What is taffy? Let’s make some sense of this oddly confounding chewy sweet.

I’ve been spending a whole mess of time perfecting my taffy recipe lately, and whenever some poor soul gets me going about it, the first question is almost always the same: “Wait, what’s taffy again?”

For such a prosaic candy — you can buy some version of it quite literally at every gas station and corner shop across much of the world — taffy has a bit of an identity problem.

First, it doesn’t have a clear, unambiguous category name, at least not in English. (Unlike, say, gummies. Use that word and everyone knows exactly what you’re talking about.)

Continue reading What is taffy? Let’s make some sense of this oddly confounding chewy sweet.

Sugarfina Candy doesn’t make candy. Maybe that’s ok? But maybe it isn’t?

Sugarfina is one of those self-described “luxury boutiques” that takes a quotidian idea — the candy shop — and tries to elevate it with a curated inventory and an eye for design.

They’re pure Beverly Hills: all light and airy and white and Wedgwood blue, with “candy concierges” who presumably compliment your exceptional taste while selecting the perfect palette of gummi bears for your engagement party.

Normally, the thought of being approached by a personal shopper makes me slither out of my skin and down the nearest storm drain.

But, the things is, Sugarfina has some genuinely fantastic candy. I’ve been stalking them online for a few years, so when a small Sugarfina shop opened inside Vancouver’s new Nordstrom’s department store, I popped in for a look. Continue reading Sugarfina Candy doesn’t make candy. Maybe that’s ok? But maybe it isn’t?

What is turrón? Seriously, Spain, I need to know.

Turrón is nougat. Right? I thought I had a pretty good idea of what turrón is before I went to southern Spain. Now I’m not so sure.

Here’s what I do know. Turrón (in Spanish), torró (in Catalan and Valencian) or torrone (in Italian) is an almond-based sweet whose roots apparently stretch back to 15th century Islamic Iberia, drawing from Arab and Berber confectionery tradition.

Today in Spain, it’s associated closely with the Valencian Community and in particular the cities of Alicante and Jijona — although it’s eaten as a Christmas treat throughout Spain and the former Spanish empire.

I thought I had a pretty good grip on the general idea behind turrón: it’s a type of nougat made with honey and almonds. Usually orange blossom honey. Usually marcona almonds. Sometimes soft and chewy. Sometimes hard and barely chewy.

Continue reading What is turrón? Seriously, Spain, I need to know.

Quin Candy in Portland, Oregon is the real deal.

In my various travels, I’m still surprised at how rarely I come across honest-to-goodness, small-scale, quality-focused candymakers.

I don’t mean chocolatiers or bakers or pâtissiers, which every bigger city is lousy with. And I’m not including marshmallows, because damn those evil things to hell.

I mean candy. Actual candy. Sugar confectionery.

In this sense, Quin Candy is the real deal. Founded by Jami Curl in Portland, Quin makes everything by hand, more or less from scratch, and actually focuses solely on candy. That gets a major fist pump from me.

Continue reading Quin Candy in Portland, Oregon is the real deal.

New York proves a point about craft candy.

Between work and fun, I’ve been doing a lot of travel lately.

Although I start to get mini panic attacks thinking about all of the things that I’ve left unfinished back home, one big plus of all of this travel is getting a chance to see for myself what’s going on out there in the world of craft-scale sugar confectionery.

The answer: not a staggering lot.

Take New York. I was just there for a week, and canvassed a bunch of folks about their favourite local makers. In a city that’s absolutely lousy with great restaurants and patisseries and chocolatiers, I managed to find a grand total of three real, live, artisanal candymakers — only one of them truly local.

Continue reading New York proves a point about craft candy.