Thursday, August 27, 2009

Lollipops and End of Summer Celebrations

I love wandering the internet looking for people's stories about candy. I found a wonderful news article from Exeter, ME last week; the kids who participate in the town's Summer Adventure Camp use lollipops as tokens at game booths in their end of summer celebration. They can win more candy or other prizes.

Games included "Wheel of Recreation" — a Wheel of Fortune type game in which children spun a dial and earned candy or went bankrupt; "Reccade — Arcade at the Rec;" and "Ring Toss."

"We're having a great time," said Ryan Foley, 10, of Exeter, who created and ran the Ring Toss. "I'm making cold, hard lollipops."


Let us know if you have a story about candy you want to share!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


We've been sharing lollipops with our friends and family for awhile now, and we wanted to share some of the things they've been saying with you.
Putting the teaberry lolly in my mouth... OOOH, yum. Totally unexpected taste. A mix of mint+pepper plus a bit more floral interestingness. Thank you again for the lollies, enjoyed the first one enormously. Looking forward to the rest. –Charles & Kristine, The Netherlands

Salted caramel might be the best food on a stick I have ever eaten! (And that includes some darn good popsicles out there too....) – Deb, Seattle

They arrived and I immediately ate the grapefruit one. Yummy. Am looking forward to trying pistachio-marshmallow next. I am definitely hiding them from the kids! And they are so pretty! --Sarah, Nashville

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the mango. --Amy, California
All of these flavors and more will be for sale in September 2009. We'll be updating the blog and tweeting about our progress, so please keep in touch!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Candy Makes People Happy

One of the reasons Susan and I love making candy is because candy makes people happy. We both love seeing the smiles that spread over people's faces when they have a lollipop and hearing the exclamation, "Oh my god that's really good!"

I love reading stories like this one from the NYTimes:
And so the commanding general said, “What can I do to make it better for you?” And the private said, “Sir, I sure could use a Snickers bar.” So a couple days later we were still moving through some really lousy weather, and a box showed up for the private. And that box was filled with 38 Snickers bars, which is the number of people in my platoon. And there was a handwritten note from the commanding general of our division that said, “I can’t do anything about the weather, but I hope this makes your day a bit brighter, and please share these with your buddies.”

And on that day, at that time, we would’ve followed that general anywhere. It was a very small thing, and he didn’t need to do it, but it impressed upon me that small gestures are hugely important.
Candy is a wonderful treat to make anyone and everyone feel a little better about their day. Who could you make happy by giving them a lollipop?

Let us know if you have a story about candy you want to share!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Let the boil work for you

For a long time, I stirred food coloring into lollipop syrup after it had boiled and cooled off a bit. It worked pretty well, but usually there would be a few little tiny feathery bits of food coloring that didn't fully incorporate into the syrup, leaving behind little streaks that looked a little wrong.

I don't even remember where I read this suggestion anymore, but I started adding in the food coloring to still-boiling syrup after it entered the soft crack stage (>275 degrees F) and letting the boiling action distribute the color. Now, the color in the finished lollipops is very evenly dispersed and looks great in my opinion. Here's a photo of blue food coloring a few seconds after it's been added to boiling syrup:

Photo by Kevin Keeker

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Preventing Sugar Crystals

The basic recipe for syrup is just sugar + water, of course. When I first started making lollipops, my first batch or two came out crumbly, like a bunch of crystals that separated relatively easily from each other when eaten.

Then I read that adding a little cream of tartar or corn syrup to the sugar-water solution helps prevent crystallization. I tried it, and indeed, the resulting lollipops had a wonderfully smooth satiny texture. That was one of the first lessons I learned that helped me make better hard candy.

Photo by Kevin Keeker

Monday, August 17, 2009

Tasting Party: The Summary

We'd like to thank everyone once again for coming out to the tasting party. Susan and I have used the data to decide which flavors to offer and which flavors should go together in collections. Here's a quick bullet-pointed summary of what we learned.
  • Overall, Salted Caramel was both highly recognized and highly ranked. This wasn't really a surprise to us, as it's a highly requested flavor.
  • There was no correlation between how recognized a flavor was and its average rating.
  • The fruit flavors generally ranked high, but while people could guess they were a fruit, which fruit was a challenge -- Pomegranate, for example, had the second highest average rating but only a 7% recognition rate.
  • Teaberry -- which, we must confess, we thought was going to be poorly rated -- did surprisingly well. It had a 6% recognition rate, but ranked 10th overall.
  • The two flavors with spices in them -- Tangerine-Clove and Vanilla-Cardamom -- were polarizing. Over 25% of tasters gave them 4's and 5's, but over 30% of tasters also gave them 1's. It seems you either love them or you hate them.
  • Coffee was also polarizing. Thirty-eight percent of people gave it a 4 or 5, but 31% gave it a 1. Interestingly, one commenter said: "very true to flavor - but I don't like coffee. loves coffee and doesn't like the flavor."
We're busy designing product lines around the data we collected about how recognizable the flavors were and how much people liked them. We'll announce them a week or so before we start selling on etsy. Stay tuned!
Photo by Kevin Keeker

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Tasting Party: Flavor Ranking

We got some great data from the tasting party. If you were there, you know that we gave you a form to fill out that asked you to rank the flavor from 1-5 and to guess which flavor it actually was. We did some statistical analysis on those results, and this is the list of flavors (in descending order) that scored 3 or above:
  • Salted Caramel
  • Pomegranate
  • Mango
  • Blackberry
  • Coconut-Caramel
  • Grapefruit
  • Bubble Gum
  • Root Beer Float
  • Pistachio-Marshmallow
  • Teaberry
  • Blackberry-Mint
  • Watermelon
  • Birthday Cake
  • Coffee
  • Mint Absurdity
We'll take this data, along with others to answer questions like: if you liked teaberry, what other flavors did you rank highly? Stay tuned for the summary...
Photo by Kevin Keeker

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tasting Party Soundtrack

Music plays a big role in my life, so naturally I wanted to put together a themed playlist for the tasting party -- and to listen to while making all that candy!

So, I searched our collection for songs with "candy" or "sugar" in the titles and was pleased to find lots of songs that fit. Some were old favorites, some I didn't know... it wound up being over 2 hours of music, including:
  • The Halo Benders - Big Rock Candy Mountain
  • Madonna - Candy Shop
  • The Hidden Cameras - Lollipop
  • The Rolling Stones - Brown Sugar
  • Cocteau Twins - Sugar Hiccup
  • X - Sugarlight
  • The Ravonettes - You Want the Candy
  • Magnetic Fields - Sugar World
  • Natalie Portman's Shaved Head - Confection
  • Bow Wow Wow - I Want Candy

I was disappointed that we didn't seem to have Echo and the Bunnymen's Lips Like Sugar in our collection though. Anybody have any favorite candy-themed songs to share?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Why lollipops?

When I tell people I make handmade lollipops, their first reaction is usually, "Wow!" Their second reaction is usually, "How'd you get into that?"

It just kind of happened, really. Knowing that I love to cook and have a somewhat scientific mind, my sister-in-law gave me The Hungry Scientist Handbook. One of the first projects in it involved making lollipops and it sounded like fun. Was it ever! Watching the syrup boil, learning how to handle it, playing around with pretty food coloring and coming up with new ways to combine familiar flavors was very addicting.

I started bringing my lollipops to gatherings with friends, including a group getaway over New Years 2009. Soon I was totally hooked on making lollipops. All the positive reinforcement from my sugar-loving friends sure didn't hurt either :-)

Photo by Kevin Keeker