If you think that all marshmallows are the same and come from a bag that says something like "puff" on the outside, you need to try a Sweet Lydia's marshmallow. The shape, taste, texture and just about everything about it will change your idea about marshmallows.
In a little kitchen behind her Lowell shop, Lydia Blanchard is creating sweet, chewy, sticky, chocolaty, crunchy, (please-just-kill-me-now) treats by hand for her loyal customers at Boston Public Market and around the region. I visited her recently to learn more about her handcrafted products and how things got started...
Marshmallows are your signature treat - what is special about this confection in your business?
Marshmallows were the first thing I made from scratch that really blew me away. I couldn't believe how different candy could be when it was made from scratch. The coconut marshmallows were the first thing I made where someone loved them enough to offer money for them, which inspired me to go into business making marshmallows.
You also make a wonderful variety of chocolates and confections - what are some of the qualities that make your products unique?
I think our products stand out because they are made with care in small batches. I have tried to create a line of unique products that are a modern take on familiar flavors. Candy has a nostalgic place in the heart (and mouths) of so many. It is the best feeling in the world that some of our products have become family traditions for our customers.
How often do you come up with new product ideas and combinations? Do you test them first?
Creating candy is always a collaborative experience. Sometimes it is a collaboration with staff members, sometimes customers offer suggestions that I run with, and sometimes I just wake up from a candy dream with an idea. Our best selling candy bars were inspired by customers: the Alex Monster & Concession Obsession. There is a ton of testing that goes into each new product or new flavor. We make a couple different batches, sample among staff, customers and family, compare notes, make changes and repeat the process until we have something that we can't stop eating because it is so good.
Your base of operations and original shop is in Lowell, MA - how does being in Lowell influence your business?
Lowell is a wonderful community full of passionate people. I couldn't do what I do and put my heart and candy out into the world with out a city full of supporters like I have in Lowell.
What can people expect to find at your shop at the Boston Public Market?
We keep our Boston Public Market shelves stocked with all our marshmallows, s'mores, chocolate salted caramels, candy bars, toffee, and fruit jelly candies, all of which are packaged and make wonderful gifts (even if you are the intended recipient). We also carry our peppermint of coconut patties, and something we call fudgey-caramallows which layer homemade fudge, caramel and marshmallow and are covered in milk chocolate.
What is your favorite sweet treat? (even if it isn't something you make!)
This is always one of the hardest questions for me to answer. I have a crazy sweet tooth and hate to make definitive statements about food preferences. I eat some amount of ice cream almost every night. I never pass up the opportunity to enjoy a Cadbury Crunchie, which is milk chocolate covered puffed honey comb candy. I have three different types of jelly beans in my car at this moment in case of emergencies. I always order sticky toffee pudding if it is on a dessert menu. And I eat the majority of "broken" chocolate covered pretzels at the shop.