Sweet treats turn back clock to childhood

Walla Walla Bread Co. twists its offerings to include candy canes.

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Walla Walla Bread Co. Lead Baker, Fernando Sanchez (right) makes a delightful twist to a rope of lemon candy cane Wednesday morning while owner Michael Kline (left) and Lam Mandyrath work to make the rope more uniform in size. The Main Street bakery will be offering the delightful twists in lemon, cinnamon, and peppermint. December 2, 2010

WALLA WALLA -- The band of pulled sugar stretched across two tables at Walla Walla Bread Co. late Wednesday morning.

Three pairs of hands pulled and twisted and wrangled the 180-degree sugar, making candy canes from scratch at the Main Street business.

The holiday confection in lemon, peppermint and cinnamon flavors harkens back to the Christmases of Walla Walla Bread Co. owner and chef Michael Kline.

"I was definitely one of those sugar-addict kids, so anything involving sugar holds a special place in my heart," he said.

But truth be told, no candy cane he ever unwrapped as a child was quite like the bigger, all-natural confection made from scratch at his downtown bakery.

Kline and his staff this week unveiled their handmade candy canes.

"I think the holidays are one of those great times of the year to step out of what you do and offer something really creative," he said.

It was also an opportunity to dust off some techniques he picked during his culinary training on the East Coast years ago. For a short period of time, Kline trained with world-champion confectioner Ewald Notter, learning the basics of pulling sugar.

"I never thought I would actually use it," he quipped this morning.

But the idea of introducing a seasonal product that wasn't already being sold elsewhere was part of the allure. Not to mention part of the shop's ongoing business model.

Lest anyone overlook the simplicity of the candy cane, the process takes time, strength and a tolerance for heat.

Kline and his crew prepared 10 dozen candy canes Wednesday over the course of about two hours. Six cups of sugar, about two cups of light corn syrup and a bit of water were brought to 285 degrees -- a process that takes about an hour.

The concoction was poured into baking sheets and cooled to a crisp 180 degrees -- the temperature at which glove-clad hands must begin to stretch it out.

"Probably the most challenging part of it, besides handling the really hot sugar, is getting them twisted," Kline said.

One of each kind of candy cane is packaged for $2.50. Kline said crowds have hit the stores since the bakery's crew started making the treats earlier this week.

He expects the candy canes to be a staple throughout the holiday season and plans to make batches two to three times a week, depending on demand.

"I'd like to say that because it's not store-bought and it's all natural that it's better for you," he said. "But it's still sugar."

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