Cookbooks for Candy (Yes, Candy)
The last couple months of the year are packed with excuses to consume ridiculous amounts of sweets. Why not take full advantage of the season’s sugary spirit and make your own? Homemade candy is a great party trick, and it's surprisingly straightforward. If you have reservations about thermometers and molten sugar, fear not — the well-versed duos behind this month’s picks will have you caramelizing with confidence.
1. The Liddabit Sweets Candy Cookbook by Liz Gutman and Jen King
Gutman and King, co-founders of the Brooklyn-based candy company Liddabit Sweets, have a love affair with candy. It’s no small task to demystify the art of candy making for the average home cook, but their optimism is contagious. Their playful, extremely thorough cookbook starts with a three-page chart titled Speed Date the Candies, a swift tour of the 75 recipes ahead, so you can quickly find one to fit your needs, whether that’s vegan, fun to make with the kids, or “melt-in-your-mouth-y” (sic) — or all of the above (Chocolate Mint Meltaways). Candy 101 then explains everything you need to know about sugar, chocolate, cleaning, safety and essential equipment. (The equipment section is split into “musts” and “coulds,” and you might find that your kitchen is already equipped to bust out some Pecan Turtle Caramel Corn.) Because Gutman and King want you to remember that “MAKING CANDY IS FUN” from start to finish, these chapters read less like a chemistry textbook and more like a friend discussing softball sugar with you over coffee. As far as the recipes go, no secret is withheld, and they range in difficulty from easy (Buckeyes) to ambitious (Gutman and King's signature peanut-butter-banana candy bar, aptly named The King) to ambitious and patient (Beer Pretzel Caramels). You can rest easy regardless of what you choose first; “Liz Says” and “Jen Says” bubbles pop up on every other page with additional encouragement, suggestions and troubleshooting tips, should you make any missteps.
2. Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito
Lewis and Poliafito of Baked fame are no strangers to cookbook writing. In Baked Explorations, one of their four best-selling cookbooks, they put their spin on classic treats they’ve found on their travels while never losing the personable, easygoing tone their fans have come to expect. This means that the recipes are unique (Salt-n-Pepper Sandwich Cookies), fun (Strawberry Jell-O Salad), nostalgic (Almond Joy Tart) and a little wacky (Tomato Soup Cupcakes with Mascarpone Frosting). Their self-described “obsessive-compulsive” approach means that these recipes are as reliable as they are delicious — an important consideration when expensive ingredients like vanilla paste or premium chocolate are involved. The dessert aficionados start their book with a brief but thorough overview of tools and terms, necessary for navigating the following recipes with ease. In the Confections and Pastry section toward the end, they share their recent candy obsession with a candidness that makes it feel like you’re cooking with a (more-experienced) kindred spirit. The recipes are unintimidating, such as Classic Caramel Sauce and Chocolate Hazelnut Spread, but even the impressive Marshmallow Chocolate Cups feel well within reach for the budding confectioner. While Baked Explorations is a great, easy introduction to homemade sweets, its diverse selection of recipes makes it a smart choice for those not quite ready for an all-candy cookbook.