Belle Toffee company still uses 1930s recipe
Feb. 2, 2012
Kevin, Joyce and Larry Marak
Photo by Judy Harper Spaar
By Judy Harper Spaar
Lee’s Summit Tribune
When Aunt Ida Belle Banta made her first batch of toffee, she could never have predicted the success it would bring her creative descendants.
“She was one of my mother’s younger sisters, and sort of like a Martha Stewart of her time,” Larry Marak said. “She and my Uncle Orville lived in Trinidad, Colorado, and he was the Dean at Trinidad State Junior College, right on the New Mexico border. It had the unique distinction of being only one of two schools in the United States that taught gunsmithing. It was right after WWII and GIs were coming home out of the military. It was a vocational college, and they taught candymaking, culinary arts and cooking. Aunt Ida Belle actually taught there.”
Marak said she was never quite satisfied with a recipe until it tasted exactly like she wanted it to taste.
“Every year at Christmas, she sent mom a box of candy. I remember her doing it since I was eight or ten years old. It was the most wonderful candy! So, when I married my wife, Joyce, in 1963, I asked her for the recipe,” Marak said. “She gave it to my mother, then to us. But, she gave us the recipe and not all the details of making it.”
Marak said Aunt Ida Belle told them to add the ingredients in sequence, and when the almonds popped, it was time to take the candy out.
“Well, some almonds are dryer than others, or moist, and may not pop at the same time,” he said. “Plus, with our growing family, it was hard to find a time when the house was quiet enough to hear them pop! We learned the hard way.”
From their home in Lee’s Summit, Marak said he and his wife began making the candy to give as Christmas gifts, and likens it to greeting cards.
“Most people don’t know how to express their feelings, and candy, is a way of saying how you feel,” he said.
Their son, John, and wife, Tracy, sold tins of the candy in St. Louis at their church. After that, they started getting big orders.
“They told us, Mom, Dad, you have something here,” Marak said.
Marak retired from work as an electrical designer, and Joyce retired from her job as pediatric nurse.
“Over the years, our list of recipients has grown as family and friends looked forward to this special Christmas gift and suggested that we offer it for purchase. In 2009, Belle’s Fine Toffee was established,” Marak said.
Belle’s Fine Toffee contains only water, cane sugar, creamery butter, a small amount of corn syrup (no high-fructose), and whole, natural almonds.
“As a finishing touch, we dip each piece of toffee in the finest imported Belgian milk or dark chocolate,” he said.
They use Callebaut Imported Belgian Chocolate, one of the largest chocolate companies in the world. There are a dozen different flavors and different types of milk and dark chocolate.
“We turned our downstairs electrical design lab into a commercial kitchen, and our son, Kevin, started spending more time with the business last fall. Our daughter, Liana, lives in Pleasant Hill and comes to help package the candy sometimes.
It’s truly a family business,” he said. “It takes about two hours to make the toffee, and it’s about a four or five-hour process to package it. Each piece is individually foil wrapped.”
The toffee melts in your mouth, and each piece is perfectly scored.
“We sell our candy at a number of places, including A Thyme For Everything in Lee’s Summit, Briarcliff Village West in Parkville, Twisted Sisters in Albany, and four of The Wine and Cheese Place stores in St. Louis,” he said. “We also sell on the internet.”
Visit www.BelleToffee.com to order this delicious delicacy year round.