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Brooklyn Hard Candy

Brooklyn-based chefs revive hard candy with secret ingredients and throwback packaging

by Victor Reznik in Food + Drink on 31 March 2011

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Like millions of good ideas, Brooklyn Hard Candy was dreamed up over several drinks one night. But unlike most booze-fueled enterprises, this one has more than enough cred to back it up. The joint product of Le Cordon Bleu grads Danny Mowles (also the executive chef at NYC's The Roger Smith Hotel) and Nathan Panum, the pair set out to create something distinctly Brooklyn and unmistakably "hard."

"We saw everything moving towards local," Mowles explained when I recently spent the afternoon with him in Brooklyn. "We knew we wanted to do something sweet, but everyone was doing chocolate. After that it was just finding the right type of sweet that we could make our own."

Standout flavors include Wild Strawberry and Green Apple (I liked Tangerine and Blueberry too), but all seven have their own secret flavor ingredient, lending a subtly delicious aftertaste.

The cooking process follows standard candy-making procedure (cooking the sugar to a "hard crack" before adding citric acid and flavor), but the candy's shape is the result of a custom-made cutting machine. Sourcing all of their Ingredients from the U.S., Mowles comments, "One of the things we're most proud of is being a handcrafted American company."

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To attract customers, balancing the look of the packaging with their values was just as important to the candymakers as making tasty treats. "People keep asking if we can do organic candy, and that kind of takes the fun out of it—it's candy—but what we have tried to do is keep the packaging as green as possible." Made of recycled glass, cork and paper, the bottle is reminiscent of the type used in old-fashioned apothecaries.

With demand wildly exceeding expectation, the duo is trying to find free time between their busy day jobs to produce enough candy for both retailers and a growing online fan base. Launched December 2010, the company still operates out of multiple locations. "We get time from big kitchens at night, come in there in the off hours, prepare as many vats as we can and see how it goes." An initial run in Brooklyn's Bedford Cheese Shop helped the charming bottles sell across the area, and moves to larger markets are in the works, as well as a new product—look out for a lollipop line in time for summer.

In the meantime the candies start at $7 per bottle and are available at Greene Grape, Brooklyn Larder and Blue Apron Fine Foods, or through Brooklyn Hard Candy's online store.

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