I’ll start with a confession. I don’t have a sweet tooth. The son of a mother who dislikes chocolate (yes i know!) and a father who favours brie over brûlée, my sweet side didn’t stand a chance. Out of greed, I will usually have pudding at the end of a meal but deep down inside I fantasise about the return of the British savoury: a practice up until the 1950s where one final savoury treat was served instead of a sugary dessert.
“Never judge a book by its cover” certainly came to mind when I arrived at Liddabits HQ. My inner wimp materialised as I navigated through what appeared to be an abandoned warehouse. Six floors up, I arrived in a sorcerer’s lair filled with many kitchens and strange gadgets churning out sweet treats from around the world – I could have worked 52 jobs in this place alone.
Since I had never worked in confectionery before, I was given an introduction to the world of sugar. I’m always astounded how you can take one ingredient and manipulate it to create different effects. For example boiling sugar at a low temperature (soft crack) gives the end product a soft chewy texture. Choose a higher boiling point and you’ll end up with a harder cracking candy.
Then there’s chocolate. For candy makers, the most important part of the chocolate chain is tempering. Chocolate contains crystals differing in size. By tempering you create a uniformed structure among the crystals, which means they fit together nicely (think of building a house with different sized bricks). Tempering results in a chocolate with a smooth glossy surface, a crisp bite, and more importantly for Candy makers, something that won’t melt in your hand or scuffer in packaging. Save turning into Christian Grey, learning how to temper chocolate is the closest I’m going to get to mastering advanced methods of seduction.
Working my way through chocolate caramels to peanut butter jelly bars, I witnessed the girls in action making some of the best looking candies I’ve seen. And all this to the tune of 90s pop music and conversations about One Direction contracting Chlamydia from koalas. We even turned to the world of reality TV, and I jokingly suggested I could be Yorkshire’s answer to Made in Chelsea’s Jaime Laing with my very own ‘Made in New Yorkshire Candy Kittens’.
Mid-production one of the girls handed me an odd looking caramel to taste. It was unlike anything I’ve sampled before. Sweet, rich and salty, I had found my candy calling card: the caramel beer pretzel. A combination of Brooklyn Brewery’s Brown Ale and East India Pale Ale, reduced and stirred into our caramel along with crunchy chunks of salty Martin’s pretzels. Liddabits describe their caramel beer pretzel as “#1 winner-over-of-sceptics.” They weren’t wrong. No matter where the next 10 months leads me round the world, here’s one sweet treat I won’t forget in a hurry. A desert island candy, so to speak.