Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Stratford Culinary Tour: Candy Making Workshop at Chocolate Barr's Candies

I love sweets. I am a "dessert" person, a "must save room for dessert" person, and "can never be too full for dessert" person. I can have chocolate and candy any time of day. Before dinner? "Sure!" Before going to bed? "Great!" During a meeting at work? "Perfect!" You get my drift. Needless to say I was ecstatic at the thought of making candy at Chocolate Barr's Candies with owner Derek Barr. 

Derek Barr, along with the help of his wife, Jacqueline, opened Chocolate Barr's Candies  back in 2003. They open 7 days a week and have all sorts of goodies including brittles, candies, nutty pop, chocolate (many different kinds of bars, caramels, jellies, truffles, etc.)

Here are just some of the many cute chocolates at Chocolate Barr's:

What makes Chocolate Barr's Candies stand out from the crowd is that owner Derek Barr is always open to trying new things and testing out new flavours; he's all about experimenting and coming up with unique and exotic chocolate and candy combinations. How cool is that? Have you ever tried ice wine jellies? How about ice wine truffles? Or chili pepper truffles? 

More chocolates...

As if chocolates and candies themselves weren't enticing enough, Chocolate Barr's Candies also has a gelato station! Crazy! I need to live there!

After a quick view of the store, we all head to the back where the magic happens. This is a chocolate tempering machine. Chocolate tempering is one of the last steps taken to process and prepare chocolate candy. In this process, the cocoa butter molecules within the chocolate are stabilized through a process of heating and cooling that allows the chocolate to harden properly and ensures a shiny finish.

Here is Derek Barr, the candy magician.

Derek is to guide us through the steps of making Nutty Pop. According to Derek, Nutty Pop is "an educated form of caramel corn with pecans and almonds". Below is a Nutty Pop recipe which you can follow at home.

There's no doubt that we will be making lots of Nutty Pop, evident with two butter towers on the table (2 lbs of it) and the massive cauldron. We were advised to wear closed toe shoes and...

....hair nets. As you can see, I'm fully equipped. I'm doing the "figure 8" stirring technique here.

Then it was Derek's turn to show us how it's really done. Derek is stirring with one hand and with such efficiency that his arm comes up blurry in my picture haha. 

Stirring the popcorn, almonds, and pecans together. With all the ingredients combined, the resulting mixture is pretty heavy (that's why all the stirring from now on is left to Derek...we wouldn't want to mess up the Nutty Pop!)

With the help of Suresh (@spotlightcity) from Spotlight Toronto, the cauldron is brought over to the long stainless steel table.


and dump!

Close-up of the Nutty Pop. The candy right now is still way too hot to eat. It would literally burn your if you try to touch/eat it.

Derek and Suresh spreading out the Nutty Pop. This has to be done quickly. There are hoses with cold water running through them underneath the table - this helps with the cooling process.

Around 10 minutes later, the Nutty Pop is good to eat. We each had some off the table (still warm!). I'm not kidding when I say this stuff is good. I wanted to just stand by the table and eat it all.

Afterwards, we all got to sample some chocolate-covered ice wine jellies too. There were 3 flavours: blueberry, raspberry, and japaleno.

I got the blueberry jelly and it was sooo yummy! Ice wine, blueberry, and chocolate...how can you possibly go wrong with this combo?

I bought a bag of Nutty Pop and Dark Chocolate-Covered Pretzels that day. These pretzels were highly recommended by Nina (@popNina) so pretty much every one in the group bought a bag. Salted pretzels covered in dark chocolate, savoury yet sweet, all at the same time. Hmmm, how to explain other than to say that these pretzels were pretty much like crack - I finished the bag in two days (same with the Nutty Pop). Wanted to "save some" for "later", but what is "later" anyway?  Everything is relative in my books.

After the our workshop at Chocolate Barr's Candies, we headed over to Shakespeare Pies and The Best Little Pork Shoppe to end our day. My next post will show you some of these wonderful made-from-scratch pies and pork products (yes more pork!) from Stratford.