Some recipes are destined to become classics, others family favorites, while a select few evolve into something more. Aunt Bill's Brown Candy has surely reached Oklahoma icon status, and thanks to a local girl gone good, it's reached a national audience.
The recipe made its debut during The Oklahoman and Times-WKY Cooking School in October 1932.
The cooking school was the second in an 11-year series in Oklahoma City. Susan Adams, the newspaper's food columnist, was known as Aunt Susan. She presented the recipe to about 5,000 people each day at the school. It was printed in a 24-page souvenir pamphlet handed out during the five-day event.
Starting in 1933, Aunt Susan started running the column in December, and each food editor that has followed her has followed suit. Reading her column from 1933, it's obvious why this became her Christmas candy of choice:
â€œYou would hardly feel like you were ready for Christmas if you hadn't made some candy to tuck into your boxes, would you? Well, I should certainly feel I failed you if I didn't give you our grand old recipe for Aunt Bill's brown candy. You know I've always told you this is my memorial to a dear courageous friend who was Aunt Bill to all of us and who never was too occupied to give of herself.â€
In December 2008, Molly Wizenberg took the recipe national. The author of the renowned food blog Orangette and cookbook â€œA Homemade Lifeâ€ submitted it for her Cooking Life column for Bon Appetit magazine that year.
Wizenberg's version is a little less time-consuming and adds a little water to help caramelize the sugar. It's fitting that Wizenberg's recipe varies a touch from Aunt Susan's, which doubtlessly took a liberty or two with Aunt Bill's. Once Wizenberg starts writing as Aunt Molly, all will be right with the recipe.
Wizenberg's â€œA Homemade Life,â€ which includes many references to her growing up in Oklahoma City, is available in paperback.
AUNT BILL'S BROWN CANDY
3 cups sugar, divided
1 cup half-and-half
Â¼ cup water
Â¼ teaspoon baking soda
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
Â½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound pecans, toasted, coarsely chopped (about 4 cups)