Archive for the ‘Candy Crafts’ Category

A few months ago, I heard about a famous pastry chef who opened up a unique storefront just minutes from my home. Turns out it’s like a mini Willy Wonka Factory.

Chef Roby’s All-Chocolate Kitchen in Geneva, IL, is filled with Chef Alain Roby’s life-sized chocolate and sugar creations, including a replica of his own custom kitchen made out of 1,500 pounds of Barry Callebaut chocolate.

Chef Alain Roby sculpting sugar into edible art.

Last week, I sat down with the French pastry chef and found out how he went from studying culinary art in Paris to becoming one of the world’s best sugar and chocolate artists. (He also earned two Guinness World Records, had a 20-year career as corporate pastry chef for Hyatt Hotels and Resorts, and appeared on The Martha Stewart Show and several Food Network shows in between. Overachiever!)

Frosty the Sugar-man.

While I was  sipping inhaling Chef Roby’s signature hot cocoa, he showed me the top of his “World’s Tallest Chocolate Sculpture,” which is on display in the shop and in the Guinness World Book of Records.

Right as he was explaining how he constructed the chocolate skyscraper, he got an e-mail asking if he’d be interested in a third Guinness World Record: making the world’s tallest chocolate cactus. Not sure if he’s going to do it, but he was thinking out loud about how he’d construct it. If he winds up in the 2012 Guinness World Book of Records with an enormous edible cactus, you heard it here first.

Also on display in the shop/museum are life-sized chocolate sculptures, including a Chicago Blackhawks hockey player, a dinosaur, and an astronaut. (Funny story on the astronaut: Chef Roby originally created it for Chicago’s Adler Planetarium. Every two weeks, he says he’d get a call from the Planetarium asking him to come out and replace one of the chocolate fingers, which, I presume, was broken/eaten by one of the field-trip kids.)

The all-chocolate kitchen.

The painting in the kitchen was done by Chef Roby's artistic wife, Esther, who used white chocolate as her medium.

If you’re in the Chicago area and have an interest in culinary arts, chocolate, and heavenly hot cocoa, Chef Roby’s All-Chocolate Kitchen is well worth the trip … and 100% kid-friendly.

If you go, there’s a good chance you’ll see Chef Roby making chocolates or sculpting sugar figurines in the middle of his shop.

Admission to the edible museum is free. The storefront offers a sit-down cafe with Chef Roby’s hot cocoa, chocolates, and pastries, as well as freshly brewed Starbucks coffee. Private tastings, birthday parties, and demonstrations are available upon request.

Visitors can also learn about the Saving Tiny Hearts Society, which is something near and dear to Chef Roby and his wife Esther’s hearts as their own son was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect. A portion of the profits from Chef Roby’s All-Chocolate Kitchen are donated to the organization.

Chef Roby's gorgeous truffles.

GO Chef Roby’s All-Chocolate Kitchen, 507 S. Third St., Geneva, IL,
 (630) 232-2395, ChefAlainRoby.com. Hours: Fridays from 12 to 8 p.m., Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sundays from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Mondays from 2 to 7 p.m.

Photos courtesy of Steve Eisen Photography


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Gulp. Right after Thanksgiving dinner at my house, I’m going to let all of the junior guests create gingerbread cottages.

I say “cottages” because I’m going to hot glue graham crackers together ahead of time, and if you’ve ever done it, it’s easiest to keep the structure modest: four short walls and one roof. Besides, McMansions are so 2002.

I’ve got green, white, and chocolate frosting at the ready along with Dots, Twizzlers, mini candy canes, holiday M&M’s, Skittles, Hershey Candy Kane Kisses, mini marshmallows, sprinkles, Peeps snowman, and Peeps Christmas trees.

Am I missing any items you’ve found successful in the construction/decoration of gingerbread houses?

I think I may need Tootsie Roll Midgees and cherry fruit rolls for campfires outside each cottage.

I plan on a follow-up blog post to show you the finished products, let you know which candies worked best for the build outs, and any interesting home decor/exterior items the kids dreamed up during construction.

In the meantime, please do send me any tips for creating killer gingerbread houses. I’m all ears!

(Speaking of tips, I recently came across the book No Bake Gingerbread Houses for Kids, which has some great examples of gingerbread houses constructed out of graham crackers, cookies, ice cream cones, and waffle bowls. Another good resource is Martha Stewart’s photo gallery of no-bake gingerbread houses and cookie cottages.)

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

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Last weekend, my niece and nephew popped in for a sleepover with my kids (A.K.A. cousin camp).  As luck would have it, Greg at Candy.com stocked me with all the necessary supplies to make chocolatey Halloween suckers with the kids, ranging in age from 6 to 10.

So, away we went on Saturday night with our science project. We unleashed our sucker sticks, microwaved each pound of orange, white, and milk chocolate discs, and carefully poured our just-barely-melted chocolates into Jack-O-Lantern and Skull chocolate molds.

The kids loved “painting” the eyes, nose, and mouth on the Jack-O-Lanterns and Skulls with chocolate after the pops cooled (we put them in the freezer). We found that small craft paint brushes worked best.

Another tip? Insert Icing Eyeballs into the molds before pouring in the melted chocolate. I didn’t try this trick, but Greg at Candy.com says it works like a charm.

The kids did everything but microwave the chocolate and had at least two hours of fun creating and eating their treats on a stick. The final products might not be Martha Stewart worthy, but not bad for the young chocolatiers.

I am going to experiment with more molds from Candy.com to see what else we can cook up at the Gillerlain household over the holidays. My son is planning on making chocolate suckers for an upcoming fundraiser in lieu of a standard baked goods sale. My thought is to package the suckers in clear mini cello bags and finish them off with a twist-tie bow. Why not give it a whirl?

If you’re in need of an all-ages and edible DIY project, check out Candy.com’s crazy huge selection of inexpensive chocolate molds and hard candy molds. You’ll find molds in the shape of lipstick tubes, teapots, states, business cards, police badges, pineapples, zodiacs, owls, you name it. (Note: You can use Candy.com’s hard candy molds with chocolate, but you can’t use the chocolate molds to create hard candies.)

Lastly, and most importantly, if you’ve experimented with chocolate and chocolate molds, share your creations and tips. Add your comments after this post or on Facebook.

Thanks!

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A few weeks ago, a colleague at Candy.com told me about a Southern California-based event planner who has created candy buffets for Oprah, the Emmy Awards, American Idol, celebrity weddings, etc.

This inquiring mind had to find out: Who is this confectionery Wonder Woman?

Turns out, it’s Jackie Sorkin—and she really is Wonder Woman (step aside Lynda Carter). Jackie is the founder of Custom Candy Buffet Bars and Southern California Wedding Planner. On top of that, she’s a heavy-duty blogger, brand new mom, and soon-to-be star of a TV series about her candy catering empire. (Note to self: Do not let the kids read this because they will think you are a slacker.)

Jackie kindly agreed to chat with Candy.com to get the straight dope on her booming Custom Candy Buffet Bars business in Hollywood.

Buckle in …

Candy.com: I know your Custom Candy Buffet Bar business launched after years of event planning in New York City and Los Angeles. What was the light bulb moment that led you to candy?

Jackie: I love things that are pretty and candy certainly is that! I began creating custom candy creations for clients events and they were received so well that I thought, “There is something to this candy thing.” Then I began doing more and more event shows and expos and, since I am so competitive, I wanted all the attendees at my booth chatting with ME! So, I created some really great Custom Candy Buffet Bars and just like that, I WON! My booths were always swamped with guests and people flipped for my candy.

Candy.com: On your blog, “The Fabulous Fun Adventures of Jackie Sorkin & The Hollywood Candy Girls,” you talk a lot about your sweet entourage. How do the Candy Girls fit into your business?

Jackie: My Candy Girls are my six lil’ sisters. The girls and I are like a family and they are a major part of my business. They are very well recognized in Hollywood since we do so many events there. Paparazzi can’t get enough of them either. They love to stage shots of the girls with celebrities and our candy. The Candy Girls are fabulously fun and assist in creating our events, assist clients at events with their candy, and, if that weren’t all, the girls are total Eye Candy themselves. They always bring a little extra sugar and spice to our events not to mention the mischief we find ourselves getting into every now and then. Jessica is our assistant and handles lots of the important details, too. We’d be so lost without  her.

Candy.com: Since you and the girls brush with fame quite often during your high-profile events, do you have any scoop on celebrities’ favorite candy?

Jackie: Yes of course! We know that Oprah‘s best friend Gayle King likes gummy candy, and sweet and sour stuff. Mega producer Diane Warren LOVES Good & Plenty, Paris Hilton loves anything sweet and flipped for our Candy Ka-bobs!

Candy.com: What’s the most over-the-top candy buffet/bar you’ve created so far?

Jackie: We created a fabulous custom candy buffet bar for the 2010 Emmy Awards recently, which was a huge hit. Everything we do is totally customized so you always get something new. Our designs range from cute and funky, to whimsical and retro, to clean, modern and elegant. It just depends on the client’s candy vision.

Modern Family's Nolan Gould chomped on a cake pop at Jackie's Emmy Awards candy buffet.

Candy.com: Any particular candies that seem to be a hit at most any event?

Jackie: Gummy candy and sours, or chocolate.

Candy.com: What’s your favorite candy? (We had to ask.)

Jackie: Ummm, kind of hard to answer but I’ll say … jelly beans (the old school kind).

Candy.com: I understand you could be reality star Bethenny Frankel’s long lost sister (the sister she doesn’t know exists … yet). What characteristics do you share with Ms. Frankel?

Jackie: I LalaLOVE Bethenny Frankel to the 1000 trillionth power. I could answer this question for days and it’s my fave question from you. Well, what we have in common is an insane work ethic, the desire to succeed in such a major way, and the endless efforts we expel to grow our companies. I also just had my first baby who, like Bethenny’s baby Bryn Hoppy, was also a surprise. My daughter’s name is Isabella. (She is the heiress to the candy empire and she is totally delicious).

Jackie Sorkin's little Bella is darling and delicious.

I have an amazing husband who really gets me and has the patience of a saint, but I’m sure he also looks at me some days and thinks, “Babe, you are so nuts. Chill out!” Bethenny is hysterical and pure personality, yet she is vulnerable and so real. Anyone who knows me personally knows that I embody the same qualities and I make no excuses for who I am. My favorite thing about myself is that I keep it real and always will. I say what I think, I believe really hard work pays off, and I dream BIG. Really BIG! I think life is short so I make it sweet and fun.

Candy.com: What’s the next “Fabulous Fun Adventure” for Jackie Sorkin?

Jackie: What’s next for us, WOW! What isn’t? I mean we have 101 things going on at once it makes my head spin like a whirly pop. What our friends, fans, and clients can look forward to is a reality show based on our crazy candy business to launch on a major network as well as the opening of our retail store; franchising our candy buffet and candy catering business; more and more clients and major events; perhaps planning a proper wedding for my husband and I since we never got to experience one but we totally deserve a super mega-fun party; partnerships with major players in the world of candy; and hopefully getting to create something for the cutest girls in town: the Obama girls, Sasha and Malia.

And with that I thank you Candy.Com for this super duper fun interview and to the world. We look forward to making all your candy dreams come true.

xoxo – Jackie & The Candy Girls

Candy.com thanks Jackie & The Candy Girls for the interview and all of the gorgeous photos.* Stay tuned for more info about Jackie’s reality TV show, which sounds like Keeping Up with the Kardashians meets Ace of Cakes.

In the meantime, check out the following candy buffet bars created by Jackie and her Hollywood Candy Girls …



*Photos of baby Isabella and the pink, yellow, and orange candy buffet bar by Jessica Herrera Photography.

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