Cooking

Board of Confections

Why just play Candy Land when you can eat it, too?
Photos: Rachel Vanni/Tasting Table
How to Play Real-Life Candy Land with Edible Treats

Candy Land is fine and all, but it's missing one crucial element: edible treats. What's the point of wandering through a gumdrop mountain range if there’s no sugar-coated fuel at the summit?

It's the ultimate board game for anyone with a sweet tooth, which is why we’ve recreated the game, complete with peppermint bark, peanut brittle and molasses cookies for an extra dose of childhood nostalgia. The rules are simple: Proceed as normal, but every time you pull a picture card, eat your heart out as an added bonus.

As you start your journey to Home Sweet Home, you'll walk through places like the Peppermint Stick Forest, where you get to bite into double-layered peppermint bark (see the recipe) and grab a candy cane for the road before venturing on.

When you reach the crooked old Peanut Brittle House, snap into a piece of the namesake treat (see the recipe). You'll go nuts over the old-school confection, which is guaranteed to get stuck in your teeth—in the best way possible.

Meander through the Lollipop Woods and past the Ice Cream Floats into the Molasses Swamp, where you're stuck eating chewy molasses gingersnap cookies (see the recipe) all day long. Add in store-bought lollipops, gumdrops and candy hearts, and you basically have a balanced meal—or at least a complete board.

Beyond being merely a pleasant way to spend an hour, the sugar-filled game comes with a sweet history to match. A retired schoolteacher named Eleanor Abbott was hospital-bound in 1948 with polio, when it dawned on her that her co-patients—mostly children—could use a morale boost. She dreamed up a world of limitless sweet joy and sent the concept to then-fledgling board game company Milton Bradley, which loved the idea.  

Since then, the game has evolved through multiple makeovers over 68 years. It's gained and lost characters, added an entire storyline, and inspired both a computer game and an animated movie. Popular sitcoms like New Girl, How I Met Your Mother and That ‘70s Show have all peppered in Candy Land references throughout their runs, and no less than five special-edition versions of the board are available on Amazon.

If the enduring legacy of a board game that doesn't require even an ounce of strategy seems puzzling, consider everything we've learned from the world of Willy Wonka. Something about an alternate universe of sugar fascinates us to the core, and a real-life candy palace where there's not a care in the world is what kids' dreams are made of—literally. Visions of sugarplums dance in our heads come Christmas Eve, and The Nutcracker is nothing but a long dream of classical ballet-trained treats coming to life.

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The unlikely 1920s Harry McClintock folk song, “Big Rock Candy Mountain,” a story of a hobo's paradise where there are "cigarette trees" and no "axes, saws or picks," proved to be an influential part of the bucolic candy world idea. Many Burl Ives, Tom Chapin and Brie Larson covers later, the tune morphed into a children's song with "bubble gum trees," soda water fountains and lemonade springs instead.

Fast-forward a few decades to Katy Perry's sugary pop hit, “California Gurls,” and we're still fleeing reality for an idyllic alt-universe. The music video reenacts a board game called Candyfornia, where she encounters a world of ice cream cones, cotton candy clouds and, of course, those bubble gum trees.

If these can't-miss-it pop culture references aren't convincing you to give in to nostalgic childhood dreams, consider the latest trend in pop-up immersive food experiences: New York went into a frenzy over an ice cream museum this summer, and a recent one-day-only sold-out Dessert Fest brought 21 of the city's buzziest dessert vendors together under one roof.

As for Abbott's royalties for creating the game, she gave a large portion back to help the kids who inspired the idea in the first place. Doesn’t get any sweeter than that.

  • To make the bark, melt bittersweet chocolate in a heatproof bowl over simmering water. When the chocolate is completely melted, pour it into a foil-lined 9-by-13-inch pan.

  • Use a small offset spatula to spread the chocolate into an even layer.

  • Repeat with the white chocolate, then once it’s melted, mix in the candy cane dust.

  • Pour the white chocolate over the semisweet layer, then sprinkle the top with the crushed candy cane pieces.

  • To make the cookies, whisk the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl.

  • Cream the butter and sugar in a stand mixer, then add the egg, molasses and vanilla to continue making the dough.

  • Once the dry ingredients are incorporated, roll the dough into 1-inch balls.

  • Toss the balls in turbinado sugar to give the cookies their crunchy coating, then place the balls on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and gently press to flatten them. Bake them at 375º for 8 to 10 minutes, until the edges are set and golden.

  • To make the brittle, add the sugar, corn syrup and water to a small saucepan.

  • Heat the ingredients over medium-high heat until the sugar completely dissolves and the mixture starts to bubble.

  • Lower the heat to medium low and continue to cook the sugar mixture as the color turns golden, keeping an eye on the temperature. The sugar will begin to harden as the water evaporates and the mixture gets hotter.

  • When the temperature registers 300º, add the butter and peanut butter, and stir until melted. Then mix in the baking soda, salt and peanuts, and quickly pour the mixture onto a greased cookie sheet. Use a heatproof rubber spatula to spread the brittle into an even layer, then let it set for 1 hour before breaking it into pieces.

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