Liddabit Sweets

S'Mores bars from Liddabit Sweets New York City

I was trying to explain to my French other-half what an incubator was. In America, we don’t use the term just for babies, but we use it to describe groups that exist in places like San Francisco, where new ideas are born from creative minds which are often the result of thinking “outside the box.” There are the tech giants, like Apple, Facebook, and Google, that started that way, but it also extends to the food community and you can now find thriving businesses producing everything from bean-to-bar chocolates to organic tofu noodles, and reviving heirloom breeds of tomatoes and long-lost strains of wheat, milling them into loaves of exceptional breads and other treats.

One of my unrealized dreams, that I’ve been incubating – and perhaps I was ahead of my time (or I’ve missed the boat…), has been to open up an ice cream shop. But even before I got the silly notion of my own ice cream shop into my head (overworked friends who have bakeries always warned me not to get into the business – sometimes offering to unload theirs on me…for free!), I wanted to have a store specializing in homemade candies.

Liddabit Sweets - sea salt caramels

Sure, making candy isn’t anything new; in the relatively small town I grew up in, we had a candy shop in the center where you could watch the candy makers working through the white-paned windows inside the store, which separated the customers from the workers, who were pouring sugar syrups and dipping chocolates in the back. It had opened in 1931 and lasted until 1997. Some of the candies and chocolates were stacked up nicely on shelves, and others were lined up on tables around the store. My grandmother was never without at least one box of their buttercrunch in her house. Proof that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

It’s true that just about everybody loves candy. Sometimes it’s the commercial stuff – personal favorites include Almond Joy bars, York Peppermint Patties, and Planter’s Peanut Blocks. And some of the store-bought bars are best left on the shelf, or traded away after Halloween.

Beer and pretzel caramels at Liddabit Sweets New York City

Brooklyn has become a well-established culinary incubator. There are now cheese-ripening caves (which I tried to visit but didn’t succeed – my heartfelt pleading letter didn’t do the trick), sausage and charcuterie makers, distillers, craft beer brewers, and now, confectioners. Liddabit Sweets started selling their homemade candy at the Brooklyn flea market – c’est très américaine – then as they grew, they opened a kiosk in the bustling Chelsea Market in Manhattan.

Liddabit Sweets New York City

But now they’ve got a full-on production facility and shop as part of the food hall at Industry City, a large repurposed import and export factory that is filling up with small businesses devoted to food. It was exciting for me to stop in and see the development. And if you go, definitely stop into the charcuterie Ends Meat, too. Those guys are great. They were just opening and I got a look in as they were preparing meat for curing and suspect a lot of great things are going to be coming out of their kitchen.

Peanut butter and jelly truffles at Liddabit Sweets New York City

I like Brooklyn because even though parts of it have become quite expensive, it’s more than just hip Williamsburg and DUMBO; most of the borough retains the same scrappiness that I remember from San Francisco and Berkeley back in the 80’s and 90’s, when California cuisine and the food “revolution” started America on a culinary path of returning back to cooking eating closer to the earth and being more concerned about how we fed ourselves. In some ways, this was an idea inspired by Europe, where most of our ancestors came from, some of mine having landed from foreign shores, into Brooklyn. And now, much of the farm-to-table philosophy is circling back to Europe, notably in Paris, with “Brooklyn-style” restaurants popping up everywhere with lots of brick and exposed light bulbs, and food focusing on well-sourced ingredients with a lighter, more upbeat style of service.

(Curiously, a new food store opened up in Paris, Maison Plisson, which Le Figaro reported the owner modeled on the success of Dean & Deluca and Whole Foods, which she notably remembered for the quality of ingredients and the service. Which is interesting because Dean & Deluca opened with the premise that they were modeled after a marketplace like those in Europe. Hmm…)

Liddabit Sweets

I met Liz Gutman, one of the happy founders of Liddabit Sweets when I was at the opening party at the new Valrhona Brooklyn pastry school. I had just popped a chocolate into my craw and got tapped on the shoulder. With a mouthful of chocolate (and creamy nougat), she had to wait for me to finishing chewing, then swallowing, then getting my wits back, before we I could answer. But once my mouth was once again available, we were soon chatting away like long-lost cohorts.

Of course, as the conversation wound down as I am not longer the late-night person that I used to be (the only thing that kept me going was a lavish display of complimentary chocolates, downed with a few flutes of Champagne), I invited myself to their production kitchen because I love seeing how things are made, especially candy.

Liddabit Sweets S'mores bars

When I got there a week later, Jen King, Liz’s partner at Liddabit Sweets, was busy dipping S’mores bars in chocolate, made with a chocolate ganache that was slightly smoky, thanks to an infusion of black tea, resting on a rectangle of homemade graham crackers and bruléed marshmallows, ready to be dunked.

Liddabit Sweets Triple C candies/cookes

Another woman in the kitchen was dipping rounds of Triple C’s, a seasonal candy enveloping coconut, soft caramel and butter cookies into shiny disks. We laughed when I looked around and  noted that I was the only fellow in the kitchen. I’d had a discussion with someone recently about the role of women in the food industry, including in professional kitchens. Because I’ve always worked either for women, or with women, we all worked as equals. In fact, the only time we weren’t was when I walked into work one day and was surrounded by my all-women co-workers, who ordered the tall man on our team (me) to stop putting cake pans on the top shelves, miffed because no one else couldn’t reach them. Fair enough, ladies. Er, women.

sea salt caramels - Liddabit Sweets New York City

Good things should be within reach of all, although making candy is a lot of work. As Liddabit Sweet points out, homemade candies and chocolates aren’t made by robots so will look different – and cost more – that what comes off a factory production line. They try to source things as locally as possible, do what they can by hand, and take pride in their products. Everyone here was working well together, laughing and joking around, while they took on the serious work of making candy.

caramel corn at Liddabit Sweets New York City

That said, there’s one machine that most candy shops I’ve visited found essential and that’s the caramel wrapping machine. It’s one task that is extremely time-consuming, so Liz and Jen invested in a machine that is their pièce de resistance, which Liz proudly showed off to me.

Liddabit Sweets caramel wrapping machineLiddabit Sweets caramel wrapping machine

Another machine they use often is a mixer with a heating element beneath the mixing bowl. It’s a beautiful, well-used machine, and the secret for making certain types of caramels and candies. For those interested, they published the The Liddabit Sweets Candy Cookbook with their favorite candy recipes, including the S’mores Bars, nougat, and the tasty Beer-Pretzel caramels. As part of the agreement in our Mutual Admiration Society, I was happy to get an autographed copy for my cookbook collection, and I left them a signed copy of mine.

Liddabit Sweets - mixer New York City-3

If you want to visit, the shop is open to all and they even offer classes in candy making and visits to their workshop, to experience all the behind-the-scenes dipping and dunking that you want to indulge in. You don’t need to harass the owners of the shop, until they let you in, like I did. You’ll see treats like crisp honeycomb candy, dipped in bittersweet chocolate…

Honeycomb candy at Liddabit Sweets

Snacker bars with caramel, chocolate nougat, and roasted peanuts…

Snackers bars at Liddabit Sweets New York City

S’mores bars…

S'Mores bars at Liddabit Sweets New York City

And Caramel-Chocolate cookies with a generous blob of caramel puddled in the center. I’ll take a dozen. Make that a baker’s dozen.

Liddabit Sweets caramel chocolate chip cookies

After we adjourned our first-ever meeting of the Mutual Admiration Society (even though I was the one who was more in awe), we took pictures of us all together, which somehow ended up on their camera phones, but not on mine. But they did pack up a few treats for me to take home with me. The S’mores bar lasted all of about 17 minutes after I got home, in spite of its formidable size. I figured I would just lop off a slice of it, like a loaf of bread, and eat a little of it every day for the next few days. Who was I kidding?

S'mores bars at Liddabit Sweets New York City

But somehow, the beer and pretzel caramels made it back to Paris with me. Which was great because I love surprising French friends with unconventional treats from the U.S., and passed them out after a dinner of caramel ribs, garlic slaw, and upside down cake. My friends loved them as much as I did, widening the global membership of the Mutual Admiration Society.

 

Liddabit Sweets
220 36th Street (Entrance also at 254 36th Street)
Tel: (718) 788-4000

and

Chelsea Market (kiosk)
75 9th Avenue (Entrance also at 425 W. 15th Street)
Tel: (212) 229-0022

 

cookbook-small

Just an extra shout-out to the terrific Liddabit Sweets Candy Cookbook. (Also available on their website.) I’m always on the lookout for good books on making candy, and from messages I get from readers, so are others out there. And this one certainly fits the bill. There are all sorts of treats/sweets that are perfectly do-able in any home kitchen. An added bonus is the enjoyable, humorous voices of the two authors and owners, Liz Gutman and Jen King, that are reassuring and talk you right through each and every recipe. Recipes for most of the candies in this post are featured, as well as others, like fruit jells, pistachio nougat, pralines, lollypops, and dinner mints. The book is a lot of fun, just like Liz and Jen – highly recommended!


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47 comments

  • May 14, 2015 1:45pm

    Those handmade chocolate bars have me drooling!

  • May 14, 2015 3:41pm

    Wow, these candies looks so delicious! I will have to pop in next time I am in New York!

    Kate

  • Susan
    May 14, 2015 3:46pm

    I love to make candy. I usually only make it around the holidays, but I am always on the lookout for candy recipes to use during the season. I must get the book.

    It’s funny (to me, anyway) how the trend for hand-made goodies is to really make them by hand..no machines! Just the opposite of the times when specialty machinery was introduced and the bragging point was that there would be no shortages because production was not dependent upon all the tedious chores being done by hand. I remember my Grandmothers joy when she’d get a newly available appliance to cut the kitchen workload down. Funny how things ebb and flow..

  • May 14, 2015 4:23pm

    I adore Liddabit! We featured them in FoodCrafters and I’ve been addicted ever since!

  • Bebe
    May 14, 2015 4:43pm

    For many decades Alexander’s Candy in Pasadena, CA, kept locals (and some from further away) happy with their chocolate-dipped honeycomb. A delectable treat that they made and sold (out) every day. It was a must have and a wonderful Christmas gift. The original owner sold out to a lovely woman who had worked for him. She was so successful that she moved from his hole in the wall shop to a grander place in San Marino, where the whole thing kept going until she had a devastating accident and suddenly it was gone. Poof!

    Somewhere in my recipe box(es) I have the recipe for their honeycomb that appeared in a local newspaper years ago. Now if I could only find it…

    As long as I’m reminiscing, I’ll mention the taffy shop in Pasadena with the amazing Rube Goldberg “pulling” machine that sat inside its front window. Mecca for kids who watched, mesmerized, as mechanical arms looped and pulled, looped and pulled. And then Mom would show up and buy us a little bag. Yum.

  • May 14, 2015 5:16pm

    David, Did you ever watch the salt water taffy being made on the Santa Cruz boardwalk? Never found any to equal it.

  • Judy Clements
    May 14, 2015 5:26pm

    Caramel ribs?? Give it up!

  • Don
    May 14, 2015 5:30pm

    Bonjour, David. We live in Palo Alto and have been following your blog for years. Thank you. My husband and I will be traveling in France mid-July. How and where might we find, in Paris, the “Brooklyn-style” restaurants you speak of? Don

  • Lisa
    May 14, 2015 5:35pm

    I have that book and it’s lovely. There are so many recipes I want to try out. Thanks for the tour.

  • Peter Longenecker
    May 14, 2015 5:47pm

    Judy–
    Page 187 from My Paris Kitchen. Am planning on doing these on our Big Green Egg this weekend.

  • May 14, 2015 5:51pm

    Does the recipe book have metric measurements or is it all cups?

  • Pam Farrell
    May 14, 2015 5:52pm

    What a timely post David! Thank you so much. I recently came across Liddabit online because they are offering a basic chocolate class on Craftsy, and it is terrific for those wishing to learn chocolate basics. I live in the SF Bay Area and I would like to expand my chocolate skills. I’m a former culinary professional and just never had much opportunity to work extensively with chocolate. I would like to be more comfortable with it (hand tempering and candy making). I am having trouble finding an intensive workshop here. Do you have any suggestions? I’ve looked at the usual schools but there is nothing short of a pastry program.

    Loving your book and so happy to have met you at Left Bank last year. Keep up the wonderful blog.

    • May 14, 2015 8:09pm
      David Lebovitz

      I don’t know of programs in the Bay Area but you might consider checking out Ecole Chocolat, an online chocolate-making course that a friend of mine runs. There are pastry schools in the US that just do week-long or several day classes for non-professionals, such as The French Pastry School and ICE.

  • Terry
    May 14, 2015 5:55pm

    Thanks a lot. I just gained five pounds reading this. LOL It all looks so good! But what I’d really love would be a little video of that caramel-wrapping machine at work.

    • May 14, 2015 8:01pm
      David Lebovitz

      Interestingly, she was going to turn it on to show me how it worked. But they didn’t have it all set up. However Edible Brooklyn shot a great video at Liddabit Sweet that shows it in action – and more!

  • May 14, 2015 6:00pm

    The s’more bars! Wonder if that would have been a hit in Paris too…

  • Marjorie in NYC
    May 14, 2015 6:03pm

    Hi David!!
    I brought you Liddabit caramels way back when when I took the chocolate tour in 2010 (the Rungis one!). I believe you shared one with Jacques Genin. I’m still a huge fan of Liddabit, fig and ricotta caramels are my all time fave.
    Cheers!
    Marjorie

    • May 14, 2015 7:58pm
      David Lebovitz

      Marjorie! I hope you’ve caught up from the lack of sleep after the visit to Rungis market in Paris ; )

      Thanks for the caramels and that was daring of me to give one to Jacques G. Don’t remember what he said, but perhaps that was because of the whiskey he poured for us? Hope you’re well xx dl

  • May 14, 2015 6:11pm

    Hi David,
    The pictures in this post are amazing as always. I could not resist the temptation and I already ordered the book through Amazon, thanks for the recommendation. I love the Caramel-Chocolate cookies, can´t wait to eat them :)
    Cheers! Luisa

  • Stephan
    May 14, 2015 6:46pm

    Boy! Did this article take me back to my childhood. I grew up in southern California not too far from Knott’s Berry Farm. They had the most delightful candy kitchen and I would be mesmerized watching all the ladies dipping the fruit centers into the vats of chocolate and swirling their fingers to make a decorative dripping on top. The design of that dripping was a marker as to what flavor was inside. I think the only machine they had was the one pulling taffy which, for a child, was always fun to watch. Thanks for the memories, David!

    • May 14, 2015 7:57pm
      David Lebovitz

      It’s really quite a skill and one that requires not just a recipe, but knowing what to look for and the “feel” of things, which is why writing a candy cookbook is somewhat of a challenge. But it’s really fun to make it and gives a real feeling of accomplishment.

  • Michele H.
    May 14, 2015 7:44pm

    Smile…I was going to brag on my spiced peanut brittle until I saw your pictures. Apparently I need to just buy this book and go home to destroy my kitchen in a fog of sugar and chocolate. Thank God my husband usually does the kitchen clean up around our house!

  • Stella Wilson
    May 14, 2015 7:50pm

    There’s a candy company in Memphis, TN. They make five spice salted caramel candy. I’m 66 and just recently tried it and now declare it to be my favorite candy on earth. I want to try to recreate this candy but am a loss to know how much spice to add. Anyway, loved the pics and reading all about candy. Mmmmm.

  • Shari S
    May 14, 2015 8:31pm

    I love their book too. It’s so generous in sharing what they’ve learned. Especially since they have a business selling the very sweets that they meticulously detail how to make at home. It made me really think about giving and true sharing of knowledge. Oh, the butter mints are great and the sponge candy (who knew it could have gelatin) is delicious.

  • May 14, 2015 8:44pm

    Wow…I’ll take some of each. Will be checking out their cookbook.

  • Ann Boger
    May 14, 2015 9:23pm

    David, I’m sorry, I’m not on the subject of candy but want to ask about the Sweet Potato Apricot Cake. Do you think I could substitute pumpkin purée for the sweet potato purée? Obviously it will change the flavor, but will the texture be okay? Have some left-over Thanksgiving pumpkin that I would like to use.

    Thank you very much for your blogs. I enjoy every one of them and appreciate your efforts, knowledge, and sense of humor.

    Sincerely,
    Ann

  • Andrea
    May 14, 2015 10:15pm

    Those s’more bars look delicious and need to become a part of my life post-haste. I haven’t heard of Incubator before this but am looking forward to checking it out, since NYC food day trips are part of my summer agenda…

  • May 15, 2015 1:15am

    Here in Port Townsend Washington, we quietly have a commercial kitchen rented out to 8 different “baby” businesses in 1200 square feet. From paella to pasta, croissants to hand pies, we incubate them until strong enough to move out to their own. We use local ingredients, recycle and compost, have one night a week dinner to go, a CSA pick up and classes too. Market Kitchen, check us out at http://www.crustpies.com. We would love to be recognized by someone as cool as you!

  • May 15, 2015 3:32am

    Oh heavens, another book, and a candy one at that!

    The s’more’s bars are reason alone to want this item.

    Come Christmas, this would make the perfect run-to for gifting ideas. And speaking of Christmas, that copper bowl would make me more than merry.

  • Gavrielle
    May 15, 2015 9:00am

    I just “looked inside the book” at Amazon and saw a recipe for homemade Toblerone. I’m in!

  • May 15, 2015 10:22am
    David Lebovitz

    kelli: Yes, it’s a good idea to share space to cut costs and also to “incubate” with others. A group of pastry chefs/bakers tried that in Paris, but unfortunately it didn’t work out. The stuff wasn’t outstanding, though, but it was also in a bad location and the person working there wasn’t terribly friendly. (There’s another start-up near me but most of the people there seem to focus on standing outside smoking and reading their phones, so not sure how productive they are.) Glad it’s working out for you!

    Ann: I’ve not done it but I am pretty certain it would work with pumpkin puree; I discussed a bit in the headnote before the recipe but it was rather long because I knew that people would have a lot of questions about that one. Enjoy ~!

    Shari: It’s actually quite a funny book to read and I enjoyed just sitting down and reading it. They’re both great fun and the book certainly reflects that.

  • ron shapley(NYC)
    May 15, 2015 2:12pm

    Hi Dave…………What is your hometown ??? For me, Oneonta, NY where NewBerry’s was the famous candymaker….along with roasted nuts and Popcorn……The aroma when you walked into the store was intoxicating…………….Nice post. I may go down to Chelsea Market today to check out the goods at Liddabit.

  • May 15, 2015 6:49pm

    we discovered these guys at the Chelsea Market last year, while on vacation. It took all of my willpower to refrain from buying everything in their shop. Fantastic company, incredible sweets!

  • Nora Signer
    May 15, 2015 6:59pm

    Oh David,

    Thank you again, what fun! Such a vicarious treat for someone whose body most unfortunately says very little sugar please. We are all really fortunate that ingesting by eye does not transport the ingredients right to the tummies!

    That machine is amazing, the video terrific.

    So my crazy idea is to take my sugar loving and curious grandson on an outing with a tour of the factory, that way I get to see the machine up close.

    Off topic, I recently commented on your Zahav posting after a quick trip to Philadelphia.

    Best regards,

    Nora

  • Rob Koch
    May 15, 2015 7:25pm

    Hi David –

    I live in San Francisco and have been following your blog for years. I loved your review of Ovenly and was especially taken by your opening photo of the Oat Currant Golden Raisin Cookie. When Amazon delivered the book, I immediately checked for the recipe– but, it wasn’t there! So, if I simply add the currants and golden raisins to a standard oatmeal cookie recipe, will get be a close approximation. I hasten to add I’m loving the book.

  • naomi
    May 15, 2015 9:44pm

    Delicious entry! Infusing chocolate with a smoky flavor caught my interest, so I googled it, finding a link. I came back to read comments, and there you had it, for Ecole Chocolat (and in English at that). I may need that book; until then, I have another website to explore. Thanks (as usual).

  • Susan Vandermeer
    May 15, 2015 9:50pm

    Your stories and blogging are the highlight of any day I click here, thank you David!!

  • Greg
    May 17, 2015 12:15am

    I made a chocolate toffee with pistachio nut candy recently. It was my first time making candy and I was surprised at how easy it was.

    Not to knock candy makers, but making candy is very, very easy, and I wonder why anyone would buy them from a store.

    I also have to question this handmade business. It’s as overblown as “hand-poured” coffee, which is the latest term for Melitta. When the ingredients and recipe are the same, what difference does it make to use hands instead of a machine?

  • Rochelle Eissenstat
    May 17, 2015 1:13am

    Opening an ice cream store sounds like a le did idea to me. Go for it!
    My parents owned a high quality ice cream store many years ago in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. Several things made it a success. (1) my parents never stunted on quality. That meant using real heavy cream instead of stabilizers, gums, thickeners, etc. also the highest quality of fruits and flavorings. (2) organization & cleanliness – the store was imaculate. We literally scrubbed down the entire store and carefully washed all the insides as well as outer surfaces of our ice cream machines every single night. We kept careful inventory to minimize waste, we tracked which flavors sold best daily, weekly, monthly, and by seasons, & holidays. So, for example, pumpkin ice cream sold well around Halloween & Thanksgiving, but was ignored the rest of the year. Or rum raisin was a hit from December through New Years but then languished. Undoubtedly, there are special flavors that are seasonal favorites in Paris. Since there were customers who adored some relatively unpopular flavors, we kept records to call them when our flavor rotation would include their favorites through the year. (3) the location was a good one, although the previous owners had gone bankrupt because their quality was poor. The store was close to a “red light district”, a Christian Prostetant seminary, and a Catholic college. ALL of these people loved ice cream all year round! And they also loved conversations with my father who was well read in philosophy and theology! (4) keep a coffee machine in the store. Coffee and hot cocoa are both extra good with ice cream instead of milk!

  • May 17, 2015 3:38am

    The Liddabit gals have a fun, affordable Candy Making class on Craftsy.com!

    Homemade candy, truffles, bonbons and more

    I would love a David Lebovitz Craftsy class, too! :)

  • May 17, 2015 6:29am

    OMG, those s’mores bars had me drooling! We would be so grateful if you could show us how to make that!

  • Amy
    May 17, 2015 3:34pm

    West Hartford! My mother remembers going to that candy store all the time, particularly when I was little. (We moved but family remains in the area.)

  • May 18, 2015 5:26pm

    OOOOHHHH, that all looks so delicious!
    Is there a better way to spend an evening that drinking champagne and eating chocolate?
    I just got back from Charlottesville and tried some of your restaurant and coffeeshop suggestions.

    Merci.

  • Liz
    May 18, 2015 5:36pm

    This post makes me so happy, David! It was such a pleasure to have you by the kitchen :)

    I’d just like to point out to anyone who decided to check out the cookbook (woohoo!) that there are a few typos that made it through (boo) but we’ve corrected them on our website: http://www.liddabitsweets.com/cookbook/cookbook-corrections/

    Happy candying, all!

  • May 19, 2015 12:19am

    There’s something so inexplicably special about handmade confections that brings such pleasure and makes you giddy inside. Valrhona makes such wonderful chocolate too! I’d love to visit their school.

  • B
    June 1, 2015 2:26pm

    David, I always look forward to your newsletter. This month, reading about women starting food businesses, making sweets by hand, and acquiring machines brought to mind a wonderful book by Susan Axelrod about doing just that, Love and Quiches. It’s a good read, an interesting (true) story and has lots of practical advice. B

  • In Irma's Kitchen
    June 3, 2015 7:40pm

    While in SF, did you have the opportunity to have Double Rainbow Ice Cream? Started by a boy from Brooklyn!
    Love your blogs; you take me to places I’ve never been and likely, never go.
    Thank you….
    ism