Willy Wonka has a side project in Brighton. Rainbow-bright and teeming with treats to match, Oh My Lolli! sells honest-to-goodness hard candy – made from scratch. Old-fashioned recipes get zippy new flavors, from Pomegranate Lemonade to Jim's Waay Good Hot Cinnamon. Owner Keith Karp, who spun himself into a candy man in 2009, even has an appropriately alliterative name.
After losing his auto industry job, Karp learned three things still drive the economy in tough times. "Entertainment, sweets and alcohol," he explains. "There are lots of places to drink, and I can't sing to save my life. I was stuck with sweets!"
Now he's stuck on them. Double goes for children. They watch candy making in action, savor free samples and can leave with a 10-piece baggy for just $1.50. This summer, Karp is debuting flavored slushies. His goodies are at The Henry Ford in Dearborn, too, and Bagger Dave's 12 local taverns (he's responsible for their four Italian ice flavors). Candy is just pure fun, Karp says: "The parents enjoy it. The kids are fired up. It takes your mind off of whatever's going on."
For National Candy Month, Karp dished a few tips for cooking up hard candy yourself. It's tricky stuff, he cautions; candy is very sensitive to foreign objects, like stray sugar granules – which can spoil a whole batch. It involves very high heat, too, so it's not a recipe for younger helpers.
But hey: If your batch doesn't pan out, don't fret. Oh My Lolli! has you covered.
Note: Karp started out with online recipes. He says this one, by Judith Synesael on AllRecipes.com, is a home version closest to his shop's bigger-batch approach.
- 3 3/4 cups white sugar
- 1 1/2 cups light corn syrup
- 1 cup water
- 1 Tbsp. flavored extract of your choice (check the candy/cake aisle at Michaels)
- 1/2 tsp. food coloring (optional)
- 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar (for dusting)
- Clean, dry wooden spoon
- Clean pastry brush (to clean sides of pan while cooking)
- Candy thermometer
- Cookie sheet, pre-greased
- Combine the sugar, corn syrup and water in a medium saucepan, being careful not to slop sugar on the sides (it can crystallize, Karp says, and damage the texture of the entire batch). Stir with spoon over medium heat until sugar all dissolves.
- Bring liquid to a boil, without stirring. When it begins boiling, if needed, quickly pop it off the heat to wipe down any sugar granules (with a damp pastry brush).
- As it's boiling, check liquid's temp with candy thermometer. When it hits 300-310 degrees, remove from heat. Note: Synesael says you can also drop a small amount of the liquid into cold water; it's ready when it forms "hard, brittle threads."
- Now, with the liquid off-heat, carefully stir in flavored extract and food coloring. Karp hint: Local Michaels stores carry a few flavors from LorAnn Oils, Inc., based in Lansing. Find even more options at lorannoils.com.
- Pour the mixture onto the greased cookie sheet. Dust the top with confectioner's sugar. With a knife, make various score-marks, Karp says – in other words, creating lines where the candy will break apart.
- Once it's completely cool, crack the candy into pieces. Keep in a sealed container.