Valentine’s Day divinity recipe adds cherry to the mix

WEDNESDAY, FEB. 12, 2014

For Valentine’s Day, Coeur d’Alene candy maker Barbara Weekly tinted her divinity a delicate pink and added a light cherry flavor. (Adriana Janovich)
For Valentine’s Day, Coeur d’Alene candy maker Barbara Weekly tinted her divinity a delicate pink and added a light cherry flavor. (Adriana Janovich)

Soft and sweet, divinity is a classic confection.

Traditionally, the versatile, melt-in-your-mouth candy is snowy-white, flavored with vanilla and sprinkled with pecans or walnuts. But it can be tinted any color and flavored with any extract.

For Valentine’s Day, Barbara “The Fudge Lady” Weekly opted for delicate pink with a hint of cherry.

The last four years, she’s been selling her divinity and fudge at farmers markets, craft shows and a seasonal kiosk at the Silver Lake Mall in Coeur d’Alene. By the end of the month, she plans to sell her handmade candies from a permanent storefront at the mall, sharing a space with another food vendor.

Barbara’s Kitchen sells nearly two dozen different kinds of fudge – from caramel pecan and cherry almond to butterscotch, rocky road and maple walnut. There’s plain, too, plus four kinds of divinity: classic, walnut, pecan and cherry.

While related to nougat and meringue – which can be traced to ancient Turkey and 18th-century Switzerland – divinity is distinctly American. It originated in the early 1900s, around the time corn syrup was becoming a popular substitute for sugar.

Its exact origin is unclear – the popular creation story is someone simply declared it to be divine and the name stuck. It’s often made at the holidays, served or given as a companion to fudge and Christmas cookies.

Weekly, 72, likes it because “It’s rich. It’s fluffy. It’s cloud-like.

“That’s why they call it divinity.”

The mother of four, grandmother of 14 and great-grandmother of seven has been making – and enjoying – divinity and fudge since she was a girl. In fact, she said she remains nostalgic for her Aunt Virginia’s version, which was usually dotted with walnuts.

“I think a lot of times the things we like (to eat) are things we have fond memories of,” she said.

But divinity can be tricky.

“If you don’t hold your mouth right it won’t turn out,” Weekly joked. “It’s very sensitive. My mother never could get it to set. Growing up, we ate it with a spoon.”

These days, Weekly uses a KitchenAid mixer to whip the egg whites, noting, “They beat up better at room temperature.”

Weekly beats the egg whites until they form soft peaks, then gently pours in the heated corn syrup and sugar mixture while keeping the mixer running.

Her recipe for divinity is “pretty standard,” she said. “You’ll find it in almost any cookbook.” So she doesn’t mind sharing it.

Her fudge is a different story. She’s tweaked the recipe throughout the years, making it her own with particular measurements.

It’s staying secret, she said.

Cherry Divinity

2 1/2 cups sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup corn syrup

1 tablespoon cherry extract

1 to 2 tablespoons red food coloring, to reach desired tint

2 egg whites

1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar

Combine sugar and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Add water, corn syrup, flavoring and coloring, mixing thoroughly. Pour mixture into a medium saucepan, cover and cook over medium to high heat until firm ball stage, or 244 to 248 degrees. Meanwhile, beat egg whites and cream of tartar on high speed until the mixture forms soft peaks. When sugar mixture is ready, pour into egg whites in a slow and steady stream while mixing on high speed. Beat until mixture starts to lose its shine. Use 2 teaspoons to form candies, placing mounds on wax paper. When candy is firm, place in airtight container.

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