April 2012

Make The Best Lemon Bars

Slate has a recipe just like my grandmother's!

 

I recently made lemon bars from scratch for the first time in my life. I was spurred to give it a try by this Slate article, which starts from the point of view that "you're doing it wrong." And given the sad state of public lemon bars, I would have to agree.
 
When I think of lemon bars, I think of the treats my grandmother made at Christmas time. Every year, a week or two before Thanksgiving, her kitchen became the hub of a day-long baking mania. This was a family tradition, usually just me and my grandmother and my two aunts. Occasionally my cousin, when he was available. (He's in his early 20s now, and a whiz in the kitchen!)

Haribo Gold Bears

Delicious, although not so great for your breath

 

Haribo has a new ad campaign in which little kids seem to be running the company. That's not nearly as odd as the fact that it is only one of several commercials for various other companies in which this is true. I guess that's a thing now. You can see the line of reasoning: why not? 
 
I was a little confused at first, because I thought that "Gold Bears" were like a premium version of their regular gummy bears. But this is not the case: it is Haribo's only gummy bear. My assumption is that they chose to call their candy "Gold Bears" because that is a name which can be trademarked. And it's similar enough to "Gummi Bears" to ring that bell in the consumer's mind.

Candyman: The David Klein Story

The surprisingly engrossing and cut-throat story behind Jelly Bellys
If you have ever wanted a peek behind the curtain into the nitty gritty of the candy business, "Candyman: The David Klein Story" is a great place to start. This independent documentary has it all: drama, fame, fortune, catastrophe, pluckiness, bad guys, and of course, candy!
 
I never realized how little I knew about Jelly Bellys until I watched this documentary. The flavorful little jelly beans were invented in the mid 1970s by a man named David Klein. And then, after Jelly Bellys became a national success, he was fed to the business sharks who pressured him into signing it all away.

Weird, old-timey candy: Horehound and Sassafras

The taste of horehound candy is… odd. "Medicinal" is probably a good word.

 

Last week I had to stop in at the feed store to buy some ground oyster shell for my chickens. Doesn't that just sound fabulously rural? The truth is that, although I live in a rural area, these are strictly pet chickens. The last time one died, I took its body to the vet's office to be cremated, that's how upset I was.
 
The feed store had just put in a big intriguing display of old-timey candy. The display was meant to look like a frontier store's penny candy barrels, and the packages are printed with an austere black-on-white color scheme. I picked the two oddest candies of the lot, and made my escape.

SweeTarts Jelly Beans

Farewell, Easter! Farewell, seasonal profusion of jelly beans!

 

I wasn't going to buy any more jelly beans. I really wasn't. But then they were half off at Walgreen's when I went in to drop off a prescription, and… it's been a tough week.
 
There was a surprising amount of candy left over. Most of it crappy. Half off a cheap hollow milk chocolate bunny rabbit is no deal at all. Then I spied these little gems, and I had to have them! 
 
It helped that there was an exasperated woman standing in the aisle talking to a family member on her cell phone. The family member (presumably a child) was demanding SweeTart jelly beans, but she couldn't find them. I spotted them and handed her a bag, for which she was grateful. I always take these first-hand recommendations to heart. It's how I found Bimbonuelos, by observing other shoppers. You learn a lot that way!

Avoiding a Dessert Disaster

It's no secret that I adore baking. Cooking regular meals isn't my forte, but for some reason, creating dessert masterpieces always works out in my favor. My friends are the opposite. They find cooking to be much easier than baking, but I have to disagree.

When they ask for my secrets, I tell them that baking is all about the small details. You must know ratios, and you can't steer away from directions while still figuring out the learning curve. That's why so many of them end up with cookies and cakes that just don't work out...

Let's go over a few common baking problems and discuss ways to avoid them in the future.

Lifesavers Jelly Beans

Not a fan.
The last time I bought jelly beans, I thought I had pretty much hit the pinnacle of the art. I liked Starburst Crazy Beans quite a lot. When I bought this bag, I thought there was no way they could be better than Crazy Beans.
 
I was right.
 
So, so right.
 
I should start by admitting that I am not a big fan of Lifesavers to begin with. They are too simple, their flavors too brash, the colors too sharp. The whole thing is over in a few quick crunches (I have never been one to suck on a candy for very long), leaving behind an aftertaste that lingers far longer than it ought to.

Starburst Crazy Beans

LOVE THEM.
You know, I'm starting to feel a little bit bitter about the lousy jelly bean situation when I was a kid. Growing up in the late 70s and early 80s, you basically had only three jelly bean choices. First and foremost, you had… well, jelly beans. Those big ones with barely any flavor and a sugar glaze that crackles a little bit when you bite into it. Second, we had Hummingbird Eggs, which were small jelly beans made with pectin. And third we had Jelly Bellys, but these had a premium price and didn't make it into kids' Easter baskets.
 
For the most part, when I was a kid, we ate regular old jelly beans and we liked it. But now? KIDS THESE DAYS. I am staggered by the variety of jelly beans on display this year. Every time I go to the store I think "Surely I have tried all the jelly beans." And every time, I am wrong!
 
What's more, every time I think "THIS is the best jelly bean I have tried!" And every time, I'm wrong. Because seriously you guys, THIS is the best jelly bean I have tried. They can't get any better. I'm sure of it.

Jelly Belly Chocolate Dips: Very Cherry

These are… in a word, "weird."

 

I smiled when I saw these in the store. "All those times they tried to convince us to make a chocolate covered cherry by eating two chocolate Jelly Bellys and one Very Cherry one, and FINALLY they just covered some Jelly Bellys with chocolate!" It's like they finally capitulated to the pressure. Or from another perspective, this is the candy we have been waiting for since the 1980s.
 
I found these in the checkout aisle at Joann's Fabrics. You can find a lot of weird candy at the checkout line at Joann's. (It's one of the few places where I have found Circus Peanuts for sale.) Over the years I have learned to scan these areas carefully. And oh, you do have plenty of time to look at the candy, as slow as the line always moves. But I digress.