That is, until I wandered in the internets and discovered that an old favorite, King Leo Soft Peppermint Stick Candy, can still be found. Oh, joy!
I've never been a fan of your typical peppermint stick or its little sister, the hard, shiny lozenge wrapped in cellophane that's often left on the tray with your check at old-school Italian restaurants. I find them too sweet and sticky and slick in a way that doesn't appeal.
But then, back in the day when we still bought from catalogs, the Williams-Sonoma holiday issue arrived in my mail box and there was this great looking tin of something called King Leo Soft Peppermint Sticks. I ordered it, to be perfectly honest, more for the tin than for the candy. Back then it was bright red, with a picture of the iconic crowned lion sitting on top of a peppermint stick.
When the tin arrived, I discovered that the soft peppermint sticks are a big improvement over the hard variety. The soft version melted in my mouth with a creaminess that was pleasant and intriguing. And the peppermint taste was clean and strong and not too muddled by the sweetness.
I also discovered, like Emma, that soft peppermint sticks crush up nicely for baking. I've stirred them into frostings, sprinkled them on cookies and rolled chocolate truffles in them for a crunchy coating. Because they're not as hard as regular peppermints, I find them a lot more pleasant to encounter in my sweet treats and baked goods.
Over the years, I've occasionally been able to find King Leo in my local shops and whenever I do, I always pick up a box or two to stash in the cupboards. It's been a while, though, since I've seen them, so I'm happy to discover that you can purchase them online. The sticks are a little hard to find as it seems the 'pillow' version is the most popular; Amazon carries a nice selection of both.
• For a little history of King Leo Soft Peppermint, visit the Quality Candy website.
• The array of King Leo products, including chocolate dipped peppermint sticks and peppermint patties, are available from Amazon, $4.99 to $29.99.
Related: Rhoda's Peppermint Hot Fudge Sauce
(Image: Quality Candy)