I’ve been a vegetarian since I was in middle school, and people always ask me if I ever crave meat. I can honestly say that I never have, but you know what I DO crave on a regular basis?
Sweet glorious gelatin in all its forms.
Gummy candies (peach rings especially, though Sour Patch Peaches are a good substitute, so I always snatch them up when I see them at those tourist-trap candy shops), Jell-O, marshmallows, candy corn, Necco wafers, frosted Pop-Tarts, yogurt in interesting flavors….. The list goes on. I miss it all.
There’s one treat that I miss more than all the others: Conversation Hearts.
I think what it is about conversation hearts (and Necco wafers) is that I really like anise and wintergreen, but I’m not entirely sure anymore. I just know that I want them, and every year around this time I check the packages to see if they’ve figured out a way to make them without gelatin, and every year I’m disappointed. When Skittles went gelatin-free I hoped other companies would follow suit, but it has been slow going. So, this year, after 15 years of waiting, I decided to take matters into my own hands and make my own.
The process is surprisingly simple as candy making goes – you don’t have to deal with managing temperature or melting sugar – the most intensive portion is kneading the dough, and the recipe is incredibly forgiving.
For mine, I tried to follow the old-school flavors as much as I could. I experimented with flavoring them using both extracts and spices, and I think the spices yielded a more pleasant product, while the extracts allowed for a wider variety of flavor options. My favorite spice choice was anise – I simply ground anise seeds into a fine powder, and worked it into the dough as I added the coloring. This resulted in a very delicate black liquorice flavor that was more subtle and pleasant than what I achieved with extracts.
Be forewarned that these need to dry fully before they reach the right texture. Mine took a full 4 days to dry on the counter, or 4 hours on dehydrate mode in the oven. This will vary by how much extract you add, how large and thick you cut your dough, and how much humidity is in the air, so I’d recommend making these as far in advance as possible if you don’t have a dehydrator. If you’d like to write on them, Wilton’s Food Writers work well. I preferred how they looked without the words, but perhaps your handwriting is nicer than mine. 🙂
Easy, right? Go surprise your vegan sweetie for Valentine’s Day!
Retro Re-Pin Party #26