There is something divine about the way sugar can be transformed into a million sweet confections. Combine it with cream and butter to make caramel. Add a few egg whites, and with some heat and precision, you can transform it into a fluffy and creamy candy. Dot it with nuts for a truly divine experience.
What is even more divine to me, is the way that homemade candy recipes bring people together in the kitchen and leaves sweet memories in our hearts. Homemade candies are often shared with others and through this act of sharing more memories are formed. And there is something special about sweets - unlike other foods, sweets (at least in the form of candies) are not vital to our human existence. Sweet Invention author Michael Krondl says in his book, "while the liking for sweetness is undoubtedly evolutionary in origin, dessert is a purely cultural phenomenon." Through sweets, we share cultural traditions and we start new ones, and we share in this exchange not because we have to, but because we want to.
Since Snowshoe Candy Co. started in 2013, one of the most rewarding parts has been partaking in shared memories of sweet traditions. For me, making the caramel recipe that my Poppa taught me, transports me back to my childhood -- my brother and I anticipating his seasonal delivery of homemade caramels around the winter holidays. My Poppa is not a candy maker by trade, but with each batch he perfected the recipe and created something filled with love to share with his family and friends. With each batch I make, I think of this fondly.
Beyond my own memories, making sweets has connected me with others, whose unique familial experiences are quickly shared: "My mom and I used to make this candy!" or "I remember when my family would receive this candy as a gift from our relatives!" While each is unique, these shared stories connect us through a shared "core memory". To me that is, while our experiences are unique and different, we have this "core memory" that is shared with all others, different and alike. As we share these memories, our inter-connectedness grows stronger. To me, this is divine.
And so, I explore the topic further -- the way that homemade candies connect us with our communities and to our core memories. Today marks the beginning of a new project at Snowshoe Candy Co., called our Home Sweet Home interview series. I am embarking on an adventure to gather stories and recipes and share them with you - much like a community cookbook, mixed with a bit of stories, laughter and sweetness. Appropriately, my first interview was with Sharon Olson and Beth Richards of the Minne Lusa House, where we talked of Sharon's mother's recipe for Divinity.
Sharon recalled memories of making divinity "millions of times" with her mother as "gifts for everyone who liked divinity" around the holidays. She said with a laugh in her voice "people would never know how many failures we had because those were always kept at home... but as much as we had problems we would always laugh!" And while it's too much trouble for her to make these days, it was a special treat to make "because when you have really good divinity, it's really good."
The recipe itself was something that Sharon's mom started making when she was young, perhaps because "it was kind of a challenge to her." Each year around Christmas, Sharon and her mom would gather in the kitchen, heating and cooling the sugary syrup mixes and whipping it with egg whites until it was creamy and smooth like a cloud made of sugar.
I didn't grow up making divinity or even knowing what it was. When Sharon asked me at the farmer's market a few years ago if I had ever tried to make it, truthfully I hadn't even heard of it. Not long after, Sharon and Beth brought me the Minne Lusa neighborhood cookbook, which features Sharon's mom's recipe for Divinity. As with most candies, humidity can affect the outcome of the recipe. So I waited until a cold and dry afternoon this past winter to try a batch. With my kitchenaid mixer and a few simple ingredients, it turned out great (honestly, I wasn't sure how it was supposed to turnout, but with a few taste testers, I can confirm, it turned out great!).
"It's kind of a dying art," Sharon said towards the end of our conversation. But hopefully we can prove her wrong -- by sharing the recipe, the memory and the Divinity.
Sharon's Divinity - Angel Kisses
Process #1 (Start first)
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c water
Cook together until soft ball stage* is reached
Soft ball stage is between 235*-240*F
3 c sugar
1 c corn syrup
1/2 c water
Cook until mixture hardens in cold water or until it spins a thread
Thread stage is between 230*-235*F
Beat 3 egg whites until stiff. Pour #1 mixture over egg whites and beat well. Then add #2 mixture and beat until it holds its shape when dropped from spoon. Add 1 tsp of vanilla and 1 c chopped nuts. Drop by spoonfuls on waxed paper.
This is the first in the new Home Sweet Home series at Snowshoe Candy Co. In an effort to capture the stories of sweetness and wonder that comes about from homemade sweets, we are embarking on a new project and will be interviewing candy makers across the country, both home-scale and family businesses. Each feature will share a story of how sweets have created memories and their lasting legacy.
If you have a story that you would like to share, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org