Become a sugar goddess

Sugar sold separately.

Sugar sold separately.

Anita Chu’s Field Guide to Candy paves the way to your confectionary immortality.

Most candy cookbook writers would be satisfied producing a book brimming over with gorgeous color photographs, clear instructions, handy tips and a thorough glossary of candy-making terms and techniques. Anita Chu does all of that in Field Guide to Candy: How to Identify and Make Virtually Every Candy Imaginable, but she gets a sugar-coated gold star for also featuring fascinating historical tidbits about each candy.

A Greek candy called pasteli, for example, may be the world’s first candy and has an impeccable literary pedigree to boot. Chu notes that the Iliad mentions a pie made of sesame and honey, which are the main ingredients in pasteli. Never has candy-making felt so steeped in tradition. Chu elevates her recipes by taking readers on a culinary tour from the caves of Spain to the medicinal origins of licorice in England to the complex sweetness of 17th-century France to the American contribution of chocolate-covered cherries in 1929.

The guide includes recipes for favorites such as peanut brittle and truffles, some old-fashioned ones such as molasses taffy and buttermilk candy, some Asian sensations such as Chinese milk candy and daifuku mochi and some unexpected delights such as candy corn.

One of the more surprising recipes is based on the same fizzy notion as Pop Rocks. Turns out that a medieval Arabic drink called sharbat evolved into frozen sherbet as it migrated across Europe. Once it reached England, some clever fellow invented a fizzy powder to go with it that results in that familiar, effervescent tingle. You can use Chu’s version of sherbet powder to make a drink fizzy, or you can eat it like Pixy Stix. Genius, I tell you.

Speaking of brand names, Chu also fills readers in on how to make homemade versions of Butterfinger candy bars, Tootsie Rolls and Reese’s peanut butter cups.

I love that Chu embraces all manner of candy-making – she generously compares such American inventions as the chocolate-covered potato chip with the haute fluer de sel caramels of famed French pasty chef Pierre Herme. And that may be the most charming thing of all.

Field Guide to Candy, $15.95

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