Richard W Hartel and AnnaKate Hartel


2014 | 284pp | £15

ISBN 9781461493822

Christmas is almost upon us, so cue my annual search for the chocolate umbrellas my father loves. I know exactly what he’s talking about but the problem is, no one else does. So the boot was firmly on the other foot as I was reading Candy Bites because I wasn’t familiar with a significant portion of the US-specific pick ‘n’ mix presented by the authors. A few illustrations might have livened things up whilst helping the reader to recollect the sweets being discussed.

Given the title of the book and its promise at the end of chapter one to help you ‘develop a greater appreciation for the science behind the art of confectionary’ I had hoped for a bit more substance. Indeed, once I got through the initial moans concerning the candy industry things did get more interesting. But when a lot of the chapters begin with a little anecdote – much as I somewhat hypocritically have – I found myself getting frustrated and almost irritated with the lack of some details but over-repetition of others. Almost a whole page titters over how sugar, health nemesis of the moment, also requires a doctor itself – to control how it crystallises. I got the irony in the first paragraph but missing for me were little details, like the chemical name of the ‘sugar doctor’ and well known store-cupboard ingredient, cream of tartar (potassium bitartrate). 

With all that said, the text does contain a few interesting stories, like how the sweetener, cyclamate, was discovered by a grad student smoking in the lab whilst working on an anti-fever medication. I’d also never considered that the cooling effect of sugar-free chewing gum is a result of the endothermic dissolution of sweeteners, called polyols, contained within. 

Overall the book’s short chapters make it easy to dip in and out. I like the idea of connecting science to everyday life, but readers outside of the US may struggle to feel like a kid in a candy shop or get excited enough to devour it in one go.

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