“Everything in this room is edible. Even I’m edible. But, that would be called canibalism. It is looked down upon in most societies.” – Tim Burton, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
I have a sweet spot for people practicing in lost arts or crafts. So much so that I had to hold back the drooling when visiting one of Vienna’s only candy artisans, Zuckerwerkstatt. Here, a singer and lawyer are making candy, reviving a craft that was pretty much extinct in Austria more than 50 years ago.
Chris and Maria‘s life change came a few years back when they stumbled into a marvelous candy manufactory while on vacation.
“The scents, the colours, the craft – it all immediately grabbed us, ” Chris tells me, eyes lighting up.
“We spent most of our holiday in that little store, talking to the owner, sampling the tastes and textures of the sweet temptations around us. When it was time to go home, the owner asked us why we just didn’t put up our own candy shop – that somehow clung to us and here we are.”
Making candy by hand is a slow and honest process. At the same time, believe it or not, it can be dangerous. Working with molten sugar is a bit like balancing on a rope taut over a pond filled with lava and 500 hungry alligators waiting for you open-mouthed below; One bad move, and you’re in serious trouble. To make sense of this allegory – working with candy is all about timing. It’s crucial to work with the fluid sugar while it’s still hot and elastic, but at the same time, it should be firm so you’re able to stack it, roll it, twist and cut it, before the sugar cools.
Upon my visit, they had just started to make candy for a big wedding ceremony (yes, your very own custom made candy can be made upon order). Chris explained to me that the customers wanted the candy to say G heart G in the middle. I vomited in my mouth a little and continued listening.
I was confused by the use of a hook in the making of candy. Chris showed me:
“We simply take the still friggin’ hot sugar mass and place it on this massive steel hook. Then I tear the sugar towards me, regroup and do it all again. This way, thousands of tiny little air bubbles get caught in the sugar, making the candy crunchy and more tasteful in the end.”
And it’s a pretty nice workout for the upper body, too. There still was one question on my mind: How was it possible to make all of these teeny tiny objects into candy?
“Hah, that’s easy”, explained Maria, “we produce the candy base as a huge lump of sugar, where we can work with the graphics and objects on a large scale. Then, we simply tear the candy towards us, making it thinner and thinner, while the objects in the middle stay intact. All of it just becomes smaller and smaller, and at some point, the candy is as wide as a pinky finger. That’s when we cut the long tube into little pieces like the ones we sell.”
And not only is Zuckerwerkstatt sweet stuff all hand-made, it’s also all organic with all colouring and flavours used are sourced from natural ingredients.
You can buy a jar of candy and watch the candy masters at their craft at Zuckerwerkstatt. Chris and his co-worker Peter are working their show kitchen daily, beginning at around 11am. FYI – the candy-making process takes about two hours.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, eat your heart out! Die Zuckerwerkstatt makes real, honest candy, without using little singing orange green-haired men for slave labour.