Willow White, Candy Maker, Pennsylvania

willow-white-largePennsylvania confectioner Willow White’s education in cooking and cake decorating began as a small girl in her grandmother’s kitchen then expanded in high school when she started working at Wertz Candies during the holidays, gradually learning the art of handmade chocolates.

Founded in 1931 as a Karmelkorn brand shop, Wertz Candies is a small, family-owned company with shops in Lebanon and Brickerville, Pennsylvania. It’s rich in tradition with photos of torn and yellowed original recipes on its Web site, and White dips the assortment by hand on the same marble table that generations of candy-coaters have used.

Wertz guards its time-tested recipes closely but White did say it uses only the highest-quality ingredients, including Wilbur chocolate from Lititz, Pennsylvania. and local heavy cream in its bestselling opera fudge, a Pennsylvania specialty.

The Perfect Purée flavors shine in Wertz’s truffles, where White uses Orange Zest to make the Grand Marnier truffle (which despite its name is alcohol-free). Raspberry Puree is another favorite flavor and soon, White says, she hopes to adjust Wertz’s lemon truffle recipe to include The Perfect Purée Lemon Zest. Key Lime Concentrate and Ginger Puree are used seasonally.

“I enjoy using The Perfect Purée because they are high-quality, real, natural flavors that are convenient to store and use. Our customers come to us for boutique-quality chocolates and we want to give them the best,” says White, who credits one of the Wertz sisters for switching the company’s fruit supplier to The Perfect Purée.

She says The Perfect Purée is a versatile addition to any confectioner’s kitchen and, while she can’t share Wertz’s formulations, she says any candy maker can improve their existing methods with The Perfect Purée. Now is the time, with current candy trends favoring fruit flavors.

Around the time Wertz was founded, White says marshmallows, creams and caramels were in high demand and it wasn’t until the 1960s that truffles took center stage. The company still makes plenty of old-fashioned candy and non-fruit truffles like French Mint and Mocha, but White says fruit truffles are the current favorites.

“What people look for is always changing and some flavors become passé but there has been a huge increase in people’s sophistication,” she says.

Wertz has a passionate following, White says, and locals regularly send boxes of chocolates to friends and family throughout the country. The company also fills orders from its Web site and, true to its roots, still makes caramel-coated popcorn that’s now called Caramel Corn instead of Karmelkorn.