be eaten comfortably from the end of a stick.  You have to unhinge your jaw, which compromises your ability to break the adamantine candy coating.

In theory all these problems can be solved.

Let’s talk apples.  Any good eating-apple is a good candy-apple.  Firm, crisp, juicy.  Apples … Continue reading.

Sour Cherry Pâte de Fruits

Originally published December 14, 2013.

 

Evans cherry gelsPâte de fruits, literally “fruit paste,” is a simple confection made of fruit, sugar, and pectin, though some recipes call for gelatin instead.

Pâtes de fruits have a very distinct texture.  They are firmer than a spreadable breakfast jelly, but without the persistent chew of a gummy bear or gummy worm or any other fauna from the gummy kingdom.  One of my chefs compared the texture to a medium ganache.

Another distinction between true pâte de fruits and inferior industrial candies is flavour.  They are very bright, pure expressions of the fruit from which they are made.  They tend to be tart, though well-balanced.

The chemistry behind pâtes de fruits is the … Continue reading.

Butterscotch

Homemade butterscotch sauceThe Origins of Butterscotch.  Though butterscotch is common in Scotland, the “scotch” in the name does not refer to that country.  In fact “scotch” is a very old English word for an etching, or scratch.  Another instance of this suffix is in “hopscotch”, the game in which children jump across etchings or chalk-marks on the ground.

Scotch is also an old style of candy.  To make scotches, sugar is boiled to hard crack, then flavoured and poured onto a buttered slab or dish.  Portioning the individual candies while the sugar is still hot would yield sloppy candies with stringy edges, so once the sugar is partially cooled, the candies are marked out by cutting lines partway down into the mass.  … Continue reading.

Royal Icing

Royal icing used to mimic snow on a gingerbread houseRoyal icing can be used in several ways, but it is most notable as the mortar that holds gingerbread houses together.  It is decorative.  It’s certainly not unsafe to eat, but it is almost entirely sugar, and it sets very hard and brittle.  The CIA Baking and Pastry book says it best: “not intended to be consumed, at least not in any measurable quantities.”

In fact besides sugar royal icing has only one other major ingredient: egg whites.  It might also have cream of tartar or lemon juice, which strengthen the protein matrix created by beating the egg whites.

To make royal icing you add a small quantity of egg whites, say 3 oz, to a mixing bowl, then start … Continue reading.

Chocolate Truffles

Homemade chocolate trufflesChocolate truffles are bite-sized balls of ganache, usually rolled in cocoa or nuts, or coated in a thin layer of hard chocolate.

Though most think of truffles as a luxury item sold in boutique chocolaterie, they can actually be made at home without fuss or artistry.  All you need is good dark chocolate, heavy cream, and some garnishes of your choosing.

First, make the medium ganache described in this post.  Let it cool to room temperature, then refrigerate until firm.

Use a measuring scoop to portion the ganache into bite-sized pieces.

Roll the pieces between your palms into uniform balls.  I use nitrile gloves for this.  Besides forming the round shape of the final truffle, this process also melts … Continue reading.

Ganache

Scooping ganacheGanache has two ingredients: chocolate and cream.  They are combined in a way that transforms the hard, brittle chocolate into a soft, perfectly smooth, workable substance.

Types: Soft, Medium, and Hard.  I most commonly make medium ganache, which is one part chocolate and one part cream by weight.  It is firm but workable at fridge temperatures, and very soft but not fluid at room temperature.

Hard ganache is two parts chocolate to one part cream.  It is much firmer than medium ganache and holds it’s shape well.  It is, however, less stable: the concentrated solids in the chocolate slowly absorb moisture from the cream, then swell, clump, and make the ganache grainy.  Hard ganache is often used as a … Continue reading.

Hot Chocolate

Chopping dark chocolate to make hot chocolateToday I made hot chocolate using chocolate.  It was the first time I had ever done that.

I grew up drinking hot chocolate made from prepared powder that came in little packets.  The baggies had tiny, desiccated marshmallows in them that rehydrated when combined with hot milk.  There was usually a portion of the talc that failed to dissolve and accumulated on the bottom of the mug.  (Yum!)  The drink tasted mildly of bad chocolate, but mostly it tasted like milk.

It first occurred to me that one could make hot chocolate from chocolate when I read The Polar Express, in which children are served hot chocolate “as thick and rich as melted chocolate bars.”  That caught my attention.  … Continue reading.

Sugar Plums

Sugar plums, rank and file on a drying traySugar plums are one of those items that are common in Christmas carols and stories and yet are basically unknown to modern revelers. (Other examples: wassail, yule, and figgy pudding. Furthermore, I’ve never seen mistletoe before, and I just saw real holly for the first time a few weeks ago, at the farmers’ market. I got excited, grabbed the leaves, and stabbed myself.)

My dictionary defines a sugar plum as a small ball of candy, and nothing more. There are not necessarily any plums in sugar plums.  The word “plum” is associated with dried fruit, and good modern dictionaries still give one of the many meanings of “plum” as “a raisin.”  The most common manifestation of sugar plums is Continue reading.

Spruce Syrup

Spruce tips: the tender, young needlesLast year I wrote briefly about evergreen syrup, flavoured with the flourescent, tender bundles of needles that appear on spruce trees in spring.  I first came across this preparation in Austria, where the restaurant I was working at used the syrup to flavour a sauce accompanying the roasted leg of a May deer, a fantastic, fantastic example of terroir-driven flavour pairing.  The syrup also has obvious applications in the pastry kitchen.

This week I made the syrup myself for the first time, and I want to relate a few of the details of its preparation.

I’m kicking myself for not getting an exact recipe from Looshaus.  I recall that they brought the syrup and evergreen tips to a … Continue reading.

Glacé Sour Cherries

A jar of glacé sour cherries“Glacé” is a confusing term because it can refer to ice cream, cake frosting, fruit candied in “hard crack” syrup, or simply fruit preserved in syrup. It’s that last definition that applies here. Most sources I consulted had a similar procedure for making glacé cherries:

Make a simple syrup of one part water and one part sugar.  Bring to a simmer, add pitted cherries, remove pot from heat, cover and let stand over night.  This is simply to infuse the syrup with cherry, and the cherries with syrup. The next day, remove the cherries and reduce the syrup until a candy thermometer reads 230°F.  This gives a good thick-but-runny consistency.   Reintroduce the cherries, simmer briefly, then store in a sanitized … Continue reading.