What I really enjoy about exploring the local food scene in New York (or really anywhere) is that I get to meet people who are passionate and dedicated to the craft of creating fine products and discover our common interests. This happened when I sat down over coffee to talk to Laurie Freeman Pauker the creator and founder of Lush Candy. The first time I had the chance to try her beautiful-looking and delicious English Toffee was at the Food52 Piglet Party last December. From that initial buttery-sweet, crunchy bite, I knew that this was something special. I’ve since found out that I’m only one among many of her fans.
I’ve started making my own toffee for the holiday season ever since I dusted off a recipe that I found in my mother’s card file so I can appreciate what goes into making this product. It’s not only about the love of eating sweets, but also about the craft of working with all the finicky ingredients that go into making every piece. Boiling hot sugar and melted butter has to be timed to the exact moment when it needs to come off of the heat. The molten liquid has to be poured out quickly enough to have it mold and set into the forms, or cut to size, before it hardens and is impossible to re-shape. After waiting patiently for that to cool, the perfectly-shaped morsels are coated in chocolate and (possibly) rolled in chopped nuts to create each delicate confection.
As we chatted about our respective candy-making exploits, I became more and more appreciative of what goes into these creations. Laurie grew up baking and started out making her toffees from home, using her family as her test kitchen (where they got to eat her imperfect batches). We talked about the learning curve for getting the toffees to the point of being able to bring them to market. There was figuring how to read the stages of the candy itself as it heats up and gets to the level of becoming toffee as well as adjusting for variations in heat and ingredient quality. Then, there was also learning about how to temper chocolate and the process for dipping the candies to achieve just the right layer of covering. As she said, and I completely relate, “Being compulsive [about these things] helps.”
This dedication led her to take courses to understand better how all these culinary and chemical aspects come together to create something wonderful to eat. She also took part in the FastTrac entrepreneurship program to understand more about the business aspects of bringing her product to market, which is where our backgrounds overlap. If you go to her website, you’ll find out where you can buy several of the varieties that she offers. Her packaging and design have clear and simple lines which belies all the work that goes into each of these decadent treats yet makes them perfect thing to offer to guests with their after-dinner coffee. I’m going to try to track down the white chocolate and pistachio variety, as I didn’t get to try that one at the party, but I can’t promise that I’ll share any of them with you.
Buon appetito! There will be an upcoming giveaway featuring this product. Please check back on this website in a few weeks for details.