Adult rule for keeping your sanity: Don’t believe everything you see in Martha Stewart Living magazine. Like me, you probably find yourself throwing up your hands and exclaiming, “Who has the time?” when you come across glossy spreads showcasing make-your-own candy recipes.
Baking cookies and cakes is one thing, but candy-making—and caramel wrestling—seems to be its own beast (don’t you need some fancy double boiler or at least a Bunsen burner to get it all right?).
- PHOTO COURTESY OF SUGAR + SPOON
- HIGH FIVE YOUR DENTIST : Some stick-to-your-teeth caramels are impossible to get down. Creamy, soft, buttery, chewy, and delicious, locally made Sugar + Spoon caramels are from a different planet entirely.
Anne Marquart of Paso Robles-based Sugar + Spoon understands this sentiment, but would like to remind us all of a truly shocking fact. You think candy making is a time-consuming activity today? Well, it was a lot harder back in the day.
We’re talking “wake up at dawn and milk the cow, then churn your own butter” hard.
Take the OGG (original great-grandma) recipe Marquart uses to craft her soft, never-tacky chews in 2017. It was born more than 80 years ago when the matriarch began making caramels on her family ranch in Lockwood Valley, Calif.
Great-grandma Edith may have had loads of hand-washing and darning to do, but always made time for holiday caramels. Milking the cow, churning the butter, and working over the hot wood stove became part of the tradition. And like all of the best traditions—the caramels became as unwavering as the seasons.
“Every year after that, she was never given a free pass. She had to make the caramels,” Marquart said. “I have visions of her standing over her wood-burning stove in her cute little apron, stirring away, stealing glances to make sure her little ones were behaving. Little did she know, but she was starting a tradition that would be passed down from generation to generation.”
Marquart’s chews are just as buttery, soft, and addictive as her great-grandmother’s batches. Made entirely by hand, the confections contain zero preservatives or funky fillings. Marquart learned from the best, her own chef father and her grandmother. Both loved ones provided practical know-how as well as vivid memoires.
“My grandma remembers helping her mom stir the pot of bubbling caramel and then wrapping the caramels to give as Christmas gifts to family. The tradition continued for decades, and all of the family would wait anxiously each Christmas for the caramels from my great-grandma’s kitchen—and now, from my kitchen,” Marquart said. “I remember making a batch for my husband, during our first Christmas together. He said, ‘You’ve got to sell these.’”
- PHOTO COURTESY OF SUGAR + SPOON
- WRAPPED WITH HEART: With flavors like vanilla and toasted almond, lime, and café au lait, these caramels are old fashioned yet modern.
And so, several years later, she finally did. Orders are now flowing in from across the country. If only great-granny could see her precious holiday candies now.
True to the original chef, Marquart still uses all of the same ingredients that her great-grandma used, with the exception of the fresh cream and butter straight from the udder. For that stuff, Marquart goes to the store.
“Great-grandma Edith would skim the cream from the milk acquired from the cows on the ranch, and then use the remaining cream to churn the butter. Thank goodness I don’t have to do that, but our caramels are still a labor of love, though, made in small batches, then hand cut and hand wrapped just as my great-grandma did throughout the ’30s through the ’60s,” Marquart said.
Isn’t it funny, the memories that tug at your heart?
Marquart fondly remembers sitting in front of the TV wrapping hundreds of caramels and—of course—consuming a few as “payment” for the free labor. These days, Marquart’s daughter helps with the wrapping (and eating).
If this doesn’t inspire your inner-homemaker, I don’t know what will. Remember: It’s not so much about perfection as it is about crafting something from the heart. We could all learn a thing or two from great-granny Edith.
- CARAMELS WITH CARE: Enjoy great-grandma Edith’s caramels hand-crafted with love by Sugar + Spoon by going to sugarandspooncaramels.com.
“She took a lot of care in everything she did, and that continues to show in her caramels,” Marquart said.
Hayley Thomas Cain is no butter-churning Martha Stewart but has a cute little apron all the same. Get ahold of her at email@example.com.