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Sweet Secrets

Candy to swoon for doesn’t just happen. There’s a science behind it that even seasoned pros need to stay on top of. That’s why, for nearly 50 years, the CALS food science department has run a Resident Course in Confectionery Technology, better known as “Candy School.”

No golden tickets are required, but each summer only 27 industry professionals from around the country may join professor Rich Hartel for two weeks of hands-on preparation of anything you’re likely to find in a Halloween treat bag: chocolate, toffee, fudge, hard candy, gum, jellies, gummies, nougat, caramel and more.

Even people who have been making candy for years find something new. Recent participant Kathryn Kittel, a scientist with Kraft/Cadbury, has a lot of experience with chewing gum—brands she’s worked on include Bubblicious and Trident—and currently does product development for Halls Cough Drops. She enjoyed learning more about the process of panning, in which layers of sugar or chocolate are slowly added to a hard core in a tumbler and allowed to dry before the next layer is added.

Other students developed a greater appreciation of candy’s complexity. “The most important thing I learned is that ‘candy,’ no matter what kind, is a very complex food system,” says Ilan Weiss, a senior scientist with SunOpta. “Sugars exhibit very different physical and chemical interactions. Throw in cocoa, fats, flavors, colors and other ingredients and you have a very intricate food system.”

Participant April Richter, a research scientist at Hershey, welcomed the chance to discuss candy disasters. “You didn’t just learn how things go in a perfect world. There were also hands-on examples of how things can go wrong and then discussions around why,” she says.

But there’s no denying that, serious learning aside, Candy School brings out the kid in everyone. “We got to choose different colors and flavors for all the products we made,” says Weiss. “I liked to go with psychological tricks, like having a green jellybean with an orange flavor.”

The UW Foundation maintains more than 6,000 gift funds that provide critical resources for the educational and research activities of the College. To give to the Confectionery Science Program Fund, which helps support Candy School, visit: http://www.supportuw.org/giving?seq=12882