This was the most eagerly awaited book on this year's Texas Book Festival list at my house. Luckily for me, it arrived just as the temperature became moderate enough to consider firing up candy pots. I've followed the meteoric careers of Brooklyn-based confectioners Liz Gutman and Jen King since their small-batch, artisanal candies rocketed them to media fame from a humble stall at a weekly Brooklyn flea market. Though the candies have been heralded by everyone from The Today Show to Martha Stewart, and written about everywhere from Food & Wine to O, The Oprah Magazine, Liddabit Sweets are still only available online, at two weekly Brooklyn markets, and at a select number of small retailers and boutique hotels in the New York area. Until now, that is.
Considering that candy market domination and large-scale automated production was never their goal, the natural career progression for Gutman and King was to share the secrets to their goodies in a cookbook. They encourage home confectioners to begin with "Candy 101," a clearly written chapter that thoroughly explains basic ingredients, techniques, and equipment necessary for the home candy kitchen. They also stress the need for advance planning and measuring all ingredients (the French concept of mise en place) before beginning any candy-making project as a key element in the successful execution of their recipes. One aspect that particularly appeals to me is that Gutman and King write about the delicate and often frustrating art of working with sugar with a sense of humor, something I've found to be a helpful component to confectionary work over the years.
The recipes are delivered up in chapters with headings such as "Chocolate Loves You and Wants You To Be Happy," "Gummi and Gooey and Chewy, Oh My!," "Creamy Dreamy Candies," and "Crispety Crunchety, Sticky and Scrunchety." Another chapter provides recipes for party items such as caramel or candied apples, pecan turtle caramel popcorn, and even cake balls. Then they conclude with mouthwatering formulas for duplicating popular mainstream candy bars at home with fine quality ingredients rather than synthetic fillers and waxy coatings. What's not to love? If you've read about Liddabit's sea salt caramels, luxurious truffles, or the Snacker bars that got the company started, they are all here, with clear, concise recipes and chatty tips from the authors that encourage readers to channel their inner Willy Wonka. Gutman and King are women after my own heart, and I can't wait to meet them.
Liz Gutman and Jen King appear in the Cooking Tent on Saturday from 2:30-3:30pm.
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