Stella Parks is a pastry chef at Table 310 in Lexington, Kentucky. She was named one of the “Best New Pastry Chefs 2012” by Food and Wine Magazine and shares her playful dessert recipes on her food blog, Bravetart. Her first cookbook, due to release in 2014, will explore the history of classic American desserts.
Photo credit: Sarah Jane Sanders
Make personalized candy hearts for that special someone. Note that these need to be air dried for 48 hours. Recipe makes 4 cups.
- 1/4 Ounce gelatin
- 4 Ounce Sprite
- 1/4 Teaspoon kosher salt
- 40 Ounce powdered sugar
- Assorted food colorings
- Food-decorating pen
- For white hearts: 1 to 2 drops wintergreen extract
- For yellow hearts: 1/4 ounce freeze-dried bananas, ground into powder
- For pink hearts: 1/4 ounce freeze-dried strawberries or cherries, ground into powder
- For green hearts: 3 to 4 drops key lime extract
- For orange: 1/4 teaspoon orange extract plus 1/4 teaspoon orange flower water
- For purple hearts: one drop clove oil
Bloom the gelatin with the Sprite in the bottom of a mixing bowl. After 5 minutes, set the bowl over a pot of simmering water to melt the gelatin, or microwave in short 5-second bursts until melted.
Use a hand or stand mixer and mix in the salt along with the powdered sugar, a cup or two at a time. Keep adding the powdered sugar until you have stiff fondant-like dough (very much the texture of Play-Doh). You may not need all of the powdered sugar.
Turn the dough out onto the counter top and knead until smooth.
Divide into as many portions as you would like, by colors and/or flavors and keep any dough you’re not currently using wrapped in plastic to prevent it from crusting over.
Knead in the colors and flavors until homogenous. Taste a pinch of the dough and add more extract or powdered fruit to suit your taste.
Roll the dough to about 3/8” thickness and cut out shapes. Alternatively, you can mold the dough into whatever shapes you like, just keep them on the small side so they dry.
Arrange the candies on a parchment lined sheet pan and air dry for 48 hours. After 24 hours, flip all the hearts over so they can dry on both sides. Compared to candies flavored with extracts, the ones made with freeze dried fruit won’t dry out quite as hard and will retain a slightly softer texture (they will still be crisp, just not as rock-hard as classic conversation hearts).
It you want to write messages on the hearts, it’s easier to write one letter per heart with the food-decorating pen and then arrange the hearts into words rather than squeeze words onto each heart.