On Sunday, we trekked up to the Hollywood & Highland Center, a side of town we rarely leave the Westside to explore. But we had a wonderful reason to visit the heart of Tinseltown tourism — the team at Sticky had invited us over for a candy-making session!
Sticky is an Australian candy company started by attorney-turned-confectioner David King. This Hollywood storefront, their first in the US, is situated in the middle of Sweet!, a full floor of the shopping center that’s completely dedicated to sugary treats. But skip those Hershey bars and kitschy Oscar statuettes and make a beeline for the entertaining live candy-making by the awesome team at Sticky… and possibly some newbie guests like us.
We were greeted by the friendly Candy Master himself who invited us behind the counter and handed us our aprons and kevlar gloves. We were very excited for some hands-on involvement in the candy-making process, but we had no idea that we would truly be following it through from start to finish! (PS: David’s wife Rachel kindly offered to take photos for us throughout the process, so we are very grateful for the excellent material we have to share below!)
Here we are right at the very beginning – boiling down water and pure glucose to a hard-crack stage. Craig of the Sticky team added in kiwi flavoring and this was when we were informed that we would be making the kiwi candies on their infamous fruit mix. I am certain my eyes widened with surprise, especially after David said that it would be a relatively easy design for first-timers. “Easy” was not the first word to come to mind…
As we waited for the sugar to be ready, David gave us a mini-tour of the long story short, pointing out the water-cooled table, then the heated warming table, and that was when we realized we would be working in front of the many visitors, shoppers, and candy lovers wandering by. No pressure.
The sugar is piping hot, around 300 degrees F. After David shared his story of a burn severe enough to warrant a skin graft, we were convinced that there is no messing around with this stuff.
At this point, it’s time to add the coloring that makes candy so attractive. We mixed in different sections – a large area for the brown kiwi “skin,” a sizable amount of green for the “fruit,” black for the “seeds,” and some clear/white for the center.
After a bit of blending, we used a pair of heavy duty scissors to separate the colored sections. (If the green looks a little sparkly to you, it’s likely because that part contains some citric acid powder gently mixed in.)
The clear sections were moved to the warming table to keep them pliable, but we had some work to do for the white and light green portions. What do you do to make clear candy turn opaque? You pull it!
Using those trick-of-the-trade hooks, we pulled the candy like pulling taffy. The process incorporates air bubbles and leaves us with an opaque candy mass with a satin-like sheen.
Now for the fun part – the sculpting. David described this art form as building a 3D sculpture to create a 2D image. So first, the seeds. A tube of black, some opaque green, and some clear green, assembled like so:
So that’s one seed. Of 24. We have some work to do. Pull pull pull.
Luckily, the designers of the kiwi candies had clever math skills. The one hot dog cut in half became two pieces that could be stacked side by side. Then pulling the new shape and cutting it in half would make 4, then 4 became 8.
This last layer, eight “seeds” wide, was stretched extra long, cut into thirds, and stacked again. Finally we have our 24 seeds!
Next we rolled out the white center for the candy. The “seeds” will wrap around this white tube.
If you’re lucky, slicing open a kiwi will reveal more than just seeds… so good thing we reserved some opaque green for the “meat” of the fruit. Martin rolled it out to just the right size to fit around our work-in-progress.
While Martin kept our kiwi burrito rolling (letting it settle too long on the warming table would yield a flat side), David rolled out the brown candy to be wrapped as the “skin” layer. The color looks great and very realistic – it’s only missing the fuzz!
Here’s the kiwi sculpture ready to be hand-pulled and cut into bite-sized pieces. Believe it or not, it weighs 26 pounds!
Martin was charged with two tasks – keeping the mass moving so that no side goes flat and hand-pulling from one end to size so it could move along to my station…
It was simple enough — periodically I took the spade and with a swift whack, separated the candy into long tubes. Craig kept them moving until they were sufficiently cool, again to prevent flat sides.
Eventually we got the hang of it, but David stepped in to check on our consistency. He explained, as he deftly manipulated the sugar to just the right width, that working with sugar depends heavily on speed. Too slow and the sugar cools too quickly to work with.
Before we knew it, we had finished turning the 26 pound mass into these thin long tubes, ready for the next step – cutting into nom-ready pieces.
Using a bit of physics, David showed us the technique for cutting up the tubes. This part was probably the most difficult as the candy would shatter down the middle or the slices would end up too skinny or too thick. But not to worry, David came over and told me that the imperfections were the beauty of handmade products. That each candy-maker places his or her own style and flair into the confections.
David pointed to one of the pieces I had cut and asked me, “Do you think that is beautiful? Is that a piece that you would want to eat?” It was then that I really understood his passion for his art…. although I didn’t have the heart to say what I was really thinking – no, that piece is ugly; I need more practice.
The audience, adults and children alike, really seemed to enjoy watching the process and sampling the finished product. We certainly enjoyed participating and working alongside David and Craig. Although now in retrospect, I still cannot believe they consider the kiwi to be one of the easier designs!
We had such an incredible experience learning something new from people who are truly passionate about what they do. And they are not relegated to making fruit assortments every day… one of their main business lines is custom design orders. They do weddings, company logos, funny greetings, you name it!
If you’re in LA, be sure to swing by and check them out! In fact – you could even stop by one of their other global locations in Australia, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Hong Kong. Funny story, long before we had even heard of Sticky, we tried their candy courtesy of a friend who had brought them back from Hong Kong. The style and intricacy of their designs is so iconic I’d recognize it anywhere!
And speaking of trying their candies, how would you like to skip the drive to Hollywood & Highland and sample some of these confections in your own home?
We are hosting our very first GIVEAWAY! (*insert fanfare*) Click to enter our Rafflecopter giveaway!
Sorry, no fancy widget… we’re working on that. We received a lot of goodies from Sticky and we would love to share some with one lucky reader (open to US residents only). We will announce the winner next Friday 5/31!
Check out Sticky USA: stickyusa.com
6801 Hollywood Blvd, Ste 201
Los Angeles, CA 90028
Tip: They’re located in Sweet! alongside many other confectionery vendors.
See their Yelp reviews here!