Field Guide to Candy: How to Identify and Make Virtually Every Candy Imaginable
by Anita Chu
Publisher: Quirk Books, Country: US
ISBN: 9781594744198, Year: 2009
Link to publisher’s page or site
This review is the personal opinion of the reviewer.

Overview

Field Guide to Candy packs a lot of recipes for homemade candy from around the world in a compact volume. It manages to include several lesser-known recipes from outside the US, UK, and France, even though there are a few glaring omissions and curious inclusions. However, the lack of detail in the recipes make this more suitable as a reference book for more experienced candy-makers.

Full review

In Field Guide to Candy, San Francisco blogger and pastry chef Anita Chu shows us how to identify many popular homemade candies from around the world and recreate them in a home kitchen. Measuring just 15cm by 11cm and only 2.5cm thick, this tiny volume squeezes in 113 recipes, each one with a general description, a short history, serving suggestions (such as the appropriate season or occasion in which to serve it), a few helpful notes, the recipe, and, contained in the 32-page full-color insert, a photograph.

Chu divides the recipes into six sections: All Things Chocolate, Fruits and Jellies, Sugary Sweet, Creamy Sticky Chewy, Nutty, and Fun and Simple Classics. Though a considerable portion of the recipes comes from North America, Britain and France, there is still a respectable number of recipes from the Middle East, Asia, South America and the Mediterranean. Included are classics like truffles, caramel apples, pâte de fruits, Turkish delight, English toffee, taffy, marshmallows and divinity, and also less commonly found favorites (at least in cookbooks) such as humbugs, Chinese milk candy, gummy bears, and maple candy. There are a few curious inclusions which many people might hardly consider candy, such as chocolate-dipped strawberries, meringue mushrooms, pear chips, and chocolate-dipped potato chips. The presentation of the fruit jellies in the gallery shows them spooned out of dessert cups, and not in the context of confectionery like Japanese yōkan or konnyaku jellies. The pictures in the gallery also show perfectly panned chocolate-coated espresso beans and Jordan almonds, which will almost certainly be a source of disappointment for the naïve candy maker.

Though the author limits the book to homemade candy, there are still a few challenging recipes, or those not typically made at home. She has a recipe for chocolate nougat (the soft filling that can be found in the American candy bar 3 Musketeers), lemon drops, candy corn (a striped Halloween candy), gummy bears, worms and gumdrops. However, there are also disappointing omissions: orange slices (the toothsome jellies, not the real fruit), buttercream fillings for chocolates, tablet, fruit leather, calissons, and any form of spun sugar. The book could have used some compression for repetitive elements, as some readers may be frustrated by too-similar recipes like chocolate-dipped things (which covers several separate recipes) or solid molded chocolates. Unlike most of the other books in the Field Guide series, this book functions more as a cookbook than a field guide, and many people expecting the latter will be disappointed by the homemade limitation. Even in the gallery you won’t find pictures of most penny candies, cotton candy and its relatives, or bubble gum.

As a cookbook, Field Guide to Candy leaves something to be desired. The recipes are straightforward, but a lot of detail is lost in the process, like instructions on leaving sugar syrups to thicken to improve the texture (such as for hard candy and sponge toffee), greasing molds (for lollipops and possibly lots of other molded candies), or halting the cooking of boiling sugar. The introductory chapters have valuable information on tools and cooking sugar and chocolate. However, some detail is lost, like exactly what kinds of molds are appropriate for what mixtures and/or temperatures (polyethylene, polycarbonate, metal, or silicone), though it gives a vague warning. The book generally has only US standard volume measurements, except when referring to chocolate. With some experience and practice, the recipes make a good point of reference, if not the ideal start for learning, and the book’s handy size makes carrying your candy-making notes with you a breeze.

The book’s strongest points are the breadth of the recipes included for such a small volume, and it will be of most benefit either to people looking for an inexpensive collection of international candy recipes, or home candy makers with a good amount of experience looking for a portable reference for homemade candy recipes.

This is an original review for The Gastronomer’s Bookshelf.
Main rating: 3. Recommended – some flaws
Visual appeal: Okay
Suitability as a gift: If the person is really interested
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2 Comments

  1. Deanna
    Posted 30 Mar 2010 at 22:13 | Permalink

    Jason:
    Can you recommend an alternative candy making book. I am a beginning and need a lot of directions and tips.

    Deanna

  2. Jason
    Posted 30 Mar 2010 at 22:38 | Permalink

    Hi Deanna, thanks for the question. The newest best book for beginners in my opinion is Peter Greweling’s Chocolates and Confections at Home. A couple of older books but may still be of interest (a bonus is that they’re less expensive and may augment your studies): The Complete Home Confectioner and Candymaking.

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