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A young girl, age four, sprinkles jimmies over an icing mixture during the Candy School class at the Harriotte B. Smith library, Feb. 17. Participants learned to make caramel, master and divinity candy and boiled icing, all from scratch.

Photo by Lance Cpl. Jonathan G. Wright

Candy class sweetens up students

17 Feb 2010 | Lance Cpl. Jonathan G. Wright

A piece of candy can be the sweet tooth’s friend or a dreaded enemy of the waistline. Yet it has remained a piece of culinary history with each drop of chocolate or pinch of sugar that was first combined half a dozen centuries ago.

A class of approximately 20 people met for the Candy School candy-making seminar which taught various recipes at the Harriotte B. Smith library, Feb. 17.

“There are a lot of old stories about the discovery and making of candy, such as how a pig created caramel” said Shannon Vavich, an independent cooking instructor who taught the class. “It has a lot of family history as something to pass on down to your children.”

The candy class taught attendants how to make caramel, the basic starting point of candy, divinity candy, or how to give more substance to a candy recipe and boiled icing. Candy-making, however, can be a sticky business.

“The reason people are afraid of making candy is because there’s no turning back from what you’ve done,” said Vavich as she stood behind a long table covered with portable stovetops, bowls and ingredients. “Candy is chemistry. It takes time, and you have to know what you’re doing, but the payoff is great.”

The class commenced with the caramel being created from scratch:

- 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
- 2 1/4 cups brown sugar
- 2 cups cream
- 1 cup corn syrup
- 1 tsp. vanilla when done cooking

- Combine and stir in an element-safe bowl and place on the stovetop burner at high heat. Reduce to a low simmer once boiling begins. Remove from heat when the desired consistency is acquired.

“The biggest thing you have to watch for when making candy is how long you keep it on the burner,” said Vavich. “The longer it stays on the more stretchy it becomes and harder when it dries.”

While the caramel was heating up, Vavich continued with the basic recipe for candy; a simple concentration of sugar in water with any other sweet ingredients:
- 2 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup corn syrup
- 1/2 cup water
- Add extra flavorings as needed

- Repeat the steps used to heat caramel.

She also discussed the element of ‘divinity’ candy, which is simply adding two egg whites and one teaspoon of vanilla. This gives the candy more substance and forming ability.

“I attended this class because I’ve never made candy before,” said Leticia Atencio, military spouse and mother. “I am a stay-at-home mother and after seeing how easy these recipes are I have a lot of time to practice making candy.”

Vavich then explained candy as being in a great family tree. The aforementioned basic candy recipe is similar to the seed; factoring in how long the mixture stays on the burner plus additional ingredients can make that seed become any one of a thousand branches.

Lastly, Vavich prepared boiled icing:
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/3 cup water
- 1/8 tsp. cream of tartar

- Repeat the steps used to heat caramel.
This recipe is just one more creation that can be altered to become something completely different. Vavich had intended the recipe to become a cake icing, but by accidentally leaving it on the burner too long she was able to drip the sauce onto tin foil and let it dry it into icing sculptures to place atop a cake.

“While candy-making is a precise art, you can always save a mistake by making it into something else,” explained Vavich. “Most of what I make is because I mess up.”

At the end of the class, with the caramel still not done and the boiled icing becoming cake sculptures, the spirit of the seminar was not lost: participants came together to share recipes and techniques, plus how to save condemned creations.

“If all goes well with my candy, it will definitely be something I pass down to my daughter,” said Atencio. “Besides, what little girl doesn’t want their mommy to make candy?”

For recipes, tips and tricks of candy making, visit Vavich’s cooking Web site at For dates of upcoming cooking classes, call the base library at 451-5724.