Let's start with the handmade book, which was inspired by candy: In the pursuit of making inexpensive holiday gifts last year, I decided to make some caramels. Mostly I was craving them, and I figured even if they didn't come out, I could eat the mistakes and at least make myself happy.
At the bookstore I found "The Sweet Book of Candy Making" by Elizabeth LaBau, which had copious information and troubleshooting tips in it, not to mention mouth-watering, easy recipes. Turns out Elizabeth is also a fellow Angeleno!
Next I headed to Sur La Table, where I picked up a candy thermometer and a box of Guittard couverture chocolate--I planned to dip some of the caramels in it. I think the proper term is "enrobe," which is such a great word. It's like the caramels are getting a plush little dressing gown.
The box, in addition to being beautiful, was super sturdy--there was a little corrugation going on. And you know what that means. It was destined to a book. A book in which I could chronicle my candy-making exploits.
Here are the materials you'll need to make one yourself:
One 1-lb box of Guittard couverture chocolate wafers, front and back pieces cut to 4 1/2 inches wide by 6 1/4 inches high, and the spine cut to 1 1/2 inches wide by 6 1/4 inches high. Round the corners if desired.
Two pieces of Tyvek (described below) cut to 3/4 inches wide by 6 1/4 inches high
Three pieces of chipboard cut to the same measurements as the covers and spine
Three pieces of decorative paper or cardstock cut to the same measurements as the covers and spine
31 text-weight pages cut to 8 1/2 inches wide by 6 1/8 inches high, grain running along the short side. Fold them in half and nest them into five signatures (groups) of 6 pages each, and reserve one page for the punching template. Round the corners if desired.
Three or four pieces of cardstock cut to 9 1/2 inches wide by 8 3/4 inches high, for the inside pockets (for instructions on how to make these, go here). Score and fold the pockets 2 3/4 inches from the bottom.
4-cord waxed linen thread
One sew-through button
12 inches of strong ribbon or twill tape
Permanent marker or stamping ink
Bookbinding tool usual suspects: Metal ruler, cutting knife, bone folder, awl, needle, PVA glue, glue brush, scissors, cutting mat
I set to work cutting the box open on one side so I could get a good look at the front and back covers and the spine.
I could have used bookcloth on the outside to hinge everything, but that would have hidden some of the nice details on the covers. So I decided to use Tyvek, the stuff those tough mailing envelopes are made of (I ususally just recycle an old envelope, but you can find new ones at office supply stores).
I didn't want the hinges to be bright white, so I colored both sides with a matching marker. You can also use stamping ink and yes, I recommend using permanent ink, although that's not what I used. Do as I say, not as I do.
The hinges should be sandwiched between something, so I cut lightweight chipboard to the exact size of the covers and the spine. Gluing those to the covers also added more strength. I cut decorative paper pieces so the book would have a pretty interior. Shown above, from top to bottom it's covers, chipboard and decorative paper. I also rounded all the corners, but that's up to you.
I glued up the spine edge of the front cover with PVA and adhered the hinge. Next, I glued the hinge to the spine, leaving a scant 1/8 inch gap in between. Then I did the same with the back cover. Below you can see how narrow that gap is:
Since Tyvek is so flexible, you don't need a big space in between covers and the spine. If you decide you don't want to narrow the width of the spine, I highly recommend cutting the pieces apart anyway and hinging the spine to the covers. Boxes were not meant to move, and after time your book may come apart.
After everything was glued, I pressed the covers for a few hours. I strongly suggest you don't leave that step out. Pressing the covers stops them from warping. Once a book is warped it's extremely difficult, if not impossible, to make it flat. Cross your heart and promise you'll do it. You don't need a fancy book press, some heavy books or weights will do. Make sure there's waste paper underneath and on top to absorb the moisture from the glue.
I sewed the button to the front cover using waxed linen thread. Punch holes in the cover first with an awl, then sew as you would a regular button. I like to choose buttons that go up a bit at the edges, making it easier to wrap ribbon around it.
In the next post I'll show you how I stitched the book, which is incredibly easy. That'll give you time to get your inside pages together. I used a combination of white, colored and and kraft drawing paper, plus bits and pieces from vintage recipe books. Use whatever you like, as long as it holds up to sewing.
Before I let you go, I have to tell you about the caramels I made. I chose the Pecan Pie Caramels recipe from "The Sweet Book of Candy Making" because they looked so darned delicious. Let me tell you, my friends, if you think you've tasted caramels, you have not--until you've tried these.
Something magical happens when you combine the ingredients, which include maple syrup, cinnamon and roasted pecans. The caramel itself is layered and complex, and the pecans lend a slightly smoky flavor that enhances the caramel (Turns out they didn't need chocolate after all, but I'll use it soon. It's great stuff.). Run, don't walk, to pick up this book. I can't wait to try the other recipes. I'm already buying sugar in bulk, so I'm in deep. Red velvet fudge? I'm coming for you.
Do not be intimidated by making candy. All you really need to learn for most of the recipes is how to use a candy thermometer, and frankly, my cat could probably figure it out, and he doesn't have opposable thumbs or a GED. The author walks you through every step that so that you feel like an expert even before you start melting butter.
Fun fact: I worked for a time as a pastry chef when I was in college. I had some prior kitchen experience, but was pretty much trained on the job. I thought being around sugar every day would blunt my love of sweets, but it only made that relationship more robust. *Sigh* But it is a deep and abiding love.
Still, I find that making candy is even more satisfying and fun than making pastries. It also parallels my love of making handmade books in several ways. As a former English major, I feel compelled to do some comparing and contrasting:
• You don't need any special knowledge or experience to jump right in and make something fantastic. Only a few basic tools are necessary.
• There is enormous satisfaction in completing a book and in making a batch of candy. The simplest ingredients or materials--sugar, cream, butter/paper, board, thread--can be transformed into something extraordinary. I can't quite describe it--you have to do it to understand.
• Both endeavors teach you patience, which is a virtue.
• Practicing, improving your skills and gaining confidence heighten the experience.
One difference is that you can't eat a book--unless you make it out of something edible, of course.
So give it a go. I guarantee you'll be pleased with the results. Valentine's Day is around the corner, and that holiday is all about the candy. Perfect excuse. Go for it.
And don't forget to come back for the binding tutorial! I'll also offer some ideas for wrapping up the candy to give as gifts.
Pssst...Do you want a chance at winning an autographed copy of Elizabeth's book, plus other candy-related goodies? Head over to her blog for all the info, as well as the SPOON blog (which is a phenomenal food blog, by the way! Check out this interview with Elizabeth). Go! Now! It ends soon!