Sweet Recollection by Betzi Simons
More than once in my time as a tour guide I’ve had visitors reminisce about previous, long-ago visits, where they took home more than just memories of the views of citrus groves all around the Tower. For these visitors, the return trips to the Citrus Tower elicit delightful memories of the classic Florida goodies once found at Carolyn Candies, a candy kitchen that existed on our grounds in the space between the current businesses Uncle Kenny’s Barbecue and Happy Troll Games. They remember the delicious confections they took home as part of their experience visiting the Citrus Tower. Treats such as coconut patties, pecan rolls, pralines, and the ever-popular fruit squares made with real citrus fillings.
Carolyn Candies operated as a wholesale confectionery company that extended its reach outside of the Central Florida area. Upon researching, I found out they had been around since 1935 and manufactured and distributed throughout all of Florida, Georgia, and even into New England. The company itself continued to exist on Citrus Tower grounds well into the 90’s. Carolyn Candies may now be a part of Clermont’s history, but I’ve been curious to find out what the buzz was all about with regard to these candies. So I set out to find some online recipes resembling some of the sweet and indulgent treats that were a part of our Citrus Tower story.
At first, I thought I’d just pass along the recipes. However, I found myself motivated by my insatiable sweet tooth in combination with the free time from this quarantine. So I decided to get up and exercise some domestic skills in my kitchen. Off I went to my favorite bullseye store looking for ingredients.
Once home, I was ready for my very own “Spring Candy-Making Challenge”. My first challenge: a Wolfgang Puck recipe for Florida Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Patties. Making the filling without a double-boiler was somewhat difficult, but I eventually found the right combination of pans in my kitchen. I also recommend melting more chocolate than what the recipe calls for the outside layer. The final product was a vanilla-infused chewy coconut filling coated by semi-sweet chocolate; a perfectly balanced delightful explosion of flavor. In the end, suffice to say that my 22-year-old son called this treat a “Chihuahua in a Chanel bag”. I know, right? I venture to guess he meant it in reference to how rich it tasted. You’ll definitely feel pretty pampered eating these. Find the recipe below: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/florida-chocolate-dipped-coconut-patties-recipe-1943306
For my next recipe challenge, I wanted to try the pecan logs and found a recipe for Caramel Nut Logs by the Land O Lakes company. First off, I want to say I found myself having way too much fun making this recipe. I think it had to do with kneading the frosting-like marshmallow crème and powdered sugar filling that forms the interior of this candy. It takes more than a few minutes for it all to come together and the play-dough consistency of the mixture reminded me of childhood times when the cares of this world were non-existent. I don’t know, call it boredom but it made my little heart happy. I highly recommend it! Placing the pecan exterior was a somewhat clumsy process for me since I didn’t realize how quickly you had to move the caramel-coated log onto the pecans before the caramel cooled off too much. My persistence paid off though, resulting in a confection that can be described using only one word: decadent. Out of the two recipes, I think this was my personal favorite. It won’t disappoint anyone you give it to as a special treat and I can see why it was so popular at Carolyn Candies. Here is that recipe I tried: https://www.landolakes.com/recipe/17144/caramel-nut-logs/
I really wish I could’ve found a recipe for the citrus candies that people still rave about. Months ago, one of our guests at the Tower let me know that Webb’s Candy Shop in Haines City, located about a 45-minute drive south of our location on Highway 27, carries the delightful confections. They are made with real citrus juices including orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit and honey tangerine. I plan to order some of this yummy goodness for myself soon. Here is their link for purchase: https://webbscandyshop.com/collections/citrus-candy
I hope I achieved my goal of tempting you to get into your kitchen to try some of these for your family. After all, we need treats to keep us company while binge-watching the Food Network. Who knows, maybe for my final recipe challenge I’ll go big and make a cake in the shape of the Citrus Tower (made mostly from rice krispie treats, of course 😉.)