Licorice candy was popular in the early 1900’s and is still loved by many today.
Some brands of licorice candies are spiced with anise flavoring, but original licorice contains the actual licorice root from a plant. Glycyrrhizin is a naturally occurring chemical which is found in licorice root that is responsible for its sweet taste, and is actually said to be even sweeter than sugar.
Real licorice also has health benefits including use as a tonic for sore throats, inflammation and fatigue, among others.
The root was often sold in candy stores for children, and also has some interesting other past uses. Supposedly beer brewers would add licorice to their products to produce a nice foam. Additionally, the foam could also be used to put out oil fires long before the fire extinguishers we know of today existed. The leftover fibers from the root were even utilized. They were dried and made into insulation and packaging.
Licorice candy contains whole wheat flour, which helps set it up to its familiar form. It is really almost like a candy pasta, as it isn’t as soft as a chewy candy, but not solid like a hard candy.
Most recipes do call for a lot of sugar and syrup, but if you want to substitute sugar try other natural sweeteners like honey for red licorice, or maple syrup or molasses for black licorice. Also, instead of food or gel colorings, try using small amounts of natural colors like beet root powder, paprika or dried prunes. Or, try using other combinations to produce different colors, like naturally bright spices, dried fruits or vegetable powders.
Licorice recipes can also be tailored to the season. Spring and summer ingredients like lemon zest, pineapple, mango and berries can be added. For autumn and winter try adding in apple cider spices or a drop or two of mint essential oils.
Using licorice root will produce authentic licorice candy, but alternatively you can use anise extract and fennel seed, which is also a popular licorice flavoring that has beneficial properties.
When making substitutions to recipes, do a test run first as you may have to play around with the measurements to find the right consistency.
As pointed out in the red licorice recipe, a great suggestion is to use kitchen shears to cut the licorice strips instead of a knife. This allows a faster, cleaner cut. Then the finished sticks can be twisted and allowed to set up.
For an organic spin on licorice candy, try this simple recipe for all natural dried strawberries. It’s as simple as slow cooking them in an oven at a low temperature for several hours. An infusion of licorice root, anise or fennel essence can be drizzled over the top while drying, or the berries can be marinated in it before putting them in the oven. This will produce fragrant strawberry licorice bites.
Licorice recipes are the perfect way to test your hands at making confectioneries.
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