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    THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

    Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

    This is the blog section of THE NIBBLE. Read all of our content on TheNibble.com,
    the online magazine about gourmet and specialty food.

Archive for Candy

TIP OF THE DAY: Homemade Lollipops For National Lollipop Day

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Your homemade lollipops can be free form with inclusions, like the bits of flower petals
above. Photo courtesy Sacred Sweets.

 

Looking for a fun activity? How about making lollipops?

Today is National Lollipop Day July 20th, and Exploratorium has a recipe that lets you be a lollipop chef.

You can make favorite flavors that aren’t often found in commercial products. We’ve got anise, banana, hazelnut, mint and rum extracts that are just waiting to flavor lollys.

The other ingredients include sugar, corn syrup, water, cream of tartar and liquid food coloring.

You can mix up standard or unusual colors with food coloring; but the idea that really appeals to us comes from Sacred Sweets in Greenport, New York.

They turn lollipops into edible art with:

  • Clear or barely tinted candy that shows off the inclusions inside.
  • Inclusions (mix ins) like edible flowers and glitter (you can use sprinkles and other decorations)
  • Free-form shapes
  •  
    LOLLIPOP HISTORY

    Lollipop sophistication has come a long way since prehistoric man licked honey off the stick he used to scrape it from the beehive.

    The ancient Arabs, Chinese and Egyptians made fruit and nut confections candied in honey, which may also have been eaten from sticks, owing to the stickiness of the confection.

    But what we think of as a lollipop may date to Europe in the Middle Ages, when sugar was boiled and formed onto sticks as treats for the wealthy—the only people who could afford sugar.

     
    By the 17th century, sugar was plentiful and affordable. In England, boiled sugar (hard candy) treats were popular. The word “lollipop” (originally spelled lollypop) first appears in print in 1784, roughly coinciding with the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

    Beginning in the later part of the 18th century, industry, including confectionery, became mechanized. Horehound drops, lemon drops, peppermints and wintergreen lozenges became everyday candies.

     

    While we don’t know the inventor of the modern lollipop, the first automated lollipop machine was invented in Racine, Wisconsin in 1908. The Racine Confectionery Machine Company’s machine put hard candy discs on the end of a sticks, producing 2400 lollipops per hour, 57,000 per day. Today’s machines can produce 3 million lollipops daily.

    Far beyond the specialty Blow Pops, Tootsie Pops, Sugar Daddys of childhood, today’s lollipops come in all shapes and sizes, from hand-crafted works of sugar art to caffeinated Java Pops and bacon lollipops.

    And handcrafted lollipops still exist, made by companies like Hammond’s Candies, where artisans coil ropes of boiled hard candy into colorful jumbo lollipops.

    SEE’S LOLLYPOPS: SOMETHING DIFFERENT

    See’s Candies chooses the original spelling for its “lollypops,” but perhaps that’s to differentiate the creamy candy-on-a-stick from conventional lollys.

     

    sees-lollipops-unwrapped-beauty-230

    See’s creamy “lollypops,” made with butter and cream. Photo courtesy See’s Candies.

     

    See’s are made with butter and heavy cream, in a square shape (see photo at right).

    Available in butterscotch, café latté, chocolate, chocolate orange, root beer and vanilla (plus holiday flavors), they have the consistency of butterscotch, and are certified kosher by KSA.

    And they’re addictive! Treat yourself to some at Sees.com.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Popcorn Fudge

    This popcorn fudge recipe was a hit at our Memorial Day festivities.

    A fun recipe from Betty Crocker, it incorporates a dulce de leche fudge layer, salted caramel and caramel popcorn. Be sure to use caramel popcorn that is really well coated to prevent your popcorn from getting soggy.

    Prep time is 15 minutes, total time is 1 hour 40 minutes.

    RECIPE: TRIPLE CARAMEL POPCORN FUDGE

    Ingredients For 64 Pieces

    Fudge Layer

  • 1 can (14 ounces) dulce de leche (caramelized sweetened condensed milk)
  • 1 bag (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips (2 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups caramel popcorn
  •  
    Caramel Layer

  • 25 caramels, unwrapped
  • 2 tablespoons whipping cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher (coarse) salt
  • 1-1/2 cups caramel popcorn
  •  

    caramel-popcorn-fudge-bettycrocker-230r

    A three-in-one treat: chocolate, caramel and popcorn. Photo courtesy Betty Crocker.

     

    Preparation

    1. LINE bottom and sides of 8-inch square pan with foil, leaving edges of foil hanging over 2 sides of pan for easy removal later; spray foil with cooking spray.

    2. HEAT dulce de leche and chocolate chips in 2-quart saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth (mixture will be very thick); remove from heat. Quickly stir in vanilla. Stir in 2 cups caramel popcorn. Spread in pan.

    3. MICROWAVE caramels and cream uncovered in a medium microwavable bowl, on High for 2 minutes. Stir every 30 seconds, until melted and smooth. Very slowly pour caramel mixture over fudge layer, and gently spread to cover. Sprinkle with salt and 1 1/2 cups caramel popcorn; press gently so it sticks.

    4. REFRIGERATE until firm, about 2 hours. Cut into 1-inch squares (8 rows by 8 rows). Store covered in refrigerator.

      

    Comments

    PRODUCT: Gimbal’s Jelly Beans

    bowl-beauty-230

    Gimbal’s Gourmet Jelly Beans. Photo by
    Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    We’ve been tasting lots of jelly bean brands over the past few weeks, and have decided that our favorites are Gimbal’s.

    What makes them the best jelly beans? To our palate, there’s less sugar and fresh, bright, natural flavors, including real fruit juice.

    We can focus on the flavor instead of cloying sugar.

    There are 41 traditional flavors and 12 delightfully tart sour flavors.

    We won’t say that jelly beans are health food, but the recipe includes vitamin C (ascorbic acid), a powerful antioxidant.

    Gimbal’s Gourmet Jelly Beans are sold in 3- or 14-ounce bags and 40-ounce jars. You can buy them online at GimbalsCandy.com.

    These are jelly beans to enjoy year-round—not just for Easter.

     

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Australian Liquorice (Licorice!)

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    Flower-like “shooters” and other specialty
    shapes. Photo by Katharine Pollak | THE
    NIBBLE.

     

    Today is National Licorice Day. There is much debate in the U.S. over Red Vines versus Twizzlers, but if you haven’t had English or Australian liquorice, as they spell it, you haven’t had great licorice.

    The natural flavors and chewy consistency are magnificent. Alas, our American-produced, artificially-flavored licorice can’t hope to compete.

    While there are American products labeled “Australian-style,” seek out the authentic Australian product or a U.K. brand like Bassetts. One of our favorite brands is Kookaburra from Australia (OU-kosher).

    There are bags of familiar red or black licorice twists, but Kookburra and other Australian and English companies take licorice to an art. At Kookaburra:

  • Twists are also available in apple, mango and raspberry flavors.
  • Creamy Strawberry & Cream Bites are dual color and flavor cylinders.
  • Liquorice Shooters are blue, brown, green, red and yellow flower-like shapes with white centers
  • Allsorts are a combination of all of these plus other colorful cylinders
  •  
    “Rich, Chewy & Delicious,” exclaims the package. “Best Liquorice in the World.” We don’t dare disagree—the kookaburras would laugh us down.

    You can buy all of them online at KookaburraLiquorice.com.

    Of course, if you’d rather celebrate with Belgian salt liquorice, licorice cats, chalk (black liquorice with a white mint coating), coins, drops, Scotties, ropes, wheels or other shapes, just head to Amazon.com and search for “liquorice.”

    WHO INVENTED ALLSORTS

    Allsorts is our favorite type liquorice—a variety of colorful and flavorful shapes and chewing consistencies. They were first produced in Sheffield, England, by Geo. Bassett & Co Ltd (now part of Cadbury).

    As the story goes, in 1899, Charlie Thompson, a sales representative, was in Leicester showing the liquorice to a client when he dropped the tray of samples, mixing up the various styles. He picked them up but before he could properly arrange them, the client was attracted to the mix of shapes and colors, and put in an order. The company quickly began to package “allsorts,” and they became very popular.

    Each company makes its own assortment of shapes, which can include balls covered in nonpareil-type sprinkles, colorful cylinders (rolls) and multicolored, sandwiched squares. They look beautiful in a candy dish, and more than one young girl has strung them into a necklace.

     

    WHAT EXACTLY IS LICORICE

    Licorice is a confection flavored with the extract from the root of the licorice plant, combined with sugar or other sweetener and a binder (gelatin, gum arabic or starch). The big American brands use corn syrup*.

    Additional ingredients can include flavoring, beeswax for a shiny surface, molasses to provide the familiar black color, and ammonium chloride. Some brands substitute anise oil instead of with licorice root extract.

    The ingredients are dissolved in water and heated to 275°F, then poured into molds. The resulting pieces are sprayed with beeswax to make their surface shiny. Who knew?

    The original liquorice was black. Later, “red licorice” was made with strawberry flavoring. Today it is made in numerous flavors, including apple, blackcurrant, cherry, chocolate, cinnamon, grape, mango, raspberry and watermelon.
     
    *Red Vines ingredients include corn syrup, wheat flour, citric acid, artificial flavor and Red 40 artificial food color. Strawberry Twizzlers are made with corn syrup, enriched wheat flour, sugar, cornstarch, palm oil, salt, artificial flavor, mono and diglycerides, cytric acid, potassium sorbate, Red 40, mineral oil, soy lecithin and glycerine.

     

    fml-AT7WF0.jpg

    Some of the shapes of allsorts licorice. Photo courtesy Sporticia.com.

     

    WHAT’S A KOOKABURRA?

    The kookaburra is a bird in the kingfisher family, native to Australia and New Guinea. Its loud call is said to sound like echoing human laughter.

    Here are some photos.

      

    Comments

    TIP OF THE DAY: Decorate With Sixlets

    Recently a friend gave us a cache of Sixlets left over from Halloween. She didn’t want to keep them for next Halloween, and figured we could “do something for THE NIBBLE” with them.

    So we started to decorate desserts.

    None of our efforts looked as good as the examples on Sixlets’ Facebok Page, so take a look and get inspired.

    Sixlets are a boon for easy cake and cupcake decorating.

  • They’re perfectly round hard-coated chocolate candies like M&Ms, but less cloying* and less “commercial.” (M&M’s have their place, and it isn’t everywhere.)
  • They’re available in every color you could want, like jelly beans, but are smaller and easier to work with.
  • They’re larger than colored dragées, and are much more pleasant to eat.
  • They’re sold in individual colors plus seasonal mixes (autumn, Christmas, Halloween, etc.).
  •  

    sixlets-argyle-cake-hellocupcake-230

    You don’t have to be this painstaking, but it sure is impressive. Argyle Candy Cake by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson, authors of Hello, Cupcake!

     

    sixlets_pastel_sixlets-230

    Get ready for Easter: You can buy pastel
    Sixlets in bulk online. Photo courtesy Sixlets.

     

    Sixlets are made by Sweetworks, a Toronto-based company. You may know them in individual packages from the candy stand, but they are available in bulk for serious decorating: in 1, 2, 5 and 10 pound bags.

    The line is certified kosher (OU-dairy) and is gluten-free.

    We used them:

  • To cover the sides of frosted cakes
  • To cover the exposed sides of whoopie pies
  • As cupcake toppings
  • Layered in a parfait
  •  
    We’re planning ahead for a red, white and blue “flag cake” for Independence Day.

     
    Now it’s your turn!

    *Unlike the super-sugary M&M’s chocolate centers, the centers of Sixlets are made from a mix of cocoa and carob, giving them a kind of “malted chocolate” taste.

      

    Comments

    FOOD FUN: Beer Flavored Jelly Beans

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    Chew, don’t chug, these beer-flavored jelly
    beans. Photo courtesy Jelly Belly.

     

    What if your kid’s first beer was a jelly bean?

    Just in time for St. Patrick’s Day, Jelly Belly Candy Company has launched the first beer-flavored jelly bean, called Draft Beer.

    Beer has been a oft-requested flavor for decades. After years of working on the formulation, the non-alcoholic product is ready for St. Patrick’s Day, Easter baskets and beyond.

    Jelly Belly sent us a sample and yes, it does taste like beer. The irridescent pale gold jelly beans are alcohol free, yet deliver a beer aroma and subtle beer flavor.

  • A 16-ounce re-sealable bag (approximately 400 jelly beans) is $8.99.
  • If you really want to tie one on, a 10-pound bulk box is $85.99.
  •  
    Stock up for National Jelly Bean Day, April 22nd. (Here’s the history of the jelly bean.)

     
    WANT THEM IN GREEN?

    There’s a limited edition of the Draft Beer Jelly Belly, colored green for St. Patrick’s day, available exclusively at Jelly Belly Visitor and Tour Centers in California and Wisconsin.

    All Jelly Belly jelly bean flavors are dairy free, fat free, gluten free, OU kosher, peanut free and vegetarian.

    Bottoms up!

      

    Comments

    VALENTINE GIFT: The Best Toffee

    We taste a lot of good toffee. But if you like very buttery, buttercrunch-style (dusted with crushed almonds) with more almonds inside, our favorite is Enstrom’s.

    The company sells toffee in different sizes and shapes. For Valentine’s Day there’s a special assortment of milk- and dark chocolate-covered “Petites,” bite size toffee enrobed in chocolate, in a hearts and kisses box.

    The 25-piece assortment, 12.5 ounces, is $16.95. Get yours here.
     
    AMAZING SUGAR FREE TOFFEE

    There’s a sugar-free box of toffee in the classic “break-up” format, $20.95 for a one-pound box (in a standard gift box).

    You won’t believe how delicious it is: You can’t tell the difference from the conventional toffee. More information.

    The difference between toffee and buttercrunch.

     

    enstrom-valentine-toffee-230

    Your Valentine will hug and kiss you. Photo courtesy Enstrom.

     

      

    Comments

    GIFT OF THE DAY: Special Caramels For Your Honey

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    Salted honey caramels. Photo courtesy
    Droga.

     

    For the lover of gourmet caramels, something special for your Valentine:

    Put Your Money On Honey salted caramels from Droga Chocolates of Los Angeles.

    The luscious bites are the result of a bet that a caramel couldn’t be made without corn syrup. Seeking a solution to the challenge, Droga says:

    “Inspiration stung us—honey was the answer! The first honey caramel came to bee, and people have been abuzz ever since.”

    And you should make a bee-line for them! So soft and redolent of fine honey, each taste makes you want another. And another.

    The small-batch caramels are:

  • Made with California creamery pure cream and butter
  • Sweetened with raw California wildflower honey
  • Enrobed in premium dark chocolate from Guittard
  • Sprinkled with delicate French fleur de sel sea salt
  •  

    The nine caramels in the gift box ($16.95, two boxes for $29.95) will disappear quickly, but leave such happy memories.

    Droga confections are certified kosher by KOF-K.

    Get yours at DrogaChocolates.com.

    There are caramels in other flavors that also hit the spot. Here’s our review.

      

    Comments

    STOCKING STUFFERS: Conventional & Sugar Free Sweet Treat Favorites

    Sugar free bridge mix, licorice and Gummi
    Bears (inside package) from Nuts.com. Photo by Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    Nuts.com is a third-generation purveyor of nuts, dried fruits, chocolates and other sweets. They offer some 3,000 items sold by the pound, but will also package the wares into snack packs, 3.2 ounce bags sold in packs of 12. The 12-packs range from approximately $18 to $24, creating an inexpensive stocking stuffer that has a higher-value appearance.

    We love the snack packs as stocking stuffers or party favors, the cheery green bags hinting at the goodies inside. There are hundreds of sweet options, that you can search by category (or however you like):

  • Chocolate: bark, gourmet PB cups, chocolate-dipped fruit
  • Classic treats: just about everything you can name, from malt balls to chocolate-covered ginger, grahams and marzipan
  • Gluten-free, organic and raw options
  • Nutritious treats: dried fruits and edamame, energy squares, nuts, trail mix and fun items like freeze-dried chickpeas, broccoli and spinach
  • Nuts: chocolate covered and bridge mix, yogurt covered, candied, sugar roasted
  •  

  • Sugar-Free: chocolate covered nuts, espresso beans, bridge mix, and pretzels; hard and soft candies (jellies, gummies); mini peanut butter cups; licorice; yogurt raisins and more—an impressive sugar-free selection
  •  
    There are also Gummy Sugar Plums for gifting or as a garnish for cakes, cupcakes or other desserts.

    Check out all the options (well, maybe not all 3,000) at Nuts.com.

      

    Comments

    GIFT: Daelia’s Honey Nougat (Italian Torrone)

    Good nougat is hard to find. It can be a jawbreaker or cloyingly sweet. But is a Christmas tradition in numerous countries, and good nougat is worth hunting down.

    For at least six generations, Maria Walley’s family has made torrone for Christmas and Easter (torrone, pronounced toe-ROE-nay, is Italian for nougat).

    Her ancestors brought the recipe to America from Viterbo, Italy in 1910. It was made with almonds and hazelnuts and wrapped in pieces of wax paper with the ends twisted.

    Maria has turned the family recipe into a commercial venture, Daelia’s Honey Nougat. She separates the flavors into your choice of Almond or Hazelnut.

    The all-natural confection is made with egg whites, honey and nuts; the almonds come from California, the hazelnuts from Oregon. There is no corn syrup—an ingredient used by many nougat manufacturers that cheapens the flavor and texture.

     

    Daelia’s Nougat in two delicious flavors:
    Almond and Hazelnut. Photo by
    Elvira Kalviste | THE NIBBLE.

     

    The bars of nougat are formed in wood molds, then cut by hand. A 3.53-ounce bar is $9.99 on Amazon.com:

  • Almond Honey Nougat
  • Hazelnut Honey Nougat
  •  

    A delicious stocking stuffer, party favor or small gift, nougat is delicious with tea or coffee…or just by itself.

    Daelia also makes delicious biscuits for cheese. Check them out.

    —Steven Gans

      

    Comments

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