Cheese Makers Forum FAQ Equipment part 1 Equipment part 2 History

Friday, June 18, 2010


Some time ago I got the thought into my head to make red licorice. It was one of my favorite candies as a kid, but it seemed like there were barely a handful of different kinds--Twizzlers (which barely count), Red Ropes, and that's about it. I've discovered a few boutique licorice makers, but they are few and far between.

The first part of this experiment was to try and find a recipe. And while there are many recipes for black licorice, I have yet to find one for red. So, I decided to reverse engineer it. In my opinion, licorice other than real/black licorice has some defining characteristics:
* A chewy, bready texture
* Not overwhelmingly sweet
* Flavors that develop as you chew
With that in mind, I started with a black licorice recipe I found on eHow. It basically states that 1 cup of molasses, 1 cup flour, and flavoring should make a simple black licorice. So my first experiment in making red was to swap a few things out and see how it tasted. Version #1 was 1 cup Karo syrup, 1 cup flour, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and several macerated cherries. I mixed these up, poured the paste on to a lightly greased cookie sheet, and let them dry a bit.

They were pretty gross.

The molasses flavor and licorice root can completely over power the flavor-deadening properties that white flour have, but this lightweight cast of flavor could not. It tasted like sweet paste, and never set up well. So, plan #2, use the same recipe but gently cook the paste at ~160F. I hoped this would reduce the flour flavor and give me something closer to licorice.

Didn't work.

Okay, at this point I decided to rethink what I was trying to do. I wanted the texture brought on by the flour, but not the flavor--and by adding enough flour to get it to set, it lost any semblance of confectionery. So, I needed a different process. I needed to think like a candy maker.

Fudge, divinity, peanut brittle--these are all candies I've made quite successfully. The basics of candy making are pretty easy to grasp, you heat sugar to a precise temperature to get the taste and texture you want, with the addition of specific ingredients to make one candy or another. Fudge takes chocolate, divinity uses egg whites, and so on. So, I thought to myself, let's give it a try.

Attempt #3 used 3 tablespoons of water, 1 cup of sugar, 1/8 teaspoon of citric acid, and an 1/8 teaspoon of salt. This mixture was brought up to 255F, then quickly mixed with 1 cup of flour. I then poured it out on to a sheet, let it set, and took a bite.

Now this was finally a modicum of success. It wasn't 'good' since it really didn't have much flavor, and the texture was still a bit too loose and runny, but both of those problems are easy to fix (add flavor, increase heat, duh). It was also still a bit too floury for my palate, so for the next attempt I decided on cutting the flour in half.

Fourth attempt saw 1/2 cup of frozen raspberries added to the pot, thawed then mashed, and brought to a simmer. 1 cup of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid were added, and the temperature was brought up to 265F. At that point 1/2 a cup of flour and 1/8 teaspoon of Kosher salt where stirred in, the mixture was poured on a lightly oiled sheet and left to set. A taste of this confirmed my suspicion--it was mighty tastey.

This simple combination of ingredients and temperature seems to be a wonderful, simple fruit licorice recipe. There are still some problems as the candy is still a bit too sticky, but if it is gently rolled in some powdered sugar or caster sugar, most of that problem goes away. All in all I made two batches of raspberry licorice, mango licorice, and kiwi licorice.

Personally I prefer a tad bit more citric acid, since the flour still masks the tartness quite effectively. 3/4 of a teaspoon is right on the money for my tastes. Also, if you give this a try, just fresh, juicy, whole fruit. Not fruit juice--if you use just juice reduce it to three tablespoons or else it will never set up.

Fruit Licorice Master Recipe

* 1 cup sugar
* 1/2 cup whole fruit, mashed or blended
* 1/2 cup flour
* 1/2 teaspoon citric acid
* 1/8 teaspoon salt
* Powdered or caster sugar for coating

Add the sugar, fruit, and citric acid to a non-reactive pot. Using a candy thermometer gently increase the heat to 265F, occasionally stirring to prevent scorching. When the sugar hits 265F, quickly remove the pot from the heat, add the flour, and stir like the dickens to get it all incorporated. Pour on to a lightly oiled, preferably non-stick cookie sheet. Let cool until room temperature, coat both sides with sugar, and cut into pieces or small ropes. Serve with an excellent port or light red wine.


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Cheese A Day by Jeremy Pickett is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.
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