I know chocolate is the go-to flavor for most sweet lovers, but for me it’s always been caramel. That rich blend of butter and melted sugar simmered with cream is my dessert perfection. And with Tahana Confections, Amanda Telford has created a sublime line of caramels that are irresistible.
Telford had worked for over a decade at Redhook Brewery. When she decided to start her own business in January 2012, she looked to something she’d been making for years. “When I was growing up, there was this neighbor that would come down with wax paper wrapped squares of caramel once or twice a year,” she explains. “They were one of those things we horded and tried to make last as long as we could. One year, I decided I was going to make Mrs. Ross’s caramels for Christmas presents. It was the taste and consistency of hers that made hers so coveted in the house.”
That taste is an ideal balance of almost burnt sugar and butter, tempered by cream and a hint of salt. Vanilla beans add another level of flavor. But with caramels, taste alone isn’t enough. They can be too hard, too sticky, too gummy. But Tahana’s are just right, chewy without clamping your jaw shut, firm enough to hold their shape, but soft enough that you can nibble off a corner to make each lopsided square last.
Telford says it probably took close 50 tries to come up with the candy she remembered. “The cool thing about caramel is the flavor in and of itself is great. But then you can burst out of that mold and create all sorts of neat things.”
The basic line includes Vanilla, Salted (which has grains of either Applewood Smoked Salt or Trapani Sicilian Sea from The Portsmouth Salt Cellar, which amp up the caramel taste and add a tiny bit of crunch), and Chocolate Ganache with Sea Salt (with a dark chocolate filling and a sprinkling of salt). There are also seasonal flavors; through the end of December it’s Pumpkin Pie Spice, notes of cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg that taste wonderful. Other flavors Telford has made include Coconut, Cayenne, Maple Nut, and Mint.
Tahana also has incredible Caramel Sauce, in Vanilla Bean and Salted. The texture is smooth and luscious, great drizzled on ice cream of course, but also on sliced apples and pears, goat cheese, or even scallops. Or a spoon.
You can find Tahana caramels and sauces at area stores, including Cornucopia Wine & Cheese Market, McKinnon’s Market and Super Butcher, On the Vine Marketplace, Philbrick’s Fresh Market, and Portsmouth Salt Cellar. You can also buy them online in 3 sizes (price does not include shipping): 1/4 pound ($7.99-$8.50); 1/2 pound ($15 to $15.75); and 1 pound ($25-$26). The sauce is $7.99 for 8 ounces and $12.99 for 16 ounces.