Pärlans Caramels

Parlans lemon caramels

One of the things that most excited me most about coming to Stockholm was to visit Pärlans Konfektyr. The moment I heard about it, I knew I had to go. I mean, a small shop that makes artisanal caramels, in one of the best dairy-producing countries in the world, with a wink-and-a-nod to traditional Swedish charm? Count me in.

wrapping caramels in stockholm at Pärlans Confectionary/Konfektyr

So I asked if I could come and watch them make caramels. When I walked in, I got the usual cheerful Swedish greeting, and I realized I was surrounded by caramels in an array of flavors – some traditional, others less-so, and some beautiful jars of sauce which, after I tasted a sample, had me seriously consider risking getting busted for trying to smuggle a few home in my carry-on. I didn’t, although I’m sure the agents at the airport would have been very, very happy to confiscate them!

caramel cutting

The beautiful logo, the warm welcome with a lilting “Hej!” (“Hi!”), the rows and rows of wrapped caramels, and jars of sauces with “l”, “J”, “Å” and Ö”-heavy names I could barely pronounce. Judging from the steady stream of customers – many with kids in tow (and towheaded kids, at that – after all, it’s Scandinavia), it seemed to be an obligatory stop in the neighborhood.

caramel makers in Stockholm at Pärlans Confectionary/Konfektyr

After a few moments of admiring everything, the folks at Pärlans invited me into their pristine kitchen and I felt an air of happiness as the workers diligently cut up butter, boiled up sugar syrups, measured out fruit purees, and were hand stamping wrappers for caramels.

copper caramel pots

Everyone was in good spirits and it was a joy to be around people who love caramel as much as I do. If I was as adorable as them, I would have left my resumé (CV) at the front desk.

pouring caramel at Pärlans Confectionary/Konfektyr

Caramel seems to be an international ambassador of friendship and I felt right at home with all the bubbling pots and people working in the synchronicity that is required in such a place, where someone might be rushing to pour a hot syrup, carefully skirting around someone else passing by with a tray of freshly cut caramels, waiting to be wrapped up.

Swedish peppermints at Pärlans Confectionary/Konfektyr

On the stove were multiple pots of caramel, bubbling almost to the brim, in flavors such as raspberry, mango, and chocolate. (The chocolate was amazing, which I tasted later when it had cooled and hardened.)

Pärlans Confectionary/KonfektyrPärlans Confectionary/Konfektyr
butter for caramelsParlens caramel sauce in Stockholm

Lakrits is very popular in Sweden. Honestly, I’ve never seen so many candied and confections with licorice in them. But even a licorice-hater like me could be convinced if it was cooked in this much butter and cream. Others flavors were peppermint, licorice, coffee, violet, passion fruit, arak (anise liquor), apple-cinnamon, and my absolute favorite: vanilla-sea salt.

Damer and herrar, or ladies and gentlemen, I’ve had a lot of caramels in my life, and these were way up there with the best of them. As in, right at the tippy-top of the heap. I bought a box to bring back to France for a friend from Brittany. If anyone knows caramels, it’s the Bretons. And I’m sure she’ll be thrilled.

Pärlans Confectionary/Konfektyr

But lest you think that this was caramel paradise, they asked me if I wanted to help wrap caramels. There were five or six worked sitting and standing around a tall metal table table, deftly wrapping each little creamy ingot of soft caramel, and it didn’t look all that hard. In fact, it looked kinda fun.

cream caramels at Pärlans Confectionary/Konfektyrraspberry caramels
sweet caramel makercaramels in Sweden

One thing that small-scale candy producers have to deal with it wrapping up the goods. If you’re a huge company, you can buy a giant machine to do it. But if you’re just producing a few thousand caramels a day, there aren’t a lot of machines available that will do the job for you. So although it’s not super-efficient, the best way to get those caramels to the customers to have a team of skilled people wrapping each little candy individually, piece-by-piece.

Pärlans Confectionary/Konfektyr

And lest you think that “home”-style wrapped caramels are always nicer, you haven’t seen mine. I got a lesson from a lovely young Swedish woman, who showed me how to lay the caramel right in the center, where the logo is on the other side of the wrapper. How to fold it up so there are neat 90º angles on all corners. How to twist both the ends so you didn’t squish the soft caramel inside, and so that each twist was facing in the same direction. And finally, how to be proud of your work.

Pärlans Confectionary/Konfektyr

Well, I didn’t seem to get any of those down, including the last part. But they told me that I did pretty well for my first time and that it took most people two months before they could do it. The owner, Lisa Ericson, confided in me that even she had never been able to master it. So I know that an inability to twist and tie the caramels closed isn’t hindering my dream of opening a caramel shop somewhere. But it looks like the folks at Pärlans have got Stockholm pretty well covered, so I’ll have to keep looking.

Vanilla caramel sauce at Pärlans Confectionary/Konfektyr

After I finished wrapping up a few racks of lemon caramels, they kindly wrapped them up for me to take home. (Otherwise, I think they would have unwrapped them, melted them down after I left, and let someone with a little more experience have a go at ‘em.) I took off my stiff cotton apron, realizing that I was lacking the Swedish-touch, and leaving the shop with my little bag, I was better off (and so were the people buying the caramels) if I remained a customer.

Pärlans Confectionary/Konfektyr

But before I departed, showing true Swedish hospitality, I saw that they named a caramel after me. Well, at least I’d like to think so. It was a sweet souvenir of a morning in Stockholm. And I have a box of caramels that are making the next few days a little sweeter, too.

Pärlans Confectionary/Konfektyr

Pärlans Konfektyr
Nytorgsgatan, 38
Stockholm, Sweden

Pärlans Confectionary/Konfektyr

Parlans caramel shop



Related Links and Recipes

Salted Butter Caramels

Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream

Pärlans Konfektyr (Video)

82 comments

  • … and then I awoke to find it was all a beautiful dream, surely non?
    What a gorgeous post – thankyou David! I love it.

  • This is, perhaps, one of the most beautifully illustrated posts I’ve seen here thus far. Thanks for sharing. Now, I’m craving salted caramel – at 4:21 AM.

  • I live in Stockholm but never heard of this – I am ashamed. Thanks for sharing. There’s another caramel, I think its called something like grandmother recipe. Pretty good but I can’t say if its better than Pärlans. There’s also another grandfather recipe – Whittakers:)

  • beautiful pictures indeed! the portrait of the lady (is it the shop owner?) is gorgeous. in germany everyone is always talking about the beauty of swedish people and we’re always a little envious. but you’re quite good looking as well, david, and so are the caramels. ;)

  • Wow, they are all so gorgeous. And the multi-colored oompa loompa tops they wear, So cute! Looks like such a warm, happy place. What a lovely business!

  • I love Pärlans! I tasted a ginger caramel when I visited in February and it was the best I’ve ever had… and the Pärlans girls (and boys) are very sweet as well!

  • I’m so happy you made it there! This is one of my favourite places in Sweden :)

    Carin

  • I loved this post! Those shirts, those copper pots! I would bee line it to this place if I ever went to Stockholm. (And I agree – that portrait of the beauty in the blue cardigan is stunning – it looks strangely old fashioned.)

  • Welcome to Sweden, David! I haven’t had the chance to try Pärlans myself yet, but am now even more curious since it has received your stamp of approval. If you have the time, be sure to check out Rosendals Trädgård Café on Djurgården (very nice café where you can eat out in the orchard) and Vete-Katten on Kungsgatan 55. The latter serves Stockholm’s best cinnamon buns in Grandma’s parlor. Enjoy your time here. :)

  • What a lovely post! I could almost eat your photos! :-) I’m heading to a chocolate tour here in Warsaw (Poland) tomorrow and can only hope to get a wonderful of behind-the-scenes tour as this.

  • Wonderful post and great photos! Thank you! I will go to Stockholm shortly and will definitely visit Pärlans Konfektyr and get a heap of caramels! :)

  • Great post… everything and everyone looks perfect
    thank you

  • The perks of your job! You get the best invites and go away with the best gift bags. I can be your unpaid travelling assistant, I´d even eat all the licorice candies…

  • When people take the time to use the very best ingredients and not rush things, even the simplest thing like a beautiful caramel can be elevated to the pinnacle of taste. Hand-wrapped, hand made candies made by beautiful people, inside and out. What could be closer to heaven?

  • I am sure the Swedish airport security would have let you through with some jars of caramel sauce :) Only the American TSA is completely inflexible / unreasonable.

    • I don’t know about Swedish security but I do know people in France who had jars of caramel confiscated that they had in their carry-ons. I would have felt bad if they took them away, but I did try to taste as many of the sauces as I could when in the shop – they have a tasting station for customers!

  • David, can you find out the brand of the red-handled spatula/thermometre they use? I’ve had a look on amazon.fr and there’s one available (it’s blue) but it’s received very poor reviews. Maybe the nice people at Parlans can share with us their recommendation? Thanks

    • I think they were this one: They sell them on Amazon in the US. The folks at the shop told me they go through quite a few of them, so I don’t think they last as long as they should. I once bought a caramel thermometer at one of the pastry supply shops in Paris and as soon as I dunked it in caramel, it melted. Same with the caramelizing spoon I bought in the US.

      I’m usually wary of gadgets because they often aren’t as good as just being hands-on, but I think for the shop, these thermometers are easier to monitor when you’ve got 6 or so pots of caramel going.

  • Sometimes I feel like ALL candy have my name on them… ahhhh
    What a super experience!

  • Beautiful post. Thank you for sharing what I am not able to experience. The Parlans people are getting some super publicity from you.

  • Pärlan has a cookbook out (Pärlans konfektyr: kolor, jazz och bakverk (sorry only in Swedish!). Can be found online at Adlibris, Bokus and others.
    The isbn is 9789127134010. I’ve read it, liked it but I don’t make candy myself but someone who does might find it intriguing.

    Licorice has seen a renaissance in the last few years, but has always been popular. Went from popular to super-popular. There’s even a store in Stockholm dedicated to only licorice (and chocolate).

  • Well this seals the deal! I HAVE to go to Sweden. No question about it.
    I wonder if you can find Parlans in Paris at that shop in the 9th..?
    Must investigate!!

  • I can’t wait to pick up some of these next time I’m on a shopping trip to Malmo. It will be interesting to compare them with the hand-made caramels from Karamelleriet in Copenhagen (this is cow country and everything dairy is amazing).

  • What a find! I also like their cute uniforms…the striped French sailor tops are adorable.

  • My mother used to bring Thornton’s toffee back from Yorkshire to the United States. This was before Thornton’s was all over the UK. Have you ever tried it David? My mother used to have to hide it in secret places all over the house as we were always craving it and stealing pieces from the boxes. You could see them making it in the shops in Yorkshire, on a slab, and see it being bashed up to put up in the boxes. They don’t have as many flavours as this place though. But they do have a liquorice one. I like the Brazil nut one. Thankfully you can get Thornton’s a lot of different places now esp. at railway stations and I usually pick up a bag for a journey.

  • My mouth is watering! Now these lovely ladies…do they have any burn marks on their arms? I used to get some pretty fierce burns when I worked as a pastry chef with big pots of caramel.

  • Yum. Brilliant photos with this post – my compliments.

  • i love caramel – whether it be candies (individually wrapped, of course), sauce, or filling. you name it. i will eat it. I have never heard of this store, but I sure wish it was here in los angeles. thank you for this most tantalizing introduction. your photos are superb.

  • Lovely post David! My new book, coming out this September is titled Caramel. It’s one of my favorite flavors.

  • What a charming, heartwarming post. Made me smile to read it and look at all those lovely pictures – I want to be there now eating caramels all day long. Thanks!!

  • love your blog, have read your book, have several of your cookbooks…for this Montana “foodie” I love reading of your travels and food adventures!

  • David,

    Thank you for making my Monday morning so delightful! A fantastic post, as usual!

  • Hej David! Such a beautiful post. Loved it…
    Stockholm is a stunningly beautiful city, don’t you agree? Made even more delightful due to delectable places like Pärlans;-)

  • Those caramels are mouthwatering. But I love all the stripe shirts even more!

  • Why cannot one bring back candy to France from Scandinavia? It’s not meat or liquid??

  • Thank you for such a beautiful post! Great photos & everything looks so delicious. I’m in love with their wrapping. If you don’t mind sharing, did you happen to notice if they use wax paper or parchment paper squares to wrap their caramels? Thanks again for sharing your trip with us!:)

  • So delicious! Caramel is my favorite flavor. Forget about chocolate! I would love to visit there, so will keep note of all the places you visit. I would be tempted to buy a jar of the sauce and eat it spoonful by spoonful so I had my fill before leaving the country. it is so sad that there are all these restrictions now when one tavels by air, so you cannot carry items like that home.

  • Here’s yet another kudo for the glorious pictures and delightful text. This is definitely a benchmark post! But I think the photo of the beautiful young lady opening the awning is an absolute *classic.* You’ve put a big grin on one face in the middle of the US! Thanks!

  • What a lovely post. I love caramel as much as chocolate, maybe more. Parlans caramels are beautiful…so are the workers. Wish I could taste them.

  • All the people are so beautiful! And the striped shorts: what fun!

  • Oh, what a fun post – I had no idea such a place existed… I would have hopped over when I was in Stockholm last time otherwise. It looks like a hoot. Like you I just can’t abide licorice though… filthy stuff. My wife is Swedish and it’s always a happy time for her when her mother sends her over “saltlakrits”… salty licorice… can there be anything worse? :p

  • Wow David! What a beautiful post.
    I want to know where they got those great stripey tees – what a crisp brigade they make…just lovely!

  • I loved this post! Indeed…the caramel makers look very happy, wholesome and good looking! I love the stripey uniform tops and well, everything about Parlans seems quite lovely. I wont be visiting Stockholm any time soon from Australia but will check out the website for some web orders!?

  • Beautiful post David. I would also like to be able to order some caramels online. is it possible? A brief look at their website didn’t look like you could. I am also from Australia. That really look fantastic.

    • They are looking into getting a machine to wrap some of the caramels, so that they can increase their output. But hand-wrapping them & making them on such a small scale, at the moment, means they likely don’t ship. (If that’s what their website says – I didn’t ask when I was there.)

  • This was a wonderful five minute escape! I am longing for a simpler life these days, away from the desk. long work days and the stress of it all. Moving to Stockholm and making caramels for a living (ok, maybe just for a few hours) sounds goods right now.

  • Best blog on the whole wide web. I learn so much and love it when you travel to places outside of France-I learn! Merci beaucoup David!!!

  • Why on earth did I waste my time at the Moderna Museet and Vasa Museum when I could have gone here? Beautiful city – and beautiful caramels!

  • That’s got to be the most stylish sweet shop ever! I love the stripey shirts and their hairdos and the old school, vintage vibe, fabulous!
    Thank you David!

  • This post made me drool.

  • Charming and informative post, David. I’ve not had the pleasure of tasting one of these delicious caramels but I hope to someday. I’ve heard that the people of Scandanavia are the happiest people in the world. Perhaps this little shop demonstrates that. Thank you for this post.

  • I love caramels! These look absolutely wunderbar and the paper wrapping is simple and yet beautiful. Do they ship overseas? Their website is not in English unfortunately. : (

  • Sweet, sweet and even more sweet! Thank you for this lovely post.
    Are the caramels anything like the caramels a la fleur de Guerande from France?
    I brought some back from Perpignan and am wondering how similar they may or may not be. Thanks!

  • Shame on you once again, Mister ;-)
    But as luck has it, my little sister is flying off to Stockholm today and might even be able to bring me back something from Pärlans. Here’s hoping!
    By the way, if that “David” caramel is one of those you wrapped, I can’t see a difference to the others.
    Thanks for the cool post.

  • Ah! Still, I think, nothing could ever challenge Salted Caramel from Bretagne!

  • They ship within sweden, no international shipping available.

  • Thanks David. Beautifully written and the photos are really amazing (are they all so damn good looking!) Another place to aspire to visit.

  • It’s really bizarre, but that woman with the glasses and curly hair looks exactly like my mother’s high school year book picture.

  • Charming and delicious. Thanks, David!

  • You know I was always convinced I hated caramels until I had the caramels that came with the mignardises for Jean Georges in NY. Turns out I just hate crappy caramels.

  • A beautifully illustrated and well put post, indeed! I am definitely going to visit this adorable shop on my next visit to Sweden this July.

  • It looks like there really is a “Candyland”!

  • Yummy! Also, that lady in the glasses could be a character straight out of a Raymond Chandler novel (a big compliment, in my book).

  • Your recipes for caramel have made me beloved among friends!

    The ice cream is downright decadent. I have to vac seal the bag so I don’t keep going back in for spoonfuls!

    Keeping a batch of caramels in the freezer so I can reach in after work and grab a little treat is perfect. And baking them into brownies. And gifting them.

    Hmmm, never thought of Sweden and caramel. Will have to come up with a marzipan caramel confection for my Danish father’s birthday dessert….

  • That was a lovely post! Made me feel pretty happy whilst reading it. :) You are a lucky man, David. I am glad I am not the only one who loved the striped shirts! I am not a huge caramel fan but I think having those would definitely change my mind. I bet the sweet smell in the shop is almost as divine as the taste.

  • Oh I’m so happy you went there!!

    I know that you can order them at Artilleriet, and they ship abroad:

    http://www.artilleriet.se/shop/details/#parlans-kolor

    With the shipping costs for outside of Sweden being quite high you either have to buy some design there too (which is not very difficult) or just really, really crave the caramels in order for it to be worth it, but it’s possible!

  • What a lovely place! I need some caramel now.

    I’ve decided to insert the word kakaobonor into every possible sentence.

  • What a wonderful post. Midway through reading this, I got into an argument. I abruptly ended it (it was on the phone), and finished up this post. I went from upset to instantly happy and nostalgic. Your candy wrapping skills reminded me of my poor attempts to wrap dumplings with my cousins one summer. We were planning on frying them up for lunch and ended up laughing at each other’s lack of abilities despite our “Chinese backgrounds.” Thank you so much for this sweet, sweet entry.

  • Great post and great pictures. You are indeed one lucky man.
    In Paris IX @ rue des martyrs there’s a Swedish candy shop. My favorite so far. The specialty is the salted liquorice (Réglisse salé). They sell other stuff from suede too. Unfortunately not those caramel.

  • JJ: I was having a discussion with someone about how long it takes to make macarons. Most of the ones that people see are made by people who have been doing them for years (sometimes decades!) Apparently there was a story by someone that you need to do something 10,000 times before you get it right. I wrapped about 50 caramels…so I have 9500 to go!

    deedee: I’ve been to that store and it’s really charming (it’s listed in my Paris Pastry app) although they don’t sell these caramels. But I get Swedish fish there, those gummy cherry-red candies that I love and they sell a lot of Swedish licorice, too.

    Wendy: These are softer, creamier than the caramels you often get in France. They are similar to the caramels made by Jacques Genin, in Paris, who the candymaker at Pärlans sites as an influence on one of their most popular flavors.

  • Sigh…how very lovely!

    What are the candies to the right of the peppermints? They look like they might be fish.

  • Sounds like a fun day. I am not a big fan of sweets but those caramels look delicious. I wish I could eat one right now. The candy wrapping sounds like fun (sounds hard too be fun, I would totally give it ago). Going to go find something sweet to snack on now.

  • What a beautiful shop and candy making operation. I loved reading about it. The way they hand stamp the papers is just wonderful. I also honed in immediately to the candy thermometer built into the spatula. I wonder if it would be possible to rig one of those up with my favorite wooden caramel spatula. Hmmm. An idea!

  • I’m totally convinced these caramels are better than Jacques Genin’s and Henri Le Roux’s and will definitely go to this store when in Stockholm. Thanks for such a wonderful post!

  • What a lovely post, David. It makes me feel happy that there’s someone out there who loves the process of how a confection comes to be as much as I do. Lovely photos as always =)

  • You should try to find translated recipes for the two candies that are common at Christmas time: Knäck and Kola. One is more of an almond-y caramelly toffee flavor, and the other is a chocolate-flavored toffee. They’re so good. We usually make them every Christmas… :)

  • This is lovely! Do you know if they process their caramel sauces in a hot water bath or canner, or is it so hot when it goes in, and so sweet that pathogens aren’t a concern?

  • Pärlans lemon caramel is my favorite! I grew up with a mother making chocolate caramels (and we children had to wrap them) for Christmas and sourdough bread so I can revisit my childhood by having Pärlans kola or Saltå Kvarn bread (almost as good as my mother’s…)

    When I want a real croissant, buttery, chevy and flaky I go to Valhallabageriet. If you didn’t visit it this time in Stockholm, you should definitely go and “compare and contrast” with the French bakeries if you visit again. They do great levain as well as kavring, Danish rye and the best cardamom buns in town.

  • These caramels sound just wonderful…and if they are similar to the variety made by Jacques Genin, they would also be on the top of my caramel list!

    I saw you recently at the book signing at La Cuisine Paris (and thank you for taking a picture with me!). I am now home in Sacramento with my books, which remain unsigned by you, but still loved just as much. I visited my favorite chocolatiers and pastry shops over and over during my 6 weeks living there…what a great time I had!

    I would love to go to Stockholm now since reading this review of the Parlans caramels. Thanks for continuing to open my world of food and Paris!