Candy and the holidays go together like chocolate and caramel, so if you’re searching for something sweet this season, look no further than the confections made in your own backyard. The North Shore’s candymakers are like busy little elves this time of year, twisting candy canes, dipping truffles, and drizzling pretzels for all your parties, gift giving, and stocking stuffers.
Winfrey’s Fudge & Chocolates
On the North Shore, the name Winfrey has become synonymous with decadent fudge, and with good reason: Nearly 40 years after it was founded, Rowley-based Winfrey’s Fudge & Chocolates still finds the family business’s rich chocolate fudge to be its most popular product. The old-fashioned fudge comes in many more flavors than just chocolate, of course; there’s also mudslide, maple walnut, rocky road, and penuchi sea salt caramel, to name only a few. But what sets Winfrey’s apart is its dedication to creating treats that are hand cut, hand decorated, and made with high-quality local ingredients, like butter from Dunajski Dairy in Peabody. In addition to their fudge, Winfrey’s makes fine chocolates, like turtles, barks, caramels, nougats, and creams. Co-owner Jill Winfrey-Pallazola is also excited about Winfrey’s new “Wicked Dark Wicked Good” line of heart-healthy 72 percent cacao bars. These “less guilty” options are just as delicious, and come in varieties such as sea salt and the “ABC” bar, which is filled with almonds, blueberries, and coconut. For the holidays, look for all this and more in beautifully packaged hand-selected assortments, plus holiday classics like handmade oversized candy canes, peppermint bark, chocolate-covered pretzels, and eggnog fudge. winfreys.com
Tuck’s Candy Factory
There’s a Willy Wonka–esque magic to getting a behind-the-scenes look at how candy is made, and that’s exactly what visitors to Tuck’s Candy Factory will find if they visit the Rockport shop on Dock Square during the holidays. Each Saturday from Thanksgiving until Christmas, Tuck’s hosts open houses that give visitors an inside look at the nearly 90-year-old candy company’s time-tested recipes and techniques. Owner and third-generation candy maker Dan Tuck says they do nine demonstrations per day for visitors, who are fascinated to watch the confectioners at work hand-pulling, hand-cutting, and hand-shaping hard candies like candy canes and ribbon candy to create glossy, airy treats from pure sugar—without any corn syrup added to the mix. “There’s no mass manufacturing,” he says. “[Visitors are] just amazed that we’re still doing it this way.” Equally delicious are their other candies, like saltwater taffy, assorted chocolates with cream centers, and sea salt caramels. tuckscandyfactory.com
Few flavor profiles are as satisfying as the combination of salty and sweet, and that’s just what you’ll taste from the online shop Dipt, based in Marblehead. “It all started with the drizzled popcorn,” says owner Kim Kramer, who grew up snacking on that sweet treat as a kid outside Cleveland. When she couldn’t find something similar in her new North Shore home, she created it herself. The result is Dipt, which believes (and we’d have to agree) that “everything’s better in chocolate.” Dipt sells hand-dipped, drizzled, and decorated popcorn, pretzels, potato chips, cookies, marshmallows, and other treats. The Dipt trays, which come in four different sizes and feature an assortment of chocolate-covered goodies, are the most popular items. There doesn’t seem to be an occasion that one of these trays won’t make better, especially since Dipt offers local pickup and delivery, plus shipping all over the United States. Dipt’s creations also make popular party favors and corporate gifts, since Dipt can print edible logos, names, dates, images, and other personalization directly on the confections. Everything is made fresh to order, assembled on-site, cello-wrapped, and decorated according to the occasion. “Instead of sending flowers or a fruit basket, it gives another option,” Kramer says. diptgifts.com
For chocolates that are as artful as they are delicious, there’s Ducao Chocolates, helmed by artisan chocolatier Rosa Familia. Her made-from-scratch hand-painted bonbons are almost too pretty to eat. Almost. Working from the kitchen at Town Market in Andover, Familia crafts gorgeous small-batch chocolates that like look like bright, colorful pieces of miniature modern art. Inside, the surprises continue, thanks to the chocolates’ indulgent centers, like homemade ganache and fruit purees. Passionfruit, homemade salted caramel, and espresso are among the customer faves, while seasonal flavors like eggnog and pumpkin spice are just right for the holidays. Familia does limited-edition items, too, like Carrie Bradshaw–worthy chocolate stilettos for Mother’s Day and bonbons filled with local whisky from Bully Boy Distillers for Father’s Day. Familia also creates dessert bars in flavors like caramelized white chocolate and roasted pistachio, or milk chocolate, peanut butter, and raspberry jam for the tastiest, most sophisticated PB&J you can imagine. Plus, all the chocolates are beautifully boxed for gifting, including assortments for those who can’t choose just one flavor. ducaochocolates.com