It’s that time of year, friends: fall is growing cooler, winter will soon be here, the holidays are upon us, and our thoughts turn to the delicious traditions of making, sharing, and enjoying food together. This is the time of year when we think about the gifts and treats we’ll make for one another (and hey, maybe even for ourselves), as well as the treats we look forward to receiving.
It’s a time of year for sweets—luscious, dreamy caramels; rich, decadent fudge; crispy, fragrant peanut brittle; billowy coconut nougat; light-as-air meringues; and even the savory side of mixed roasted nuts. Nina Wanat’s book, “Sweet Confections: Beautiful Candy to Make at Home,” celebrates the art of making these treats at home, right in your own kitchen, where you can taste-test share these gifts with loved ones near and far.
I was privileged to be the editor working with Nina on this book, and it was a sheer delight getting to know her (and learning about the delectable craft of candymaking). I thought it might be nice to sit down with her and learn a bit about the life of a chocolatier/author. Enjoy!
How would you describe the book “Sweet Confections” to someone who hasn’t yet read it?
Nina :: “Sweet Confections” is a candymaking cookbook that novices should find accessible and experts should find interesting. If you’ve never made candy before, you’ll be able to do it correctly following the instructions, and if you have experience, you’ll appreciate the variations and ways that the recipes incorporate different flavors.
There are recipes for traditional favorites, such as toffee and chocolate fudge, that I tried to refine for contemporary palates – to make them more flavorful, and less sweet – as well as other candies, such as strawberry-lemonade marshmallows and pecan pie taffy, that are a bit more eclectic.
Nina Wanat, author of 'Sweet Confections'
You mention in the book’s introduction that making candy makes a person feel “like a kid with keys to a candy store.” How has that feeling developed for you throughout your candymaking career?
Nina :: When I started culinary school 6 years ago, I had never made candy before – and I wasn’t sure whether having been in a lot of candy stores would translate well into being able to make it! Peanut butter fudge was the first recipe assigned to me in confectionary class. I was a wreck throughout the process because I was worried that I was doing something wrong (and thinking “does that look right? I don’t know, maybe not…”), but then it was finally done and I cautiously tasted it. And it was amazing! I felt exhilarated by that peanut butter fudge, and it gave me the confidence to try more recipes, and worry a bit less.
Once I realized that I could make candy, I felt a wonderful sense of freedom to start making candy exactly how I liked it. My extra-curricular experiments started out at home, usually from a craving or a curiosity about a technique, and those recipes became the foundation for the handmade candy bar company that I founded in 2007. It’s a wonderful accomplishment to be able to make something exactly suited to your tastes, and to have others enjoy it, too.
What is it about making candy that fits with your personality and entrepreneurial spirit? Do you think the act of making candy is suited to a certain type of creativity or persona?