Author and blogger, Anita Chu, shares her recipe for Super Lemon Lollipops, from her new cookbook Lollipop Love, opens up about her passionate side (for sweets-on-a-stick!) and tells us how she kicked some life into the traditional lollipop with modern flavor combinations and some unexpected flair.
Please tell us Anita, what is it about lollipops that made you want to write a book dedicated to sweets on a stick?
I think it’s because they’re such a classic candy that many people associate with childhood. Almost everyone has gotten a sucker from the doctor, or longed for one of the giant lollipops in the sweet shop. There’s a lot of nostalgia around this candy, yet many people have never thought of trying to make their own. I wanted to show that it’s surprisingly simple to make beautiful, tasty lollipops right at home. I was also looking to update lollipops with some more modern flavors, like mango, lavender, and pumpkin pie spice. Just as other classic sweets like cupcakes and ice cream have been reinvented with more grownup flavors, I thought it was time for lollipops to have their update as well, and show that they’re more than just a child’s candy.
The instant I saw the cover of your book it was love at first sight, but it’s your inventive recipes that kept me hooked. What was your creative process for recipe development? Did you do a great deal of research and experimentation?
Thank you! I did do a lot of research into different types of lollipops and different flavor combinations. I looked online, in cookbooks, in candy shops, pretty much everywhere to get ideas. I was inspired by some of my favorite flavors, like mango or passion fruit, or favorite desserts like peppermint patties or peanut butter balls, or even just creative images like glittery stars for New Year’s Eve or a caramel swirl in a clear lollipop. I had several recipe testers who gave useful feedback on how the lollipops tasted and whether the recipes were written clearly, which helped me go back and refine and polish them. Hopefully the recipes I came up represent a wide spectrum of flavors and styles so there’s something for everyone.
You use some unique embellishments & ingredients in your lollipops such as edible papers and agave syrup. Any comments?
I really wanted to show how creative you can get with lollipops. Although using flavoring oils is definitely an easy and effective way to flavor lollipops, I also wanted a book that would illustrate how you can find inspiration from all sorts of ingredients in your pantry or at the store to make some really original flavors. The edible paper was a fun discovery for me; I think it’s a great way to really customize lollipops, and as lollipops already make lovely party favors, this seemed a natural fit.
What is your culinary/confectionery background?
I’ve always had a passion for all things sweet. I started baking as a little girl, and after I grew up and went to college, I decide to go to pastry school. I graduated from the professional pastry program at Tante Marie’s Cooking School in 2005, and afterwards I worked in a bakery for about a year. Although I never got to work for a confectioner, I did a lot of candymaking at home, experimenting with chocolate and sugar. Now I’m a food writer and recipe developer; through my work I’ve gotten to meet some really amazing and talented professionals in the food industry and I’m always excited to be learning something new.
Some people think hard candy is difficult to make. What would you say to the person who feels intimidated by the process?
I would say lollipops are really one of the easiest candies to make! If you look at the recipes for basic lollipops, you’ll see there are only three main ingredients: sugar, corn syrup, and water. Many people are intimidated by cooking sugar, but as I show in the book if you have the proper equipment and take care, it’s simple to cook sugar to the right temperature without burning yourself. And it’s quick – I can make a batch of lollipops in less than half an hour. So really, it’s easier and faster than many other desserts!
If you had to pick a favorite recipe from Lollipop Love, what would it be?
I really love the passion fruit caramel lollipops, because I’m a big passion fruit fan so I tend to love any recipe that uses it. I think the tartness of the passion fruit balances out the sweet caramel nicely – it’s a really nice contrast of flavors.
What are your top 3 candy making tips?
- Use the proper equipment. In particular, having a candy thermometer and a heavy, durable saucepan in the right size will ensure the sugar cooks properly.
- Read the recipe all the way through and be prepared. Since you have a short period of time after the sugar cooks to 300 degrees to make the lollipops, have the flavorings close at hand to stir in, and have the molds and lollipop sticks prepared and ready to go. This will prevent any last minute scrambling around.
- Make sure you pour your hot lollipop mixture into a heatproof glass measuring cup. If you’re having trouble with the lollipop mixture cooling and hardening before you’re finished pouring it into the molds, you can easily put the cup in the microwave and heat until the mixture is liquid again.
Thank you for sharing your recipe for Super Lemon Lollipops with us. Any tips you want to share for making these sunny candies with pucker-power?
The Super Lemon lollipops are inspired by the Super Lemon candies of my childhood, lemon drops coated in a super sour powder. If you’re a sour candy fan, this is a lollipop for you. Because you dip the lollipops in citric acid powder, you can control how sour you want them to be. If you just want a nice sweet lemon drop, you can omit the citric acid powder, and even make them in a jewel candy mold instead of a lollipop mold.
Tell us a little about your blog, Dessert First.
I’ve been blogging for about nine years. I started Dessert First as a way to record the recipes I came up with in my kitchen, and slowly it’s turned into a creative outlet for me to share not just my recipes, but my photos, writings, reviews, and recommendations for all things sweet. I still love coming up with new sweet recipes, but I also share my favorite cookbooks and baking tools, and my favorite sweet spots around San Francisco where I live. I post about once a week and I love hearing from readers, so stop on by!
Anita Chu’s Super Lemon Lollipops
1 cup/200 g sugar
1/2 cup/120 ml water
1/4 cup/60 ml light corn syrup
1 1/4 tsp citric acid
3/4 tsp LorAnn lemon oil
few drops yellow food coloring
1/2 cup/50 g confectioners’ sugar
2 tsp citric acid
FOR THE LOLLIPOPS
- Coat the lollipop molds with nonstick cooking spray. Place lollipop sticks in the molds.
- Combine the sugar, water, and corn syrup in a large, heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
- Continue cooking until the mixture reaches 300°F/149°C (hard-crack stage). Immediately remove the saucepan from the heat.
- Add the citric acid, lemon oil, and food coloring and stir to combine. (Be careful to keep your face away from the pan, as the fumes can sting your eyes.)
- Pour the mixture into a heatproof measuring container with a spout. or a candy funnel. Divide the mixture among the prepared molds.
- Let the lollipops cool and harden, about 15 minutes, before removing them from the molds.
FOR THE SOUR POWDER
- Mix the confectioner’s sugar and citric acid together in a bowl
- Dip the lollipops in the mixture to coat
Yield: 24 small or 10 big round lollipops
Storage: wrap in cellophane bags, twist-tied shut in a cool, dry place for up to one month