Who: Hanson Watkins, Confectioner
What: Indie Candy, Big-Eight Allergen-Free Confectionary
Where: Birmingham, Alabama
Hanson Watkins, proprietress of Indie Candy, knows her way around a confectionary shop. And unlike a large commercial operation — with super-speed computerized equipment that turns out 25,000 pounds of chocolate per run — she makes highly specialized, limited-quantity candy, and prefers to work with equipment that has stood the test of time.
Here is a look at how Watkins (and a small candy company) works their magic through their tools.
First, you mix things up. Indie Candy uses the grown-up version of your KitchenAid stand mixer – the really grown-up version. Standing over five-feet tall, the mixer can do dozens of batches of sweets, and runs off a gear shift (rather than an internal shift), so if it breaks, a screwdriver and a new belt are all it takes to get stirring again. “We get a lot of our parts from antique kitchen equipment collectors,” says Watkins, noting that her workhorse mixer works just as well as a modern Hobart industrial mixer that costs nearly $80,000.
Second, she gets things hot. Watkins works off a giant, 100-year-old gas burner that she got and had refurbished. It can temper the most delicate chocolates (in Shrek-sized copper bowls) while she stands watch, preventing the precious liquid from seizing, or turning into grainy, lumpy bits of mess. Indie Candy sources their chocolate from a carefully vetted producer, so it’s important not to waste a drop.
Finally, you make it pretty. It’s impossible to look at Indie Candy’s enrobement line — where marshmallows and toffees are coated with a smooth, perfect sheen of chocolate — and not be irresistibly reminded of the famous I Love Lucy episode, where Lucy and Ethel lose their jobs at the candy factory when they can’t wrap the chocolates quickly enough and resort to eating them. Watkins can relate.
“Our line isn’t all that fast,” she says, “but once the candy starts coming out, it just doesn’t stop coming. Sometimes we really have to scramble.”