Americans love all things carbonated—Diet Coke, Bollinger, Chinese shrimp chips, anything that fizzes on the tongue. We also love things that explode, like fireworks. And we love sugar. Ergo, we love Pop Rocks. They are the stuff of urban legend: A child star reportedly drank a six-pack of soda, ate six packets of Pop Rocks, and died. Danger is part of the Pop Rocks appeal. On your tongue, Pop Rocks blow your mind.
The science behind popping sugar is both simple and enthralling. Carbon dioxide is pumped into hot sugary syrup. The sugar cools into candy with tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide trapped inside. When the candy dissolves in your mouth, the bubbles of CO2 erupt—et voilà! The candy bangs. It takes very little moisture to make the candy pop. Just imagine the air on a humid summer day. In fact, General Foods took Pop Rocks off the market in 1983 because too many bags were exploding on the shelves.
Fun fact: The French have been constant in their devotion to Le Pop Rock, sipping Pop Rock and nitrogen cocktails in snug Parisian boîtes. But for Americans, Pop Rocks became the antithesis of cool, in the same category of other 1980s fly-by-nights like Debbie Gibson and Corey Haim.
That is, until now. Carbonated candy is back, in all its retro glory. What’s more, you can now customize the flavor to anything that suits your palate. It’s not just about artificial strawberry and grape anymore. Culinary Crystals are unflavored popping candies. You can spice them up with super-concentrated flavor drops, which come in a riot of options—from horehound to honeydew to cayenne to licorice.
The process is simple. You add the drops to the Culinary Crystals flavor base and then coat the candy with it. You can sprinkle black pepper crystals on your strawberries with brown sugar and balsamic vinegar. Then you can coat foie gras lollipops in blackcurrant crystals à la Graham Elliot, or do Heston Blumenthal’s molten chocolate popping cake.
You don’t even have to limit yourself to flavor drops. As long as you have your crystals and your flavor base, the possibilities are endless. All you need is a flavoring agent that is oil-based, because anything containing water will make your crystals pop. Wasabi crystals on your pretzel? Bacon fat crystals on your spinach salad? Sichuan peppercorn crystals on your zha jiang noodles? Anything that is oil-based or that you can infuse in oil is fair game, be it spice, fruit, or herb. And we mean anything. Let’s just say that there are certain oils that when combined with Culinary Crystals will blow your mind in a totally different way. Hint: You may enjoy them sprinkled atop brownies. Especially on April 20. Nudge. Nudge. Wink. Wink.
Can’t you just feel it now? That instant nostalgia for childhood and simpler times. Let’s get popping.
December 18, 2017 2:46 pm
Can these be mixed directly into chocolate?
December 18, 2017 2:54 pm
March 13, 2020 4:01 pm
I want to make some sandwich cookies for St. Patrick’s Day. I will be using buttercream frosting with mint flavoring added as well as green food coloring. Can I add pop rocks to the frosting or will the added liquids caused them to pop?
March 14, 2020 2:38 pm
If you want to do that we recommend coating the crystals first using our savor system. This gives them additional protection from the moisture of the food coloring.
April 16, 2020 11:15 pm
Can you make them alcoholic? i.e. vodka + soda pop rocks?
April 17, 2020 1:00 pm
There is no equipment that makes alcoholic pop rocks that we’re aware of.
February 25, 2021 9:12 pm
Really cool. However I have been living in Paris for 20 years and I have never seen or heard of popping candy used in anything, especially not the watered down mixers that pass for cocktails in Parisian night clubs.
May 29, 2021 12:40 pm
Can pop rocks be added to cake batter? Do you need to first coat them with the flavor base?
And, when adding to buttercream is it best to coat with the flavor base?
Is there no need to coat with flavor base when adding to melted chocolate?
June 1, 2021 11:23 am
we do not suggest adding the crystals to cake batter. The heating of the batter during the baking process will activate the popping. If you are adding it to butter cream, it is best to coat it with the flavor base at least once, but coating it twice will make a better seal. Since Chocolate is a fat, you do not need to coat it in flavor base. We do suggest adding it to chocolate that is below 104°F to prevent premature popping.
May 24, 2022 9:26 am
Would coating pop rocks with cocoa butter prematurely set them off or can I coat them with cocoa butter and use that with buttercream
May 24, 2022 4:49 pm
Yes, we suggest coating them in our “flavor base” as a way to prevent them from popping.