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Friday, Sept. 21, 2012

Organic Caramels With a Local Twist

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 Arizona native and Pewaukee transplant Rebecca Scarberry started Becky’s Blissful Bakery in 2007 as little more than a hobby, a way for a stay-at-home mom to pass away the long winter days she wasn’t used to. By the end of 2008, though, Scarberry was going through a divorce and had been laid off from the job she’d picked up following her separation. Out of necessity, her side business had become a full-time job.

Scarberry ultimately landed on her feet, but it wasn’t because of the cupcakes and pound cakes and other baked goods she originally envisioned herself decorating when she brainstormed ideas for her bakery. Instead, she owes her success to a different, seemingly less glamorous product: caramels. While shopping for ingredients, Scarberry learned that there weren’t any widely available organic caramels on the market, so she decided to make her own using real sugar instead of the more common corn syrup or high-fructose corn syrup.

“A lot of caramels also use vanilla, but we don’t use any extracts or flavoring or anything artificial,” she says. “It’s a very slow cooking process.”

The resulting caramels are soft and savory, and they come in some surprising flavors that go beyond just the traditional sea-salt and cashew varieties (though those are available, too). The most unique creations make use of local ingredients: The beer and pretzel caramels are cooked with Lakefront Brewery’s Extra Special Bitter; the espresso dark chocolate caramels are loaded with dark-roasted espresso from Stone Creek Coffee; the sangria caramels incorporate red wine from Clover Meadow Winery; and the flavorful chai tea caramels are spiced with Rishi Tea.

“I found that there’s really a market out there for artisan products,” Scarberry says. “Right now people want handmade, quality products, especially if they’re going to be putting them into their bodies. They don’t want something you can find in every big-box store. They’re looking for an alternative to processed foods.”

Becky’s Blissful Bakery caramels are available at local Whole Foods, Outpost and Sendik’s locations. They’re also available to order through beckysblissfulbakery.com.