What's in a candy? Savour it!

March 13, 2016

What's in a candy? Savour it!

"How do you make marshmallow?"

"Does it contain the real marshmallow plant?"

I get both of these questions ALL the time. The quick and dirty is that a handcrafted marshmallow contains sugar (organic), gelatin (I use organic pork gelatin), water (I also use organic fruit puree or tea), and corn syrup. It's all about heating some of those ingredients on the stove and then whipping it until it's light and fluffy. (And no, I don't use the marshmallow plant.) And like in all candy making, the exact temperature and technique is very important.

But the last ingredient - corn syrup, is where I have to do a bit of explaining.

I don't use corn syrup in any of my candy. In my mallows, I make an invert sugar (syrup) using organic sugar, water and a touch of cream of tartar. The benefits are that the mallows are lighter and fluffier, more melt-in-your-mouth, I'm able to keep the final product 100% organic, and my mallows are 100% corn free. The biggest drawback is that the shelf life on my mallows is much less than some of my handcrafted counterparts (shelf life for Tout de Sweet Marshmallows is three months).

Most people don't realize that table corn syrup (what you find at the grocery store) and high fructose corn syrup are not the same thing. That being said, corn syrup has a long and sordid history (starting in 1918 with war related food and sugar shortages) and so I wanted to stay away from it.

Most people also don't realize that when you see glucose on the ingredient labels, well, that's corn syrup. Yes, there are other types of glucose (like what I use, which is an organic tapioca syrup) but people who use other syrups, like me, list them as such. We don't cover them up with the ubiquitous glucose label.

The reason candy makers use any kind of glucose is because "glucose creates long carbohydrate molecules that get all tangled up and prevents the other sugars from crystallizing. This is the molecular action that makes hard candies glassy rather than crystalline, and keeps grittiness out of butterscotch, caramels, and taffies." In other words, glucose extends shelf life. You can make candy without it but you would have to eat the candy right away, which is what we are not trained to do anymore.

(side note: the science behind sugar is super cool. I encourage everyone to try experimenting at home.)

In my first months of making and selling caramels at my local farmer's market, I used the same invert sugar (syrup) in my caramels as I did my mallows. I learned the hard way that this invert sugar did not keep my caramels from going grainy for more than a couple weeks. So that's when I looked into an alternative and starting importing organic tapioca syrup.

I considered using organic brown rice syrup instead but I discovered that it had been recalled in Canada due to high levels of arsenic found in the product (ugh!).

A side benefit of organic tapioca syrup is that it’s lower in calories and carbohydrates, it’s pesticide and GMO-free and it has a lower glycemic index which means it doesn’t spike your blood sugar as much as refined sugars do. Here’s more info about it: http://www.livestrong.com/article/550281-what-are-the-health-benefits-of-organic-tapioca-syrup-vs-sucrose/

What does this all mean? Well, no matter what, candy is still a treat. It's not a staple. It's not good for you. But my candy is honest. I use the best ingredients I can get my hands on. You can read the label and know what you are putting in your body.  And for the most part, they are pretty simple all organic ingredients - sugar, tapioca syrup, dairy, fruit.

There are no ingredients that you can't pronounce, none that use the generic term rather than the exact source, and no artificial anything.

Our bodies may not recognize the difference between sugar, syrup and other sugars like fruit but I believe that when you are looking for that treat, make sure it's high quality. It's not a feeding frenzy. Treat the sweet like it should be - savour it.