Lauren poussard’s family has been keeping its caramel recipe a closely guarded secret for more than 100 years. There’s sugar involved, of course, and some kind of milk and butter—lots of butter—but that’s as much as Poussard will reveal. She is under strict orders.
“For decades, my mother’s been saying, ‘Don’t you dare give away that recipe. Someday I am going to sell them,” she says.
So, in early 2013, Poussard decided it was time to do exactly that. She stirred up some caramels, created a Facebook page, and posted a few photos of the candies. The first batch sold within five minutes and Caramels de Bouchard, named after her great-grandmother, was born. Today, less than two years later, the young candy-making enterprise is thriving, with booming online sales, two new retail partnerships, and plenty of plans for future growth.
“It was an overnight success,” Poussard says, though she was a bit surprised at how quickly her candies caught on.
For as long as Poussard can remember, her entire French-Canadian family has gathered every Christmas to make mountains of these caramels destined for holiday gifts. Traditionally, at these events, the group has made just two varieties of caramel: vanilla and walnut.
Caramels de Bouchard, however, offers up some modern twists on the family classics. Poussard has concocted more than a dozen flavors including matcha green tea, cashew with chocolate fleur de sel, and eggnog. Her personal favorite flavor—and one of the biggest sellers—is My Cherry Amour, a chewy caramel studded with tart dried cherries. And new flavors are always in the works; right now Poussard is tinkering with lavender and curry versions.
Poussard refuses to use artificial flavors in her caramel. She uses vanilla beans to make her own extract and mixes actual pumpkin into the pumpkin spice flavor.
“One of my rules is that it has to be real,” she says.
The first caramels were cooked in Poussard’s home and sold exclusively online. These days, she works out of the kitchen at Newburyport’s Eat Cake!, which recently became one of the first two retail outlets to sell Caramels de Bouchard (the other is Goodies Ice Cream in Danvers).
Each six-pound batch yields about 500 pieces of candy and takes two hours to make. Poussard—still protecting the secret recipe—is the only one who makes the candy, though she hires help to cut and package the finished product.
As the caramel thickens and darkens, a buttery, toasty smell suffuses the air in the kitchen. Ingredients are blended in at three different stages, and the caramel must be simmered at precise tempera- tures after each addition. Poussard must stir the mixture constantly throughout the entire process.
“I find this incredibly therapeutic,” she says, swirling a wooden spoon through a pot of thick, bubbling caramel. “It smells good, it feels good, it tastes good.”
And what does Poussard’s mother think of the company’s sweet success?
“She loves it, of course, because it was her idea,” Poussard says. “She says, ‘I told you so.’ Yes, mom. You were right.” caramelsdebouchard.com