Regional candies offer sweet strolls down memory lane -
Published Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 1:00 am / Updated at 11:13 am
Regional candies offer sweet strolls down memory lane

• Want to buy the candies or re-create them yourself? Click here for recipes and information on where to buy the sweets.

Candy quiz: How many of these candies can you name?

* * * * *

Sweet memories from youth stay with us like peanut brittle sticks to teeth.

And for people who live around here, candy produced at companies in the Midlands created a lot of those memories.

Salted Nut Rolls, Cherry Mash and Twin Bing are among the sweets made at factories in Iowa, Kansas and Minnesota and distributed only in our region.

And boy, do they fuel nostalgia. Readers shared a number of childhood stories about their families and those candy bars. Some people even have recipes to re-create the treats.

“People love sweet,” said Janet Mar, a culinary instructor in baking and pastry at Metropolitan Community College. “A lot of it is associated with when they are growing up. Candy was something special given as a treat.

“It's all about nostalgia.”

That's true for Angela Beck of Fulton, Mo., who grew up in Omaha.

She said her family took long summer road trips, and when they stopped for gas, she and her mom would share a Twin Bing — produced at the Palmer Candy Co. in Sioux City, Iowa.

“I still remember the first time I had one. I was 4 or 5. I didn't want to eat it because it had nuts, but it was delicious,” said Beck. A Twin Bing is two round cherry-flavored nougats covered with chopped peanuts in chocolate.

Regional candies are sold in retail stores only in the area in which the candy is made, unlike candy from large companies such as Hershey's and Mars, which make and distribute candy nationwide. Also unlike Hershey's and Mars, regional candy makers are smaller companies.

Salted Nut Roll and three flavors of Bun come from Pearson's Candy Co. in St. Paul, Minn. The Chase Candy Co. in St. Joseph, Mo., makes Cherry Mash. And Russell Sifers Candy Co. makes Valomilk in Merriam, Kan.

Salted Nut Rolls regularly reinforce a memory for Tom O'Connor of Omaha. He's fond of that marshmallow nougat coated in caramel and covered with dry-roasted peanuts.

“During the golf season, I buy them in a large quantity box at Sam's Club,” he said. “I play with the same foursome every Saturday morning. We tee off at 9 a.m. and make the turn around 11 a.m. We usually grab a hot dog in the clubhouse, then head out to the 10th tee. I pull out Salted Nut Rolls from my golf bag and give each of the guys one.”

O'Connor said he and the guys think it's the perfect dessert.

Salted Nut Rolls created early memories for Kaylene Kartanas, born and reared in Omaha, where she still lives.

She said they were the only candy her parents kept around the house and the only candy request they would honor when the family was at the grocery store. Her friends and her brother thought they were gross, but she loved them because her parents, Jodi and Sam DePetro, loved them.

“This 'old school' candy bar reminds me of my childhood,” Kartanas said.

How old school are these regional candies? Each dates to the early 1900s.

The baby of the group is Salted Nut Roll, introduced in 1933. Cherry Mash, which has been on the market the longest, was first sold in 1918.

Aline Erdkamp sells the regional treats at Rocket Fizz, a retro candy store in Lincoln. She said buyers for them range from their 30s to their 80s.

“A lot of the elderly used to have it growing up,” Erdkamp said. “People in their 30s probably were introduced to it by their parents.”

Cherry Mash is the store's biggest seller, said Rocket Fizz owner Damian Barton of Lincoln. It's similar to Twin Bing, with a soft cherry center and a chocolate and peanut coating.

For Connie Loper of Omaha, Cherry Mash evokes childhood memories of her mother, who loved it :

“She would hide them so none of the rest of us could have any. That was back in the days when a candy bar was a real treat and not in the family budget.”

Vickie Brummer of Blair, Neb., loves Twin Bing so much that she has been making a home version at Christmas for 25 years. “My son loves it and I look forward to hearing his 'Oh, Mom, it wouldn't be Christmas without the pink candy!'”

Maurine Bryan of Omaha loves Bun candy bars, which have maple, caramel or vanilla centers covered in chocolate and unsalted peanuts. She's so fond of Bun that she has developed recipes using the candy bars as ingredients.

She started eating Bun bars when a daughter's blood sugar was elevated and the family had to avoid sweets. Turns out she herself had low blood sugar, so she bought candy and ate it when her daughter couldn't see.

Carolyn Freeman of Lincoln also remembers several candy bars of her childhood:

“When I went to Saratoga School in Lincoln, my girlfriend Mara and I used to stop by this little corner store. I sometimes would buy Butter Brickle, but Cherry Mash or the Bings were also a favorite choice. We'd eat our candy purchases on the way home,” Freeman said.

“Somehow, when you're a little kid, candy just seems to make you happy.”

Where to buy the candies

Bun, Cherry Mash, Salted Nut Roll, Twin Bing and Valomilk can be hard to find. Call a store first to verify availability.

Hollywood Candy: 1209 Jackson St. in Omaha, 402-346-9746, sells all of the candies.

Rocket Fizz: 1501 Pine Lake Road, Suite 24, in Lincoln, 402-328-FIZZ (402-328-3499); 6891 A St., Suite 210, in Lincoln, 402-486-FIZZ (402-486-3499), sells all of the candies.

Online: sells Cherry Mash, sells Twin Bing, redirects users to a third-party seller of Salted Nut Roll and Bun, offers links to four online retailers who sell Valomilk.

The recipes

Here we offer recipes to re-create some of the regional candies in the home kitchen. Other recipes here use the commercial candies as an ingredient.

Homemade Cherry Mash Balls

¼ cup (½ stick) butter, softened
1 pound powdered sugar
2 boxes Jiffy white frosting mix, sifted
½ can sweetened condensed milk
7- to 8-ounce jar maraschino cherries, drained and finely chopped (see notes)
½ teaspoon cherry flavoring
½ teaspoon almond flavoring

4 squares chocolate almond bark
2 squares vanilla almond bark
1 to 1½ cups dry roasted peanuts, finely chopped (see notes)

Mix together all the filling ingredients until smooth. Cover and chill well.

Form mixture into small balls, using about 1 teaspoon mixture for each ball. If the filling is too sticky, use more powdered sugar to roll it in.

Place on wax paper on cookie sheet and freeze.

Once the filling has frozen, begin the coating. Roll frozen cherry balls in chocolate-nut mixture and place on a clean cookie sheet. If desired, lightly spray the pan with vegetable nonstick coating. Candy will set up at room temperature.

Notes: Use a food processor to first chop the nuts and then to chop the cherries.

— Recipe from Betty Cook of Omaha, who said: “I make Cherry Mash Balls at Christmas time. They're quite involved, but everybody loves them.” This year, however, she may skip the Cherry Mash endeavor: She is recovering from rotator cuff surgery.

Valomilk Pancakes

2 cups Bisquick
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1½ cups milk or more, depending on how thick you like the batter
1 egg
1 package Valomilk cups

Mix Bisquick, oil, egg and milk in an electric blender. Break up Valomilk by hand and stir into the other ingredients. Chunks of chocolate are OK. Cook as usual for pancakes.

This makes eight plate-sized pancakes.

— Recipe from

Homemade Salted Nut Rolls
2¼ cups powdered sugar
7-ounce jar marshmallow creme
1 teaspoon vanilla
14-ounce package caramels, unwrapped, or 14 ounces caramel chips
3 tablespoons water
10-ounce package salted, blanched and roasted peanuts, chopped

Line cookie sheet with wax paper or parchment paper. Set aside.

Knead together powdered sugar, marshmallow creme and vanilla. Shape into 16 logs or 32 bite-sized candies.

Place on prepared cookie sheet and freeze until hard, 1½ to two hours.

When logs or candies are frozen, place caramels or caramel chips in a shallow microwave-safe dish, such as a glass pie plate. Add water.

Microwave caramels on high power 1 to 2 minutes or until mostly melted. Stir until mixture is smooth. If using caramel chips, less cooking time will be needed.

While caramel coating is cooking, place peanuts into a shallow dish, such as a pie plate or dinner plate.

Using one log or candy at a time, coat with caramel then roll in chopped peanuts. Return each piece to the cookie sheet.

When all the pieces have been rolled in nuts, return cookie sheet to freezer.

Freeze until candy is hard, then place in a covered container and store in the refrigerator.

Makes 16 candy bars or 32 bite-sized candies.

— Recipe adapted by Sue Story Truax

Cherry Bing Bars

Chocolate layer:
10 ounces crushed, salted peanuts
¾ cup peanut butter
1 teaspoon margarine
12 ounces chocolate chips

Cherry layer:
3 cups sugar
¾ cup butter or margarine
5-ounce can evaporated milk, about 2/3 cup
12 ounces cherry chips
7-ounce jar marshmallow creme
1 teaspoon vanilla

Chocolate layer: Mix peanuts, peanut butter, 1 teaspoon margarine and chocolate chips together in the top of a double boiler. Place top of double boiler over water-filled bottom. Heat, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat.

Candy can be made in two or three layers.

To make three layers: Place half the chocolate mixture on the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch pan. Refrigerate while you make the cherry layer. Top cooled chocolate layer with cherry layer. Refrigerate until cool. Reheat the remaining chocolate mixture and spread it atop the cherry layer. Refrigerate until firm.

To make two layers: Place the cherry layer in a 9-by-13-inch pan and refrigerate until cool. Make the chocolate mixture and pour it onto the cooled cherry layer. Return to refrigerator until firm.

Cherry layer made atop the stove: Bring sugar, ¾ cup butter and evaporated milk to full rolling boil in 3-quart saucepan on medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook four minutes or until candy thermometer reaches 234 degrees, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Add cherry chips and marshmallow creme, stirring until melted. Stir in vanilla.

Cherry layer made in a microwave: Place ¾ cup butter in four-quart microwave-safe bowl. Cook on high 1 minute or until melted. Add sugar and milk; mix well. Microwave 5 minutes or until mixture begins to boil, stirring after three minutes. Stir well, scraping down side of bowl. Microwave 5½ minutes, stirring after three minutes. Let stand two minutes. Mix in cherry chips and marshmallow creme. Then stir in vanilla.

— Recipe from Patty Mast of Omaha, who said the hardest thing about this candy is finding the cherry chips. “Most of the time I can find them at Walmart during the Christmas season. Otherwise I order them from Log House Foods, available online at”

Caramel-Laced Blondies
1 cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
2 eggs
½ cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1½ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
4 Caramel Bun candy bars, unwrapped and cut up
Optional topping: extra Caramel Bun bars, unwrapped and cut up

Grease 9-by-13-inch pan and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream sugars, eggs, softened butter and vanilla. Mix dry ingredients together and blend into batter. Stir in four cut-up Caramel Bun candy bars.

Bake 30 minutes. If desired, top with extra Caramel Bun bars and spread like a frosting. Cool and cut into bars.

— Recipe from Maurine Bryan of Omaha

Contact the writer: 402-444-1165,

Contact the writer: 402-444-1165,

Contact the writer: Sue Story Truax    |   402-444-1165

Sue writes obituaries and covers community news and schools for's Living section, primarily Community Connection.

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