Imperfect Perfections: an American Confectionery realization
by Ronnie Watchorn
Belgian chocolate. Just the words make pictures of beautiful decadent truffles come to mind. Whether their designs are simple or detailed, you know they're going to be pretty. My Confectionery journey over the last four years has been defined by customers oooohing and ahhhing over over bite size chocolates that are just to pretty to eat.
But the deeper I dive into the world of American confections, I keep finding myself describing them as "ugly". Is this shallow? Yeah probably, but their hand dipped or spoon dropped forms just don't stand up next to the delicate details of molded chocolate truffles.
It wasn't until I started talking to people about them and really digging deeper into these recipes that I realized that the American candies are unique. These 'ugly' confections were marred with the character and simplicity of the people who made them. They weren't uniform pieces made by trained European confectioners, they were made simple bakers and everyday homemakers. In their own way I think these 'ugly' candies epitomize the rougher make-it-work spirit that defined our young country. Honestly, despite the fact that I don't think they knew it, what they were creating would be the heirloom recipes that laid the groundwork of our great nation.
Now it's no secret that where chocolate is concerned I'm something of a perfectionist and my own worst critic, so when my marshmallow refused to settle and smooth out in it's pan, you can imagine I wasn't particularly happy.
It wasn't until I stood there delicately hacking away at it with a pallet knife that I thought about all of this. I couldnt help but smile. While this may just be an "ugly" uneven heap of marshmallow, it's got heart, and I've yet to find a "jet puffed" alternative that could square up with it.
Furthermore, and I'm aware my sentimentality is showing, I feel closer to the American confectioners before me after this realization. Perfection and uniformity are great, and they have their place. But you can't discredit the everyday American recipes we've handed down for generations based simply on they're "ugly".