As we tentatively separated into groups of three, our sunny teacher warned us to wash our hands immediately if we ever touched our face or pulled a hair out of our eyes. I half-expected him to add that we should avoid impure thoughts during the candy-making process. One of my partners, a frazzled new mom of twins, immediately suggested that we merely celebrate the spirit of this rule. I readily agreed, but our other teammate, a perky lady with serious undertones, felt that this was a dubious plan at best. We solved the impasse by sending her off to boil some caramel alone.
Our first project was making truffles, which involved boiling a lot of cream and chocolate, something that I could do. In theory, anyhow. As we stood around watching the ingredients begin to simmer, my partner admitted she was overwhelmed already, and she was only staring at butter and milk boiling on a stove. Our instructor overheard us, and reassured us that it's impossible to destroy chocolate. If it's under-microwaved, just stick it in there for another 30 seconds, he suggested. If it's too crumbly, use it for hot chocolate. And if you burn it, just remove the offending area and use the rest. Unlike most grade-schoolers, chocolate allows do-overs.
Much like the staff at a psych ward, icing is very forgiving
Over the course of the day, we made dozens of candies: turtles, chocolates with brandy centers, cordials, lollipops, and truffles. Much to my surprise, we did it without trauma. We kept each other from panicking when the caramel didn't seem to be reaching the desired temperature quickly enough, or when we had to figure out the right amount of citric acid to make fruit chews fruity, or to reassure each other that the cherry snowballs wouldn't look like fruitcake meatballs once we covered them with white chocolate.
If I had been alone, I would have given up midway and eaten everything in partially complete form. At the end of the day, however, I left with a box of candy and a rehabilitated feeling, much like a kindergartener with macaroni fridge art.
I don't know whether mastering the homemade confection will, in the end, be the best route for satisfying my jones. As I type this I'm halfway through a can of Wild Cherry Pepsi, but I'm also sucking on a homemade lollipop. It's a start.