Brittles and Chews
See's L.A. factory focuses on chews, nut brittle, and handmade bon bons.
Raw peanuts, butter, sugar, and corn syrup drop into "The Porcupine," so called because of the spikes in the center, which uses steam heat to cook and mix the ingredients.
Cool and Flatten
After the brittle is cooked, flavoring and salt are mixed in, and the mixture moves onto a stainless steel cooling belt, set to about 45 degrees. It also moves through a roller, flattening it to no taller than the height of a peanut, which makes it easier to bite through.
Tweety and Sylvester
A robotic arm, called Tweety Bird because of its bright yellow appearance, cuts the brittle into sheets and flips it so that both sides cool at equal rates. The brittle moves next to Sylvester (many of the factory machines are christened with catchy names), which pulls the sheets apart taffy style, which thins the pieces even further.
Weighed and Packaged
After moving through a metal detector to make sure no errant machine parts have fallen in, the brittle moves up a conveyor belt to be weighed.
The brittle is then sealed in plastic trays and transported to a packaging facility in nearby Carson. The whole process takes about 35 minutes.
Almonds, sugar, and butter are first combined, cooked, and cooled in the same process as the peanut brittle. They're then cut into small squares with a chopper called the guillotine and taken into the enrobing room.
After the California Brittle is cooled, it moves into the enrobing room to be covered in dark or milk chocolate, made especially for See's by Guittard. The chocolate is stored in tanks then piped overhead into the enrobing machines, where it is tempered and then poured onto the brittle.
After the first coat of chocolate, the brittle moves down the line and receives a blast of air from a blower above the belt, creating a shaky pattern on the top of the candy. A second coating of chocolate is then applied before the candy moves onto a cooling belt to set.
Making Rocky Road
The marshmallows in See's Rocky Road are made in the starch room with buckwheat honey, which makes them fragrant and not too sweet. They're then combined by hand with English walnuts and then drenched in chocolate.
The gooey mixture is then packed into cellophane wrapped rectangular molds; once it sets, it's sold in slices like fudge.
Rolling Bon Bons
See's bon bons are one of the company's original candies. The centers, available in flavors including maple walnut cream, orange cream, and apricot cream, are still individually rolled in the specially dedicated Bon Bon Room.
Dipping and Decorating
Each bon bon is hand-dipped. Here, a maple walnut center is first rolled in a maple-flavored fondant mixture. Then half a pecan is placed on top before the candy maker covers it with a final swirl of fondant. Each bon bon makers has her own signature swirl.
Chocolate Butter Caramel
To make chocolate butter caramel (referred to as CBC), the candy makers in the main kitchen first put together a pre-mix of sugar, corn syrup, egg whites, two kinds of cream, and unsweetened chocolate. It's then transferred into a large copper cooking vessel, called the submarine (left) where it cooks for about 20 minutes. After adding vanilla, the team pours it into giant drums to be weighed.
With the help of a hydrologic lift, the team lifts the mixture onto a scale, pouring it out onto metal trays in about 35 pound batches. See's uses bright blue plastic wrap to cover the tray so it can be easily spotted if any is left behind. Once set, the CBC is used in See's Nuts & Chews assortment.
A Dutch-cocoa chocolate caramel, similar to CBC, is used as the base for Almond Royal drops. First the team places two almonds into oval molds on a large tray and covers them in deep, chocolaty caramel. Once the caramel is set, the mold sheets are fed through a demolding machine. Next they're placed by hand into slots on a round conveyor, which lifts each piece up and individually wraps in plastic. Unlike the rest of the candies, these are packaged in tins on site.
Polar Bear Paws
Because of the company's insurance policy, guests can't visit the starch room where peanuts and vanilla caramel are combined to make the base for Polar Bear Paws. But once they're combined and set, the little morsels go to the enrobing room. They're first dropped onto a wire conveyor belt that shakes off any excess peanuts (which are then used to make peanut clusters.) Next the candies go through a coater to receive a generous glaze of white chocolate.
Unlike other chocolates, the Polar Bear Paws only receive a single coating to preserve the nobbly, bumpy texture from the peanuts. After their white chocolate bath, they move through the long cooling tunnel for about 15 minutes to set.
Finished Polar Bear Paws
The confections on display in the See's store attached to the factory.
3. Behind the Scenes at the See's Candies Factory in Los Angeles
Today See's Candies sells some 31 million pounds of candy a year, and acts as a kind of ambassador of the West, with 205 shops around the region, many in airports where hurried travelers pick up a few boxes of peanut brittle or those specialty creamy pops to bring home. The lollies themselves are churned out at a dedicated facility in the San Francisco Bay Area, which also boasts a second See's factory focused on the company's soft center treats, like creams and truffles. The L.A. outpost that I visited specializes in peanut brittle, handmade bon bons, and various nuts and chews.