Katherine Anne Confections takes sweets from farmstand to hip 'hood
Chicago confectioner's early start translates to unique truffles, caramels
Katherine Duncan began dabbling in artisan confections at an early age.
When she was 10, she would use cream from her family’s Jersey cows to create soft, old-fashioned caramels on their small Wisconsin farm. “Katherine’s Karamels” were sold at her father’s office for 25 cents each and became a local favorite. Soon, her caramels, as well as her truffles, were highly anticipated Christmas gifts.
In fall 2006, Duncan launched Katherine Anne Confections in Chicago to rave reviews. Four years later, Duncan opened her cafe in the Logan Square neighborhood at 2745 W. Armitage. Today, you can find Duncan in her kitchen at the café, stirring caramel and rolling truffles just like she did at age 10, but with much more chocolate.
Katherine Anne Confections is committed to using Fair Trade cacao and locally sourcing Jersey cream, fruits, honey and seasonal ingredients. No artificial flavors or corn syrup are used in Katherine Anne’s hand-rolled truffles or its caramels, made with wildflower honey and organic agave nectar.
Duncan isn’t afraid to experiment with flavor. Classic truffles include Lemon Poppyseed and Toasted Coconut Rum, while other exciting flavors such as Peanut Butter Coconut Curry and Goat Cheese Walnut offer opportunities to try something new. Popular caramel flavors include Rosemary Sea Salt and Chocolate Walnut.
Katherine Anne is also known for its pillowy-soft marshmallows, made with wildflower honey and a touch of sea salt. They’re perfect toasted for s’mores, melted in Katherine Anne’s drinking chocolate, or right out of the bag.
If you were stranded on a deserted island with only one kind of candy, what would it be?
Definitely a peanut butter and chocolate combo – gotta have your protein! I enjoy Lake Champlain’s peanut butter bar for something simple, though, of course, our Peanut Butter Coconut Curry truffles are my fav.
What’s the last cool thing you saw online?
That’s hard, there are a lot of cool things out there. If you want something sweets related, anything from Stella Parks, an editor at Serious Eats (seriouseats.com), is always worth a fun read.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
It was hard for me to decide between a veterinarian and a navy SEAL. I did set up a “candy shop” in my basement when I was 8 or so, buying large bags of candy and putting them in small baskets for resale.
What issues concern you most about the confectionery industry and why?
Sustainability for sure, though there are surely enough things to worry about in general. Where is our cocoa going to come from in 10, 20, 50 years? We have to focus on sustainable farming in order to ensure we have a continued supply.
What’s the last book you’ve read?
“Brain Rules” by John Medina. I highly recommend for training / learning!\
What is your pet peeve?
I wish I could narrow it down to one. “There” vs. “their” and similar grammatical errors. People assuming my husband owns our business (we’re partners).
If given the chance to choose anyone, with whom would you like to collaborate?
The earlier-mentioned Stella Parks (swoon) for sure.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Hard, again, to narrow it down to just one. Regarding business, a lot of what Paul Graham writes really rings true to me. One thing he says is “just don’t die” – if you can last long enough making your excellent product, “they” will eventually find you. We’re in 10 years of business and that’s really felt true this past year or so.