15 of America's Favorite Regional Sweets
There are still places where a trip to the candy store doesn't mean a Snickers or a Twix, but a souvenir worth writing home about—because you're likely to eat it before it gets there. Just in time for Valentine's Day, here are 15 of America's most storied treats.
Get it: The Peanut Chews are easily found at most gas stations and grocers, particularly around Philadelphia, and online. candyfavorites.com; $24.83 for a 24-count box.
Maine: Whoopie Pie
Who knew creamy frosting smooshed between two moon-shaped pieces of chocolate cake could engender such controversy. Is it a cookie, a pie, or a cake? Did German immigrants in Maine invent it in 1925? Or did the name instead come from Pennsylvania Amish farmers who would find their rival version in their lunch pail and shout “whoopie!”? Well, in 2011 the Maine legislature fired the first shot, naming the whoopie pie the Official State Treat. Your move, Pennsylvania.
Get it: The treats are found at shops all over the state, but Labadie's Bakery claims to have baked the original back in 1925 (whoopiepies.com; $26.95 per dozen). Oprah approves of Wicked Whoopies (wickedwhoopies.com; $26 per dozen).
Tennessee: Goo Goo Cluster
Said to be the first-ever combination candy bar, this choco-covered sugar bomb of caramel, marshmallow, and peanuts was once promoted as a “nourishing lunch for a nickel.” That was way back in 1912, and for its centennial Goo Goo Clusters got a makeover. Out with milk chocolate shortcuts (i.e. no more additives and partially hydrogenated oils), in with fluffier nougat, slicker packaging, and real pecan chunks in a Supreme version. Many in Nashville think its name is in deference to the Grand Ole Opry (GOO), but company lore nods towards babes: a candy so good they'll “ask for it from birth!”
Get it: The candies are deliciously ubiquitous and can be picked up at Cracker Barrels and Kroger markets throughout Tennessee as well as most tourist shops in Nashville. googoo.com; $3.95 for a three-pack.
Pralines (praw-LEENS) are to the south what maple candy is to the north, a sweet to celebrate the local plenty. In this case, sugar cane and pecans (puh-CAHNS). French settlers in the 17th century brought over the treat (named for diplomat Caesar du Plessis-Praslin) and soon swapped out the traditional almonds for the local nut. The secret to the deconstructed candy is to combine the milk, cream, sugar, butter, and nuts together in one pot and scoop the mixture onto a marble slab. No secret to sweet-toothed New Orleans locals: Samples are easy to come by.
Get it: Swing by Southern Candymakers when you are in New Orleans for handmade pralines and other chocolate treats (southerncandymakers.com; $21.95 for a one-pound box). And yes, they give out samples.
Thanks to the official state tree, Ohio is known as the Buckeye State, and the famed Ohio State athletics teams battle as the Buckeyes. So it should come as no surprise that the favored regional sweet has the same moniker as the tree's shiny nut. Buckeyes (which, like the nut, are named after their resemblance to the eyes of a white-tailed deer) are a peanut butter mixture dipped into chocolate. Just don't mistake it for the real thing; the latter is toxic (and markedly less delicious).
Get it: Visit Schmidt's Fudge Haus in the German Village outside Columbus to see buckeyes being handmade. schmidtsfudgehaus.com; $10.99 for a half-pound box.
Washington: Aplets & Cotlets
An immigrant success story for our taste buds, Aplets & Cotlets were the brainchild of Armenian fruit farmers at Liberty Orchards in Cashmere, Washington. When faced with a surplus in their orchard, they turned to their homeland for inspiration. The result: a new take on Turkish Delight featuring walnuts jellied with apple and apricot (“cot”) juice instead of the traditional rose water. More than 90 years on, the sugar-dusted Confection of the Fairies draws about 80,000 pilgrims a year to the orchard, and once wrangled with the nutty-toffee Almond Roca over official state candy status. The fight ended at an impasse.
Get it: Liberty Orchards is where to go for the original creation, as well as varieties like pineapple, cranberry, guava, and rose-pistachio. libertyorchards.com; $9.50 for 16 pieces.
SEE THE SWEETS!
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