Introduction to Intensive Ingredients 5: Hard Candy

Flavoured cocoas were difficult.

Initially, we experimented with ground whole herb.  In some cases, like cinnamon, this works.  In most others, it does not.

The flavour is there, but the texture leaves a bit to be desired.

So we started casting about for other options.  We have a couple that use freeze-dried fruit powders, but there were not enough of those that were functional to give us a good range of tastes for our cocoas.

Then we discovered organic hard candy.  We theorized that it would be a brilliant addition to the toolbox, if we could just get it ground fine enough.

As with some of our other ingredients, this turned out to be something that really needed to be done by hand – and is a process that can actually cause injury.

It starts with a pile of wrapped hard candies.

A pile of wrapped butterscotch hard candies strewn across a wood and stone table.

This image is not the whole pound that we would generally be trying to process, just a ‘good start.’  There are only so many that will fit in our candy smashing bags, and the same is true of the mortar.

The first step is to unwrap them.

This takes longer than one might expect.  When you are eating a single one, it seems like no time at all, but when you have to do this many, it feels interminable.

Sadly, I didn’t actually time the process – but after what feels, at least, like a really long time, we are left with a pile of wrappers….

Closeup of a pile of butterscotch hard candy discs.

… and a pile of candies to begin processing.

The next step is to load them up in one of our custom-made candy bags.  Mister Tea makes them himself, to be certain that they are sturdy enough to stand up to the punishment he puts them through.  (He put his schooling as a costume and props designer to good use to make them.  The requirements are quite specific, and making them ourselves was really the only sensible option.)

Then comes the step that is actually a bit of a workout, and one of the things involved in making our products that is something only Mister Tea can do.

We set up our thick cutting board – and it becomes the flat point for the macro step of the candy crushing.

He spins the bag up and thwocks it down on the cutting board.  Multiple times.  Until the candy inside has reached a point where it can be effectively dealt with with a mortar and pestle.

A somewhat blurry image of a white bag being slammed down onto a thick wooden cutting board.

As you can likely imagine, not easy to get a clear picture of this process.

Once it goes into the mortar, the longest part of the process beings.

Chunks of butterscotch candy in a cream coloured mortar, the pestle about to start its work. The mortar is set on a wood cutting board, strewn with tiny fragments of candy. The edge of a mallet can also be seen in the background.

We use a flour sifter to gauge whether the powder is fine enough, so candy goes into the mortar, gets ground up, goes through the sifter, the remains are put back into the mortar…  and this process continues until all we have is fine powder.

Quart canning jar filled with butterscotch powder. The jar is sitting on a wooden cutting board strewn with candy dust and fragments. There is a mallet behind the jar. A hand has as small wrought iron spoon of the powder, and is letting it drift down into the jar.

It takes a few hours to process most of a pound of candy.

It is also not without the potential for injury.

One particular processing run, the cord on the candy-bag blistered Mister Tea’s fingers, and then bit in deeply enough that there was blood and angst.  His hand was out of commission for most of a week.1

However, the ability to make our cocoas is well worth the time, effort, and potential for injuries.

 

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  1. After this experience, we picked up a cutting glove specifically for candy-crushing, to avoid this particular sort of injury in future.

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