Sweets for your Sweetie
Published Jan/Feb 2005

For Valentine’s day, give a gift from the heart that will make any
southern sweet tooth smile.

Fast approaching is the time of year when romance is in the air. On Valentine’s Day, we usually present bouquets of flowers and hearts in hues of pink and red.

Yet for an edible gift for your children, grandmother or sweetie, there is a tempting variety of Southern sweets available. If you’re lucky, the recipients will share a sampling with you.

Andrews Candy Company

What started as a small candy operation making teacher’s gifts for Christmas has blossomed into Andrews Candy Company in Arkadelphia, Ark.

As a teenager, Winnie Andrews worked in a local candy company and learned the basics. When she became a mom, she worked at her own kitchen stove and prepared peanut brittle as gifts. The handmade candy made quite an impression because requests for more peanut brittle kept coming.

Andrews originally shelled each peanut by hand and made small batches. Eventually the business grew, though the personal touch is still in place as each batch is made by hand, three pounds at a time. It is quite crunchy and stretched very thin upon pouring. Once the candy has cooled off, it’s broken into irregular pieces to enjoy.

In addition to the traditional peanut brittle, Andrews Candy Company also makes brittle with sunflower seeds, cashews and pecans in either 1.5-pound or 3-pound containers. Other types of peanut brittle, such as peanut/coconut and almond, are made upon request. A sugar-free brittle also is available.

Brent & Sam’s Premium Gourmet Cookies

Politics and cookie dough make a delightful combination when the result is a delicious chocolate chip cookie.

Brent Bumpers had fond memories of living in the governor’s mansion when his father, Dale Bumpers, was governor of Arkansas in the early 1970s. One of his most memorable times was munching on scrumptious cookies baked from a recipe developed by his mother and the governor’s cook, Eliza Ashley.

Although Bumpers chose a career in law, he and a partner, Sam DeWitt, donned kitchen aprons and began moonlighting in 1984. Using a friend’s pizza oven, they baked cookies at night and sold them during the day in Little Rock, Ark.

Beginning with a basic chocolate chip cookie recipe, they experimented with a variety of ingredients and techniques (such as slow baking) until they were pleased with the taste of their homemade cookies. The assortment in-cludes Caribbean Crunch with coconut, almonds and chocolate; Raspberry Chocolate Chip; Lemon White Choco-late; Butter Pecan with cinnamon, oats and raisins; and White Chocolate Macadamia. Two types of chocolate chip cookies are available–one with pecans and chocolate and the other with extra chocolate and no nuts.

Aunt Sally’s Pralines

You don’t have to travel to New Orleans to get a sampling of the delicious Southern candy called pralines. Aunt Sally’s Pralines is located in the French Quarter, but as they say, “We ship anywhere.”

Actually, that was their slogan even as early as the 1930s. Still family owned, presently by the fourth generation of founders Pierre and Diane Bagur, Aunt Sally’s is synonymous with New Orleans. They use no preservatives in their family recipe and the pralines are still cooked in a shiny copper pot.

Opened in New Orleans in the 1920s as a small, family operation, Aunt Sally’s initially sold batches of pecan pralines from a small kiosk in the French Market. In the 1940s, the operation moved to its present location on Decatur Street in the French Quarter and is a popular stop, as you can sample a variety of the products and watch the copper pot boiling. Once the praline has reached the right boiling point, it is poured onto marble surfaces to cool off as in years past.

In addition to the traditional Creole pralines, other delicacies are available, including praline-coated pecans, spicy Cajun roasted pecans, chocolate-covered pecans, triple-chocolate pralines and pecan log rolls.

Café du Monde

Just around the corner is another well-known New Orleans food tradition. Café du Monde, “Coffeehouse of the World,” was established in 1862 in an open-air market at the same Decatur Street location it holds today. Famous for its coffee and beignets, the café is open night and day (closed Christmas Day), which is convenient as New Orleans never sleeps.

A beignet is a fried, square-shaped, puffy doughnut (although it’s slightly lighter and there’s no hole in the middle) or fried fritter. Powdered sugar is sprinkled on the hot treat to make a tasty combination. Beignets were brought to Louisiana by the French Acadians in the early 1700s.
The café is a popular spot, suitable for people watching in the French Quarter as well as enjoying an order of beignets and café au lait coffee (coffee mixed half-and-half with hot milk).

Fans of this fritter can enjoy easy-to-prepare beignets at home with Café du Monde’s beignet mix. With a well-floured surface, rolling pin, frying pan filled with cottonseed oil, along with a little kitchen know-how, the beignets can be fried and served hot and fresh. A popular Café du Monde gift package includes the beignet mix along with a New Orleans voodoo doll.

The café has several locations in New Orleans, and surprisingly, there are 56 Café du Monde coffee stands throughout Japan.

Cora’s Cake in a Jar

Although it’s an unusual way to present a cake, Cora’s Cakes of Natchez, Miss., bakes a variety of masterpieces–delicious cakes in 16-ounce jars. The cake lacks frosting but makes up for it in mouth-watering flavor and moistness.

Cora Olier founded the company in 1989 and has since retired. When a “Food Finds” segment on the Food Network highlighted the specialty cake company, Cora’s Cakes became known throughout the country.

Varieties include Banana Nut, Chocolate Varieties include Banana Nut, Chocolate Cheesecake, Coconut Pound and Cream Cheese Tunnel. A few seasonal cakes–like the King’s Cake for Mardi Gras–also are available. Sugar-free cakes also are available in chocolate, lemon and vanilla pound.

All of the cakes are made from scratch and take about 45 minutes to bake, utilizing the basics of canning jams or jellies in a glass jar. Natchez Pecan is the top selling cake, although all of the cakes make a nice gift because they have a long shelf life of more than six months.

For a twist this Valentine’s Day, give a gift of one of these Southern delicacies, then sit back and collect your thank-you hug and kiss..

Dixie Pouche is a new contributor from Breaux Bridge, La.

Before You Go
For more information, contact:

Andrews Candy Company, (870) 246-2796, or online at www.andrewscandycompany.com

Brent & Sam’s Premium Gourmet Cookies, (501) 562-4300, 1-800-825-1613, or www.brentandsams.com;

Aunt Sally’s Pralines, (504) 944-6090, 1-800- 642-7257, or www.auntsallys.com;

Café du Monde, (504) 525-4544, 1-800-772-2927, or www.cafedumonde.com;

Cora’s Cakes in a Jar, (601) 442-7636, 1-800-524-6264, or www.corascakes.com.

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