Candy cane lane

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Christmas time brings out some of the best candy of the year in stores across the Foothills, yet this season a Black Diamond entrepreneur is a tough act to follow with his homemade candy canes.

Rob Cotton, owner of Cotton’s Candy, is making mouths water with his popular holiday creation at his Black Diamond shop.

The hundreds of candy canes Cotton gave out during Light Up Black Diamond earlier this month drew huge crowds into his shop the evening of Dec. 2.

“I had people with cameras lined up at the counter,” he said. “People came in hundreds.”

The process of making candy canes from scratch takes about 90 minutes and is simple. Cotton learned the technique during a Skype conversation with a candy maker in Australia.

To start, Cotton brings sugar, glucose and water to a boil. When it reaches 300 degrees Fahrenheit, he adds peppermint oil for flavour and pours the hot, sticky mixture into greased pans to add the colouring.

“It can be any colour and any flavor,” he said. “There are no rules – it’s your own creativity. You can put a green stripe in there if you like. The sky is the limit.”

Cotton stirs the colouring in each of the pans using a wooden stick and then transfers the substance from pan to pan to cool it down before hanging it on a hook and pulling the warm, sugary mass about 30 to 50 times.

Cotton said the act of pulling changes the texture and lightens the colour. He then combines the different colours in stripes in the shape of a log and rolls and twists the sugar concoction on a steam table.

He said the steam table helps keep the lump of sugar warm as he keeps rolling the mixture and pulls and cuts off small pieces to form individual candy canes.

People have been watching Cotton make his creations since the doors of Cotton’s Candy opened nine months ago. He sells a wide assortment of candy.

Among Cotton’s own creations are a variety of hard candies, chocolate-covered sponge toffee and caramel popcorn.

“When I opened the shop I didn’t want to be a reseller of other products,” he said. “I want to build an identity that this is Black Diamond’s candy.”

Previously a welder, Cotton was in a motor vehicle accident that prevented him from continuing his career and forcing him to find a new one.

“I knew I wanted to be a business owner,” he said. “It’s something I always wanted to do.”

With a sweet tooth of his own, and less than satisfactory experiences at candy shops where customers buy their packaged product and move on, Cotton wanted to provide a different experience in his own community.

“I want people to come in and see it being made,” he said. “I still enjoy working with my hands so it tied in nicely.”

When Cotton was faced with the decision of what kind of candy to create – hard candy or chocolate varieties – he decided to begin with hard candy and plans to move on to more varieties in the future.

“In time I’m going to get into fudge and chocolates,” he said. “People will come in and see fudge being made on a slab or marble. It’s fresh and there seems to be an attraction to that.”

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