Confections are defined as something, well, confected from several different ingredients or components. It is the act of mixing or compounding. Most confections are sweet, but the word can also be used to refer to any finely worked piece of craftsmanship. At Zingerman’s Next Door Café, the sweet universe of handcrafted candy bars, truffles, toffees, lollipops, gelées and caramels are all confections.
Zingerman’s Candy Manufactory founder and confection expert Charlie Frank describes the process with sweet adoration. “The love comes with the sugar. You can do so many different things with it. In the nougat, it supports aeration created with the egg whites. In the caramel, it creates new flavors as it cooks. Every time it is a thrill.”
With that kind of passion for the craft, it’s no wonder Zingerman’s Candy Manufactory confections are among the best the candy curators at Zingerman’s Next Door Café have to offer you. Be sure to check out the fresh candy bars, with names like Zzang!®, What The Fudge!, and Peanut Butter Crush!
Beth Kimmerle, author of Candy: The Sweet History, said “They [Zzang! bars] remind me of the 1930s bars that were hand-made, slab style with candy love. Although I never tasted a bar from that era, this is what I believe they would be.” Oprah’s O Magazine said, “This luscious handmade candy bar puts the vending machine stuff to shame.”
Big, fluffy vanilla bean and chocolate marshmallows are a signature item not to be missed, and another delicious example of a confection. Here the magic is in manipulating cooked sugar with whipped egg whites and gelatin.
The hand-pulled peanut brittle, with or without having taken a dip in single-origin dark chocolate, are a runaway hit and a real show stopper. This is not your grandparents’ peanut brittle. Here’s why.
“I use cane sugar like everyone else, but we cook to shades of deep gold to bring out all the flavor, and the peanuts are in there long enough to roast perfectly,” notes candyman Charlie Frank.
Once the brittle is cooked, the candy cooks lay it out on a sheet and wait until it hits exactly the right temperature before pulling it apart.
“You want to see bubbles in the mix and when they get to just the right size, you start pulling. Pull too soon and you just get a gooey mess and tiny pieces. Pull too late and you don’t get it to the right thickness. When you pull at just the right time you get the sugar to be that silky, shiny consistency and pieces that shatter when you crunch them.”
Confections from other local and American artisans round out the selection.
They all have a special story behind their hand-made sweets.
Nancy Biehn, Ann Arbor’s beloved truffle producer started out teaching herself chocolate making after living in Spain. She has been using what she’s learned, hand-making truffles just shy of two decades. Incorporating local ingredients whenever possible, she is committed to building strong relationships with local producers. We love Nancy’s take on the classic truffles and her innovative creations. We are especially enamored with her incredible pâte de fruit (chewy candies made from purées of fresh fruit with an intense fruit flavor), which she traditionally makes featuring an array of fresh Michigan-grown fruit. Stop by the Next Door Café to peruse the rotating cast of flavors and her fruit de jour in our truffle case.
Chocolate in Chelsea
Cathy Selin recently moved her production from the Chelsea district of NYC to Ann Arbor and we welcome her with open arms. Cathy’s story with chocolate began in the UP learning baking from her mother and later using her culinary prowess to bake professionally in New York City. She found herself inspired by the chocolates of France and was determined to bring an approachable delicacy back with her to the US. It’s a joy to hear her talk about chocolate; she gives the impression she delights in the entire process and science of truffle making. Not only is she incredibly meticulous about how she makes chocolate, she loves sharing her knowledge and insights with anyone with the desire to learn. Particular about her ingredients and cocoa varietals, her flavors are always perfectly balanced, and her ganache decadently creamy. Although it is no easy task to choose from the many available flavors, one of our favorites has to be her Provence truffle, smooth dark chocolate ganache is blended with thyme, rosemary, lavender and lemon zest, then dipped in a layer of dark chocolate.
What do you get when you combine an MBA from Harvard, ten years as a cake designer, a love of food and sense of whimsy? Marzipops! Marzipops is the brainchild of Dahlia Weinman who launched the company in 2014, which remains family-owned today. Their treats are designed, created and sculpted by hand to order in Ann Arbor, Michigan using the finest marzipan and ingredients. Marzipan is a unique confection made from ground almonds and pure cane sugar. They source their products from a premium almond grower in California, whose superb quality can be tasted in every bite of their delicious confections. What began with marzipan lollipops, their product line has expanded to other marzipan treats, with many designs for most holidays, including Passover, Rosh Hashanah and Hanukkah. Delicious on their own, and are perfect as cupcake toppers, cake decorations, gifts, party favors, wedding favors and favors for other celebrations.
Pat Stone says her family’s toffee recipe has been handed down for a number of generations and she, herself has been making the buttery confection for over 20 years. Her version of the hand-made classic is produced in small batches in Livonia, MI, with simple ingredients (just chocolate, pecans, butter & sugar!) mixed to create a sublime texture. With its addictive balance of salty and sweet, we admit we can’t put the bag down, so we recommend you grab another bag!
The cheerful Grocer’s Daughter shop is tucked away in Empire, MI, not too far from Sleeping Bear Dunes. Jody & DC Hayden lovingly took over the shop over when founder, Mimi Wheeler, was ready to retire. Continuing in Mimi’s footsteps, the truffles are crafted with dark, complex tasting chocolate and made using the slow method of traditional hand rolling and dipping techniques. They see their truffles and caramels as a collaborative effort with each of their producer and farmer partners. Their bonbons feature Michigan ingredients such as Short’s Brewery beer, Sleeping Bear honey, Shetler’s cream and more!
Shawn Askinosie is our favorite criminal defense lawyer turned chocolate maker! Not only is Shawn an award-winning craft chocolate maker, he’s also a leader in the industry for both his chocolate and his business model, which includes directly sourcing cacao beans & profit sharing with smallholder farmers. Part of what makes Next Door’s chocolate selection so special is the close relationships it has fostered with these makers over the years, which fosters super creative collaborations between the Zingerman’s team and the artisan makers such as Shawn Askinosie of Askinosie Chocolate in Springfield, Missouri. Come and sample our CollaBARation Bars!
From tinkering in her home kitchen to an award-winning confections maker, Robin Béquet’s caramels, from Bozeman, Montana, are some of the best in the country. A hefty half-pound bag of smooth, buttery rich caramels with notes of brown sugar. Available in an assortment of flavors. They’re an all-around crowd-pleaser.
Custom Truffle Boxes
Zingerman’s Next Door Café’s truffle customers can even build custom truffle boxes that hold 1-36 truffles. Truffle boxes come with a gift tag and a bow. If you’re really looking to impress, there are larger gift boxes with signature Zingerman’s illustrations and room to hold even more tasty treats. Stop by if you need gift suggestions. The friendly knowledgeable staff will be happy to advise you and provide samples.
From classic creamy ganache fillings with herbs, fruit and nuts to non-dairy vegan selections and unusual flavor combinations, Next Door Café’s truffle case selection is unrivaled and is packed with delicious options.
“There’s nowhere near here you can find such a large selection for truffles by the best of the best truffle makers. We have the luxury of sourcing the finest truffles available. Truffles are beautiful little packages on their own” said Reina, long-time Next Door Café manager.