18 January 2011
not just candy…
The middle child’s class studied the Netherlands for our school’s annual multi-cultural fair. He wanted to do a project on candy, which got further refined into a project on licorice. In case you didn’t already know it, the Netherlands has the largest per capita licorice consumption in the world (average of 2 kilos per person per year!).
In addition to his reading and research, we ordered three varieties of licorice from dutchsweets.com: a sweet caramel licorice, a light salt (the boy insisted on this one for obvious reasons – i rolled my eyes), and a medium salt. We also got sample sizes of a double salt and another sweet. If I’d checked with my friend Annet beforehand, we might have ordered different varieties, but alas, I did not. Here are my tasting notes:
#1: caramel surrounding licorice. Tastes like molasses – I like it. 6 out of 10.
#2: pink candy coated licorice. Tastes pink – strawberry, perhaps? No anise-y flavor of licorice, just very very sweet. 5 out of 10.
#3: “DZ”, the dubbel zoute, aka “double salt.” This is very tough – you can’t bite it. Instead, you have to suck on it for awhile. It gets saltier as it stays in your mouth. No licorice (anise) flavor at all, and no sweetness. Ick. 2 out of 10.
#4: the boy. This is not as hard as the DZ, but not soft either. You kind of have to break it off, rather than bite it. There is a little bit of taste beyond the saltiness, but I can’t describe it. “Semi nasty” is what I told Z (when he asked me if it was nasty). 2 out of 10.
#5: the smiley face. This is the worst of all – salt plus ick. I had to spit it out. 1 out of 10.
Afterwards, I told my husband: “this isn’t candy, it’s a cultural experience!” Needless to say, I’m not a big fan. On seeing my face, and hearing my “it’s not entirely nasty” comment, middle child didn’t try any of the salt varieties – he just tasted the four different colors of our sweet sample. I thought we should send the remainder to school for another taste test, ala the cupcakes, but he was afraid of being perpetually ostracized (I might be exaggerating here), so we didn’t.
And finally, we made a couple of versions of licorice. After consulting with friends at the Michigan Lady Food Bloggers, I discovered that anise extract is easily located in your local grocery store (right in the midst of all the other flavorings at mine). Black food coloring is easily found there, too, but the thought of that squicked me out. I entertained the idea of following Patti’s lead and mixing food coloring until black appeared, but that seemed unnecessary for our goals – we were focused on taste, not appearance, so I decided we would make “au naturel” colored licorice.
First was this one, a hard candy with anise flavoring. The child thought it was too anise-y flavored (he had added more than it called for, and too early in the process), but I liked it. Most of his classmates did, too. (We should have let them try the salt licorice – maybe somebody would have liked it!)
We also made this recipe (a half batch), which is essentially caramels with anise flavoring. The child insisted on going easy with anise, while I wanted to double it. He thought the flavor was just right, I thought it was too mild. His class liked these as well.
I wanted to try this one – flour and powdered licorice root – but was put off by the imprecise directions, poor review, and lack of time. Maybe next month…