When you dream about the ultimate fantasy, the gift that continues to elude your grasp, and likely your pocketbook, Neiman Marcus steps in to help the imagination - a store where wishes become reality, but with a Texas-size price.
So thought Shauna Johnson when a buyer from the pricey Dallas-based store ordered 38 cases of her homemade caramels."I thought I'd be making caramels for the rich and famous forever," Johnson laughed. "I had a shot at the big time."
Johnson discovered that the "big time" included over-sized problems of distribution, billing and payment.
"I didn't know that every Neiman Marcus store bills its own inventory. There was no central location to approve payments, so I had to deal with managers throughout the country," Johnson explained.
Though her caramels clearly constituted a southern Utah cottage industry, Johnson quickly developed a business sense that exceeded her geographic setting.
"It took a long time, but Neiman Marcus and I are even. And, oh, the things I learned about success in business. I gained self-confidence and learned to be more assertive. I set up my own bank account and filled it with the proceeds of a collection of marketable products, but I also learned what a full-time commitment it takes."
Johnson began her candymaking adventure with another commitment.
"I only wanted to earn enough extra money to get us home to California for Christmas."
The cook spent hours wrapping tiny boxes with fabric but only minutes filling the boxes with homemade caramels.
Peddling her project to Mike Andelin, owner of The Gable House in St. George, Johnson was disappointed when the restaurateur ignored the tediously prepared boxes but praised the contents. Andelin ordered the candy, and Johnson began to cover the mileage cost for the holiday journey.
News of the chewy morsels spread quickly throughout Washington County, then traveled to the Wasatch Front.
Jon Clark, Salt Lake buyer and then owner of The Naturalist in Trolley Square, sampled Johnson's confection and ordered for his business associates.
"Jon was my key to the national connections," Johnson acknowledged. "He encouraged me to attend the national gift mart in Los Angeles as well as helping me promote my product locally."
Johnson's success was also the key ingredient in her business decline.
"I finally got to the point where we knew we'd have to go full time or quit. My husband, Larry, was dipping chocolates, the kids were wrapping and packing, and I was up at all hours trying to keep up with the orders. Candy making consumed our lives, so we quit."
Well, not entirely.
Johnson still makes horehound candy for the Shakespearean Festival each summer, turns out treats for an occasional local wedding reception, and sometimes agrees to a special order from Andelin.
Now the "big time" is preparing the choral music students from Hurricane Middle School for a concert, a business that runs smoothly within a family-centered lifestyle.
1 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt, optional
2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup nuts, chopped, optional
Combine sugar, 1 cup cream, corn syrup and salt over low heat until mixture comes to a boil. Wash down sugar crystals on sides of pan and continue cooking to soft ball stage. Set aside 2 tablespoons butter and 1/2 cup cream. Add small amounts of butter and cream to original mixture at 5-minute intervals until all is blended in; candy should not stop boiling. Cook to firm ball stage; add vanilla and nuts. Pour into lightly buttered 8-inch square pan. When set, cut and wrap with wax paper. Makes about 60 caramels.
1 pound butter
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sliced, raw almonds
Walnuts, chopped, optional
Cook butter, corn syrup, sugar and salt over medium heat, stirring vigorously until they come to a full boil. Continue stirring, adding almonds. Cook until candy become light tan in color and pulls away from pan while stirring. Pour onto marble slab or large tray and flatten until about 1/4-inch thick. Mark into squares with a knife while still hot. Run knife under candy to prevent sticking. After candy is cooled, break into pieces and store in a tightly covered container or plastic bag. Candy may be dipped in melted chocolate and rolled in finely chopped walnuts, if desired.
4 cups sugar
5 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 cups canned milk (substitute cream or whole milk)
2 cups walnuts, chopped
1 teaspoon vanilla Combine sugar, cocoa and milk or cream, adding liquid last in a heavy 5-quart saucepan. Stir until candy comes to a boil, wash down sides of pan, and continue cooking over medium heat until mixture reaches a soft ball stage.
Without scraping the pan, pour onto a marble slab or tray. Do not move or agitate in any way until candy is cool enough to touch with fingers. The surface of the candy will not be sticky. Beat candy until it loses its gloss and begins to thicken, then add nuts and vanilla. Continue to stir or knead for several minutes. Roll into logs about 3 inches in diameter and wrap tightly. Place in refrigerator overnight. Slice to serve.
Note: This candy can be made with or without chocolate, flavored with many flavorings and used as a center for dipped chocolates.
Annie Covington's Pecan Roll
3 cups sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup boiling water
2 egg whites, beaten dry
2 cup sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
2 cups canned milk
1/2 cup melted butter
4 tablespoons cornstarch
4 tablespoons flour
About 4 cups chopped pecans
For centers, cook sugar, corn syrup and water to soft crack stage. Wash down the sides of the pan as mixture begins to boil. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form, then gradually add a thin stream of sugar syrup to egg whites. Continue to beat until candy loses its gloss and becomes thick enough to form into rolls. Using buttered fingers, roll into logs about 1 1/2 inches thick by 5-inches long.
For caramel, combine sugar, corn syrup and 1 cup canned milk; boil one minute. Wash down the sides of the pan and add remaining milk. Combine cornstarch, flour and melted butter; blend into caramel mixture and cook to soft ball stage. When cooled but still hot, frost one side of divinity centers with caramel, using a table knife to spread. Roll log in chopped pecans, then frost the other side of center and roll in nuts so that centers are completely covered with nuts and caramel.