Suzi's Blog

Big Top Candy in Austin Texas

“Nostalgia” is not the prettiest word. It actually comes from Greek words meaning “homecoming” and “pain.” It’s a feeling we cannot control, but sometimes we can satisfy.

Candy is part of growing up, wherever you are. Problem is, you grow up, you move away, and you cannot find those sweets you remember. Regional candies have not completely disappeared, but they are an endangered species. And finding say, a Mountain Bar from Tacoma, is pretty hard once you cross the Cascades.

So, when I was in Big Top Candy Shop in Austin, Texas, and when I saw a carton of real Mountain Bars, I was impressed. I actually bought one or two. Not the whole carton. I’m not that kind of person. Really, I’m not.

The first two things to know about Big Top is that it is very wide and very, very long. Which means, it can hold very, very, very much candy. Yes, they have Junior Mints, but they specialize in American regional candy treats. They have those Mountain Mars from Washington, Goo-Goo Bars from Tennessee, Sifers Malomilk from Kansas, even Banana Licorice from Turkey. Big Top is a gift from God, at 1706 South Congress Street in Austin, 512-462-2220. Just minutes south of the famed Bat Bridge.

They do have some particular specialties, like the oversized goodies that appear to have attracted the eyeballs of my grandsons. The boys entered the store with money. They left with the money gone, bags in their hands, and actually some IOUs from them in my wallet. I can’t say I spoiled them. I was too busy shopping.

In New York City there are places that advertise themselves as nostalgic candy shops. For them, it means imported items from Europe or at least 200 flavors of Jelly Belly. Big Top is different. It’s real American heritage from the little places many of us came from. If you have candy flashback, do visit or give the friendly staff a call. They may be able to ease that pain.

I was lucky to find Big Top. It’s one of the specialty stores listed in Food Lovers’ Guide to Austin.

 

Fabulous Fudge from Choclatique

I used to work with Navy fighter pilots who taught me the concept of scanning. How do they see a “bad guy” up in the sky? They visually scan the sky but in a very meticulous, systematic manner. You “see” detail with the middle of your eye but any motion is best detected peripherally. So a proper scan will let you find things on the move or details that show something has changed.

Like the contents of a refrigerator.

Suzen opened our refrigerator door to get some milk. I held my breath. As her hand reached up and her head moved, would she notice anything? She grabbed the milk and pulled back. I was safe.

“What’s in that container with the dark stuff?” she asked me. I was not safe, but I was prepared.

“Oh, that? It’s chocolate ganache,” I admitted. “Here,” my hand swept from behind my back, “try this.” The “this” was a small square of fudge.

She looked at me, put the milk down, and said, “Let’s talk about it.” She walked towards the porch.

“Okay,” I said, happy to have cleared this hurdle

“Brian,” she added, “bring the fudge. Bring all the fudge.”

As promised, here is the Fabulous Fudge recipe from Choclatique: 150 Simply Elegant Desserts.

The concept in Choclatique is to make every recipe using some variety of pre-made chocolate ganache and the previous post here gave you the recipe for the Dark Chocolate Ganache used in this recipe.

Author Ed Engoron lives and works in Los Angeles but got his inspiration for this fudge at the Texas State Fair. He learned a secret from some fudge mavens: use a hand held electric mixer to beat the fudge into a super smooth state, beginning when it is hot off the stove and ending after smoothness has been achieved. During that beating, the temperature will drop rapidly. The achievement here will be a texture that is smooth without any of the graininess that comes from sugar crystals.

You may have used a mixer before in making fudge, or tried to arduously beat fudge with a wooden spoon. The innovation here is the hand held mixer, rather than a stand mixer, which really does a better job and lets you maneuver to attack all the volume.

Is this fudge fabulous? Yes, if Suzen wants to enjoy the whole batch, then, trust me, it’s really good. Now, my first batch was soft, and it definitely needed the time in the refrigerator that is called for. I think I did not beat it enough, but the only way to know is to make more. Thankfully, I now have Suzen’s permission. I hate sneaking around late at night when she is asleep and having to vent all those luscious chocolate smells out the house.

I have yet to try some variations, like adding in some marshmallow fluff. Suzen and I will let you know, or please tell us your opinion.

Fabulous Fudge

Yield: about 24 fudge squares

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup Dark Chocolate Ganache
  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened
  • condensed milk
  • Dash of salt
  • Optionally, ½ to 1 cup roasted chopped nuts [walnuts, pecans, almonds]
    • 1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preparation:

Line the bottom and sides of an 8- or 9-inch square pan with foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.

In a heavy saucepan, melt the chocolate chips, Dark Chocolate Ganache, condensed milk, and salt over low heat. Stir with wooden spoon until smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the nuts, if using, and the vanilla.

Using a handheld electric mixer, beat the mixture for 5 minutes or until as smooth as possible. Spread the fudge in the prepared pan and refrigerate for at least two hours or until firm. You can eat this straight from the fridge but you will get more flavor if you let it warm just to room temperature.

Source: Choclatique by Ed Engoron