Welcoming October at Richardson’s Candy Kitchen

By TINKY WEISBLAT, For the Recorder, October 2, 2019

Walking into the large, immaculate candy-making room at Richardson’s Candy Kitchen on Greenfield Road in Deerfield, the first thing one notices is the tantalizing aroma. Chocolate is in the air, both literally and figuratively.

When I visited recently, the apron-clad workers in the candy room were creating caramel apples and candy-corn-festooned white-chocolate bark. The delectable odors of melted chocolate and caramel welcomed us.

I asked how the cooks could stand working in that atmosphere all day and not swoon. “We don’t really notice it anymore,” said owner Kathie Williams of the smell.

“But we still taste,” added one of her helpers, a young woman named Krista Leveille.

Williams explained that October “kind of kicks off” the candy kitchen’s business season. “The cooler weather encourages people to eat more chocolate,” she observed.

This trend is observable not just anecdotally but in sales figures, she told me; people are more likely to buy one or two chocolates in summer but go home with entire boxes of the treats at this time of year.

Her customer base is a mixture of local people and tourists. Some visitors come in by chance; others make a point of stopping by when they are in the area.

She has some customers who are regulars, she said, coming in weekly or monthly to buy a box of candy and then carefully eating one piece a day until the box is gone.

“It’s wonderful to have people that come in frequently. But … I couldn’t do that,” she said. “When I take [candy] home, it’s gone right away.”

Williams said that she enjoys this season of the year at Richardson’s. “I like the decorating. The colors are nice. The weather is nice. It’s busy, but we’re not overrun yet like we will be in December.”

She and her staff clearly have fun creating fall-themed candies. Richardson’s sells chocolate leaves at this time of year, as well as chocolate witches and cats and other autumnal treats. Chocolate turkeys are already being shaped.

The best-selling items at this time of year, Williams said, are the caramel apples. She and her staff made 50 of these the day we visited and planned to make more daily as the season progressed, particularly on big weekends.

Other fall favorites are peanut brittle and fudge. The latter comes in three flavors: chocolate, chocolate nut, and penuche with walnuts.

People also flock to the store-made candy corn, Williams informed me, especially those whose only previous experience with candy corn has been the kind found in bags in grocery stores.

“People are always surprised at how good it does taste,” she said of her candy corn.

I asked Kathie Williams whether she has plans to expand Richardson’s Candy Kitchen. She laughed and shook her head. “We’re happy with the size of the store. And our customers like the small feel of it.”

Williams let me watch while she and her helpers prepared apples and bark.

The first step for the apples was to insert sticks into the apples and dip the fruit into melted caramel.

Williams prefers honeycrisp apples from Clarkdale Fruit Farms. These apples’ slightly tart flavor contrasts with the sweet coatings, and their crispness helps them hold up through the transformation process.

After the apples were dipped in melted caramel, they cooled for a while. They then got a second coating of milk chocolate.

Williams explained parenthetically that a few customers call ahead to request either dark chocolate or white chocolate; in fact, a white-chocolate caramel apple with toffee sprinkles was awaiting its future owner as we watched.

After the coating solidified, chocolatier Michele Leveille drizzled just a bit more chocolate onto the apples and then dipped them in festive sprinkles.

It looked as though she was just dunking the apples randomly in the sprinkles, but when the apples emerged from the sprinkle bowl they sported a delicate orange crisscross pattern.

We also watched chocolatier Beth Wright prepare the candy-corn bark. First, she decanted tempered white chocolate into a large bowl.

She then generously stirred candy corn into the chocolate.

There was no measuring involved; clearly, Leveille and Williams have made enough bark over the years to dispense with an exact recipe.

The candy-corn-infused chocolate was then poured onto a large marble table lined with wax paper.

Leveille and Williams worked together quickly to spread the chocolate into as thin a layer as they could with silicone spatulas. They topped the layer of chocolate with even more candy corn.

Cooling the bark didn’t take too long, thanks to the low melting point of the white chocolate and the low temperature of the marble.

Once the confection was solid, Williams used a round cutter (like a pizza cutter) to cut the flat bark into rectangles.

Home cooks who want to try to make either caramel apples or bark will need to use a double boiler to melt their chocolate and caramel. If you’re trying these recipes at home, be careful not to overcook your chocolate.

And make sure to use the best ingredients you can. Cheap chocolate, caramel, and candy corn will make cheap-tasting treats.

Of course, you can always purchase these treats at Richardson’s. If you miss the season for the candy-corn chocolate bark, which was invented by Kathie Williams’s mother, you will find other barks at other times of year in the store.

For the December holidays, Richardson’s makes “sparkle bark” with its homemade candy canes. At Easter, bark is decorated with jelly beans. And this past summer the store introduced a new toffee bark that Kathie Richardson will doubtless bring back next year.

It sold well, she reported. And I’m sure it melted in one’s mouth.

The candy-corn bark certainly melted in mine.