Personalizing holiday treats and confections can usually run pretty expensive, but spending time vs. spending tons of money can offer more rewards on big holidays such as Valentine’s Day. Think of it as the thought that counts, and what sets you apart. Offering your time never felt so good.
This recipe opts to copy the Necco wafers, or very similarly, Conversation Hearts, and is courtesy of Food Network. Now while I’m not a huge fan of cutout cookies during Christmas (simply due to the sheer amount of other things going on) this recipe was actually quite rewarding, easy and fun.
Did you know that in 1847, Oliver R. Chase invented a machine able to cut out this iconic wafer candy? He originally used the machine to cut lozenge’s (aka cough tablets or candies) and was how he produced the wafers for his candy company shortly thereafter.
It was then, during the Civil War that these “hub wafers” were carried by Union soldiers and started to grow in popularity. Once the war came to an end, Oliver’s brother began printing/stamping sayings on the candy, giving them more versatility especially as wedding favors.
By 1901, Chase and Company merged with two other companies to incorporate the New England Confectionery Company. It was at that time that the Sweethearts got their official start. And soon thereafter in 1912, we start to see Necco wafers carrying their namesake.
The article courtesy of Food Network Magazine stated that between December 26 and February 14, a whopping 3 billion Sweethearts are sold, with somewhere around 40 Valentine sentiments. Personalizations are becoming a big part of sales, but require lofty minimums and don’t allow a ton of room with printed messages. Food Network thought they’d give this recipe a try so home cooks could create customizable messages, flavors and presents. I loved it, which is why I decided to try it out.
I ended up doubling the recipe so I could offer a wide variety of colors, and flavors. I’ve had a ton of flavorings sitting around in my cabinets, so this seemed like a perfect excuse to drag them all out. Now while I like fine chocolates, these were a little one note in comparison, so don’t expect anything more than what you’d get from the store in terms of taste. I don’t think any of the recipients however will complain as I was thrilled with how they eventually came out. Enjoy!
Almost-Famous Conversation Hearts
- 1 1/4-ounce packet unflavored gelatin powder
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 2 1-pound boxes confectioners’ sugar (about 8 cups), plus more for kneading
- Assorted food coloring, for tinting
- Assorted extracts (such as peppermint, strawberry or almond), for flavoring (optional)
- Cooking spray
- Food decorating pens, for writing
Whisk the gelatin, corn syrup, vanilla, salt and 1/2 cup boiling water in a stand mixer bowl until the gelatin dissolves. Using the paddle attachment, beat in the confectioners’ sugar on medium-low speed, 1 cup at a time, to make a stiff, sticky dough.
Transfer the dough to a clean surface and knead, adding more confectioners’ sugar as needed (up to 1 cup), until the dough is smooth, pliable and slightly tacky, about 5 minutes.
Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Flatten 1 piece into a disk. (Cover the rest with plastic wrap.) Add a few drops each of food coloring and extract to the center of the dough; fold in the sides and pinch closed, then knead until the color is distributed.
Lightly coat a large piece of parchment paper with cooking spray. Roll out the colored dough on the parchment until 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Cut into hearts using 1-inch cookie cutters; transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough, using different colors and extracts.
Let the hearts sit at room temperature, uncovered, until dry and hard, about 24 hours, flipping them halfway through. Write messages on the hearts using food decorating pens. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.