Amezaiku (candy sculpting) is a traditional Japanese folk art of sculpting candy into a variety of shapes, such as animals and other characters. It is said that, even in Japan, there may be only a handful of people who still practice this hundreds-year-old art form.
Candy sculpting involves many steps. First, glutinous starch syrup is boiled until it becomes dough-like and transparent. When it's done, the material is heated over charcoal, making the candy very pliable. The material is then divided into small portions and pulled and kneaded. Contact with the air during this process produces a pure-white color. The animal shapes must be formed quickly, using fingers and tiny scissors at the tip of a chopstick. The artist pinches, pulls, and bends the material, creating an animal shape, be it a bird, a horse, or a dragon. Red, yellow, and blue food colorings are used for decoration.
Originally, Amezaiku artisans used only a small amount of candy on the end of a reed stem and enlarged and shaped it by blowing in air, similar to glass blowing. They sometimes employ this ancient technique by using a rubber pump instead.
The final products make this art form one of the most pleasurable to watch and to eat. Two former U.S. first ladies, Barbara Bush and Hillary Clinton, can attest to the enjoyment and taste of these treats.
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