Area candy makers ready for Valentine’s Day
The day before Valentine’s Day, Feb. 13, is by far Toni Hayes’ busiest of the year.
Her shop, Chocollage, 7639 Jefferson Highway, Baton Rouge, will go through hundreds of dollars in receipts on that day as Valentines snap up decadent gifts for their loved ones, including chocolate, candies and stuffed animals.
“You get one week and you’re just slammed,” Hayes said.
Her shop offers enormous variety for chocolate- and candy-lovers of all stripes, including high-end truffles in combinations like peanut butter cayenne and retro candies like Necco wafers and candy necklaces.
For Valentine’s, she’s also stocking special items like conversation hearts, a pink-red-white candy corn called cupid corn, cookies, assorted gummy candies and even pink and red tortilla chips “just for fun.”
“We like to have fun,” she said, showing off bags of chips and Cupid Crunch, a gourmet popcorn mix that also contains cherries.
But chocolate is the star of her Bocage candy shop. Hayes offers truffles and candies in white chocolate, milk chocolate and all percentages of dark chocolate, including sugar-free candies sweetened with sorbitol.
Some of her most popular confections are triple-dipped malted milk balls — she estimates she sells about 1,000 pounds of those in a year — sea salt caramels and turtles.
There are also chocolate dipped pretzels and dried fruit, and Hayes plans on turning out plenty of chocolate dipped strawberries should her supply hold out.
White chocolate, she said, doesn’t really contain chocolate, but is instead a cocoa butter mixture. Then there’s the milk chocolate, which most people are familiar with, and the varying levels of dark chocolate.
Dark chocolate, she said, is usually marked with the percentage of chocolate the product contains, with the higher percentages being more bitter and possibly even better for you.
“They say 72 percent is where it starts helping you,” she said.
Chocollage can also make up gift baskets and bags to fit most budgets and situations, Hayes said, and some of her Valentines need all the help they can get.
“Every now and then, I have a guy come in and say, ‘I’m in trouble, what do I do?’” she said, adding that they have several options that can help smooth ruffled feathers, including a $100 Godiva heart adorned with a massive fabric flower.
Over at Baum’s Fine Pastries, 8046 Florida Blvd. and 10550 Perkins Road, Baton Rouge, there’s also brisk business at both stores around Valentine’s Day.
“When I tell you we have everything in a heart shape that you can imagine, we do,” Sue Odom, general manager, said, including candies, truffles, fudge boxes, dipped berries and pastries, including a heart-shaped king cake made from brownies and filled with cream cheese.
“It’s amazing,” Odom said. “It is so good.”
Odom also pointed out that both locations of the bakery are open, despite a fire at the Florida Boulevard store just before Thanksgiving.
“We never, ever missed one day,” she said, but many people think the damage was much worse than it was.
This year, Baum’s is debuting two new Valentine’s treats, a red velvet layer cake-New York cheesecake combination iced with sweetened cream cheese and a red velvet heart filled with strawberry mousse and covered in poured ganache and topped with a red velvet chocolate heart.
“It’s really just for one person; it’s small,” she said. “But you talk about amazing.”
Down in New Orleans, Ann Streiffer, owner of Blue Frog Chocolates, is also awash in hearts — heart-shaped boxes, Victorian-molded chocolate hearts, heart pops and gummy hearts — along with some other, more unusual Valentine’s confections.
“We have a pair of giant lips,” she said, that weigh in at about half a pound of chocolate. “They’re just gorgeous.”
The store also features Italian candy flowers with centers of sugar paste. They come in chocolate, licorice and chocolate almond flavors. Streiffer said the shop will arrange them in bouquets or sell them by the single stem.
Blue Frog also pitches the health benefits of dark chocolate and offers a heart with a high cocoa content.
“It’s a bigger heart than we normally have,” Streiffer said. “We call it our heart-healthy dark chocolate heart.
“It’s very simple and elegant.”
Sucré, 3930 Euphrosine St., New Orleans, offers chocolate alongside its famous macarons. Zack Pontious, the shop’s customer service and social media coordinator, said the chocolates come in three types: red raspberry, Paris tea and malted milk.
The Paris tea uses Hardy & Sons Paris tea, a fruity black tea with vanilla and caramel flavors and a hint of lemon, to flavor the chocolate. The shop also has homemade marshmallows and a rose petal and pistachio chocolate bar. But, far and wide, the macarons are what Sucré is most known for, even on chocolate-heavy Valentine’s Day.
“The macarons themselves are a red and white shell and they’ve got a white chocolate raspberry mousseline filing,” he said, and can be ordered with champagne or wine, or with the chocolates.
“You can order them together,” Pontious said. “That makes a really nice gift together, I think, if you have the Valentine’s macarons and the chocolates together.”