Title:
Extruded Candy
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
This invention provides methods and devices for manufacturing candy using one or more molds and/or stencils, which comprises the steps of filling a measured amount of a first candy mass into a first mold or stencil portion and filling a measured amount of at least a second mixture comprising a candy mass into a second mold or stencil portion. The invention also discloses a product and process to manufacture candy by forming a candy billet and reducing the cross section of said moldable billet such that features in the candy billet appear in a similar arrangement in the resulting extruded product.



Inventors:
Dufaux, Douglas P. (Orchard Park, NY, US)
Application Number:
12/484722
Publication Date:
12/17/2009
Filing Date:
06/15/2009
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
99/450.1, 426/104, 426/249, 426/272, 426/383
International Classes:
A23G3/50; A23G3/34; A23P1/12
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
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20070212466Frozen Food ProductSeptember, 2007Nardi et al.
20070172562ROTATABLE FROZEN CONFECTION AND SUPPORTJuly, 2007Medina Quintanilla
20070231455Partially neutralized polycarboxylic acids for acid-sandingOctober, 2007Bontenbal
20010048955Method of feeding an animal a balanced mealDecember, 2001Foreman et al.
20080003340Production of whole grain-containing composite food productsJanuary, 2008Karwowski et al.
20060188612Centre fills confectionery compositionsAugust, 2006Lorenzi
20080145503Fried Nut Snack ChipJune, 2008Mccall et al.



Primary Examiner:
BECKER, DREW E
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
HODGSON RUSS LLP (BUFFALO, NY, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A process for making a candy product comprising the steps of: forming a candy billet, the candy billet having a longitudinal axis and a cross-sectional graphic distributed over a longitudinal extent of the candy billet; using an extruder to extrude the candy billet to form an elongated candy extrusion having a cross-sectional area less than a cross-sectional area of the candy billet; and cutting the elongated candy extrusion into a plurality of shorter candy pieces, wherein each candy piece substantially exhibits the cross-sectional graphic in reduced scale.

2. The process according to claim 1, wherein the cross-sectional graphic includes at least one alphanumeric character.

3. The process according to claim 1, wherein the cross-sectional graphic includes a picture.

4. The process according to claim 1, wherein the step of forming the candy billet includes the sub-steps of: providing at least one candy stencil; arranging the at least one candy stencil within an outer mold; providing a formable candy syrup mixture; and flowing the candy syrup mixture into the outer mold and candy stencils to fill voids.

5. The process according to claim 4, wherein a plurality of candy stencils are arranged within the outer mold to spell a textual message as the cross-sectional graphic.

6. The process according to claim 1, wherein the step of forming the candy billet includes the sub-steps of: providing a plurality of candy segments; and arranging the plurality of candy segments into a candy segment assembly to create the cross-sectional graphic.

7. The process according to claim 6, wherein at least some of the plurality of candy segments include a respective cross-sectional graphic, wherein the respective cross-sectional graphic is an alphanumeric character or pictorial symbol.

8. The process according to claim 6, wherein the plurality of candy segments includes at least one candy segment having a first color and at least one other candy segment having a second color different from the first color.

9. The process according to claim 8, wherein the candy segments are arranged as pixels to create the cross-sectional graphic.

10. The process according to claim 1, further comprising the step of heating the candy billet.

11. The process according to claim 1, further comprising the step of applying pressure to the candy billet.

12. A piece of candy produced according to the process of claim 1.

13. The piece of candy according to claim 12, wherein the exhibited cross-sectional graphic is a single alphanumeric character.

14. The piece of candy according to claim 12, wherein the exhibited cross-sectional graphic is a text phrase or message.

15. A do-it-yourself candy making workshop comprising: a billet station including a plurality of candy elements available for selection by a user to assemble a candy billet; an extrusion station having an extruder adapted to receive and extrude the candy billet to provide an elongated candy extrusion having a cross-sectional area less than a cross-sectional area of the candy billet; and a cutting station having a cutter operable to cut the elongated candy extrusion into a plurality of shorter candy pieces.

16. The workshop according to claim 15, wherein the plurality of candy elements includes an assortment of candy segments each having a different alphanumeric character distributed over a longitudinal extent of the candy segment.

17. The workshop according to claim 15, wherein the plurality of candy elements includes an assortment of candy segments each having a different color.

18. The workshop according to claim 15, further comprising a heater associated with either the billet station or the extrusion station for applying heat to the candy billet.

19. The workshop according to claim 15, wherein the cutting station includes a sheering device.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims priority to and incorporates herein by reference the contents of each, in their entirety, U.S. Provisional Patent Application entitled EDIBLE CANDY PRODUCT AND METHOD FOR MAKING SAME with Ser. No. 61/061,982 and filed on 16 Jun. 2008, U.S. Provisional Patent Application entitled METHODS AND DEVICES FOR USE WITH MOLDABLE MATERIALS with Ser. No. 61/117,088 and filed on 21 Nov. 2008, and U.S. Provisional Patent Application entitled FORMING DEVICES AND METHODS FOR USE WITH MOLDABLE MATERIALS with Ser. No. 61/139,630 and filed on 22 Dec. 2008.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to an edible food product wherein predetermined shapes are arranged in a predetermined pattern and substantially extend throughout the entirety of the product.

BACKGROUND

Considering the large quantities of candy consumed throughout the world, there is always a strong market pull for new, different, and unusual candies. Hard or soft candies are of course ubiquitous. It is well known in general to make hard or soft candies which are of a single uniform color, or which exhibit two or more colors in various patterns.

Hard or soft candies can be produced through a variety of recipes. Commonly, they are supersaturated aqueous sugar solutions, sugar alcohol solutions, or a mixture thereof and can exhibit characteristics of an amorphous solid. The moisture content of traditional hard candies is generally in the range of from about ½% to 4% and soft candies contain a larger fraction of moisture. Other candy products exist and include candies which incorporate various ingredients such as cream, butter and milk, which contribute to feel and flavor and fat based hard candies that may contain vegetable, dairy, or animal fats to modify flavor and feel. Furthermore, other ingredients may include gelling agents, aerating agents, and a variety of flavoring agents.

Candies comprised of two or more sections of differing colors are made by a variety of processes. Such technologies often require complex machinery and processing conditions and limit the designs that can be made.

Methods to produce predefined graphics are known in the art. In U.S. Pat. No. 6,660,318 to Yoon et al., herein incorporated by reference, a candy and process is described for printing a stereoscopic image to create a visually appealing candy. This process uses printing technology to produce individual pieces of candy. In U.S. Pat. No. 6,413,564 to Klacik et al., herein incorporated by reference, a process is described for creating a candy with a plurality of segments of varying colors and varying widths.

Crafting candies by hand is, of course, a well established art and does allow more complex color combinations. Some hand-crafted candies can include more elaborate shapes such as letters or figures. These candies are made by an artist that shapes individual colors into forms that resemble the letter or figure in a candy billet of substantial diameter (up to 25 cm or more diameter). The completed candy billet is then stretched to reduce its diameter and the letters or image remain, but are also reduced proportionally, resulting in hard candy that can fit comfortably in the mouth yet has an image within the candy that spells a message or is otherwise visually appealing. Although one can produce more complicated shapes when making a candy by hand, the process is slow, labor intensive, and greatly limits the amount of candy that can be produced.

It is desirable in the field of candy production to be able to provide such a candy product, and/or a candy product that contains complex shapes, as well as a need for candies that can be produced with a higher level of accuracy such that the images are of a higher resolution in the final product. In addition, a process is need that allows efficient production of such candies

To date, it has not been possible to produce a candy with predetermined shapes in a manner that enables quick production and unskilled labor. There are no commercially produced candy products on the market today that have such features.

SUMMARY

It is an object of the present invention to provide an improved candy or confectionery making process. It is also an object of the present invention to provide a system and process for making visually appealing candy products, including hard and soft candies with characters or images within such candy. The present invention satisfies these objectives, and provides other advantages as described herein. Improved candy or confectionery and devices, systems, and methods for providing an improved candy or confectionery are provided.

In one embodiment, a candy product and a process for making a candy product are provided that comprises the steps of forming a candy billet, the candy billet having a longitudinal axis and a cross-sectional graphic distributed over a longitudinal extent of the candy billet; using an extruder to extrude the candy billet to form an elongated candy extrusion having a cross-sectional area less than a cross-sectional area of the candy billet; and cutting the elongated candy extrusion into a plurality of shorter candy pieces, wherein each candy piece substantially exhibits the cross-sectional graphic in reduced scale. A process for forming a candy billet is provided that includes the steps of providing at least one candy stencil; arranging the at least one candy stencil within an outer mold; providing a formable candy syrup mixture; and pouring the candy syrup mixture into the outer mold and candy stencils to fill voids. A do-it-yourself candy making workshop is also provided that comprises a billet station including a plurality of candy elements available for selection by a user to assemble a candy billet; an extrusion station having an extruder adapted to receive and extrude the candy billet to provide an elongated candy extrusion having a cross-sectional area less than a cross-sectional area of the candy billet; and a cutting station having a cutter operable to cut the elongated candy extrusion into a plurality of shorter candy pieces.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The following detailed description of embodiments of the present invention can be best understood when read in conjunction with the following drawings, where like structure is indicated with like reference numerals and in which:

FIG. 1A is a perspective view of a piece of candy according to the invention;

FIG. 1B is a rear view of the piece of moldable material shown in FIG. 1A.

FIG. 2A is a perspective view of a mold used in the production of candy according to a first embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 2B is a view of a sheet of candy used in the production of candy according to an embodiment of the invention wherein the sheet of candy is molded around the mold of FIG. 2A or otherwise formed to create a desired shape.

FIG. 3A is a top view of the mold of FIG. 2A partially wrapped with a sheet of candy of FIG. 2B as is employed in the production of candy according to an embodiment of the invention, wherein the sheet of candy is wrapped and/or pressed tightly around the mold such that it takes the form of the mold.

FIG. 3B is a top view of the mold of FIG. 2A fully wrapped with a sheet of candy of FIG. 2B as is employed in the production of candy according to an embodiment of the invention, wherein the sheet of candy is wrapped and/or pressed tightly around the mold such that it takes the form of the mold.

FIG. 3C is a top view of a stencil formed by the sheet of candy of FIG. 2B that has been formed to take the shape of the mold of FIG. 2A, as employed in the production of candy according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 4 is a top view of a mold and stencil set used in the production of candy according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 5A is a cutaway side view of an extruder used in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 5B is a front view of an extruder used in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 5C is a front view of an extruder used in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 6 is a view of a roller used in the production of candy according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 7 is a top view of an alternative character stencil used in the production of candy according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 8A is a view of a candy segment produced according to one embodiment of the invention and used to create a candy according to one embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 8B is a perspective view of a candy segment produced according to one embodiment of the invention and used to create a candy according to one embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 8C shows a candy billet used to produce candy according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 9 shows a candy billet used to produce candy according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 10 is a perspective view of a candy billet used to produce candy according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 11 is a perspective view of a mold set used in the production of candy according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 12 is a cutaway view of an extruder used in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 13 is a perspective view of a do-it-yourself workshop used in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

The present invention will now be described with occasional reference to the specific embodiments of the invention. This invention may, however, be embodied in different forms and should not be construed as limited to the embodiments set forth herein. Rather, these embodiments are provided so that this disclosure will be thorough and complete, and will fully convey the scope of the invention to those skilled in the art.

Unless otherwise defined, all technical and scientific terms used herein have the same meaning as commonly understood by one of ordinary skill in the art to which this invention belongs. The terminology used in the description of the invention herein is for describing particular embodiments only and is not intended to be limiting of the invention. As used in the description of the invention and the appended claims, the singular forms “a,” “an,” and “the” are intended to include the plural forms as well, unless the context clearly indicates otherwise. All publications, patent applications, patents, and other references mentioned herein are incorporated by reference in their entirety.

Unless otherwise indicated, all numbers expressing quantities of ingredients, properties such as weight fraction, reaction conditions, and so forth as used in the specification and claims are to be understood as being modified in all instances by the term “about.” Accordingly, unless otherwise indicated, the numerical properties set forth in the following specification and claims are approximations that may vary depending on the desired properties sought to be obtained in embodiments of the present invention. Notwithstanding that the numerical ranges and parameters setting forth the broad scope of the invention are approximations, the numerical values set forth in specific examples are reported as precisely as possible. Any numerical values, however, inherently contain certain errors necessarily resulting from error found in their respective measurements.

Edible candy and devices, systems, and methods for production of such candy are provided. The devices, systems, and methods may be used to produce a variety of candy, with low moisture content through candy with high moisture content, and candy including a variety of ingredients, including fats and/or dairy products and/or other ingredients. These ingredients may be combined in a proportion such that the product being created is more typically identified as a baking product. For example, if flour, eggs, and butter (and/or oil) are combined with sugar along with other ingredients as is well know in the art of confectionery baking, the product may be a type of cookie dough. The term ‘candy’ is used herein to describe all such moldable materials.

The typical process for producing a sugar based hard or soft candy product includes heating a syrup of sugar, corn syrup, water, and other ingredients in a vessel to form a premixture, boiling the resulting premixture to produce a viscous material having a moisture content generally less than 20%. As is well known in the art, a desired moisture content of the final candy product can be achieved by heating the mixture to a predetermined temperature. This is a result of the thermodynamic equilibrium which is reached as the water evaporates from the mixture at a much higher rate than the sugar or sugars, with a corresponding rise in the boiling point temperature. At a given pressure (atmospheric-pressure cooking vessels, for example), the temperature defines the equilibrium condition. This does depend on the type of sugar employed, but is fixed for a given chemistry. For typical sugars used, it is well known that a given moisture content leads to a specific type or types of candies. Table 1 below is listing of typical candy processing data.

TABLE 1
Typical Candy Processing Data at Atmospheric Pressure (sea level)
Common TradesugarProcessing
Process NameExamples of Typical Candies ProducedfractionTemperature
Thread Stagesyrup, fruit liqueur, jelly, icings80%108° C.-118° C.
Soft-Ball StageSoft candy fudge, fondant, pralines, Italian85%118° C.-120° C.
meringue, peppermint creams and classic
buttercreams
Firm-Ball StageSoft candies: caramel candies87%123° C.-125° C.
Hard-Ball StageSoft candies: nougat, marshmallows, gummies,92%125° C.-133° C.
divinity, and rock candy
Soft-CrackSoft candies: taffy95%135° C.-145° C.
Stage
Hard-Crackhard candies: butterscotch, brittle Candies99%150° C.-155° C.
Stage 1
Hard-Crackhard candies: toffee99%160° C.-168° C.
Stage 2
caramelizedspun sugar, sugar cages, sauce coloring agent99+% Above 168° C.
Sugar:

In some embodiments, the candy of the present invention is made of conventional ingredients. The primary ingredient is sweetener, which can be sucrose, sugar alcohols, fructose, corn syrup, natural or synthetic sweeteners, invert sugar, and combinations thereof, for example. Optionally, other ingredients such as fats, vegetable oils, dairy products, may be added for texture and mouth feel.

In one embodiment, production includes preparation of flowable masses of differing colors, each being an aqueous supersaturated solution of candy ingredients, and depositing the solutions through separate nozzles or other flow devices into a mold or mold set or mold and stencil or stencils where the final unit product is then allowed to solidify by cooling, followed by optional reduction in the cross sectional area.

In one embodiment, a composition of the flowable candy mixture is an aqueous supersaturated solution of about 40 to about 70% by weight refined cane sugar or beet sugar, about 30 to about 65% by weight corn syrup solids, and less than 5% by weight flavoring and/or coloring agent. For hard candy recipes, it has been found that a mixture in the range of 51%-61% corn syrup, 35%-45% refined cane sugar, and 1%-10% coloring agents plus flavoring agents is preferred.

During production, it is preferred to provide as many separate candy mixtures as there are colors and/or flavors in the desired final product. Thus, each flowable candy mixture has a predefined color, such color being created through a coloring agent or through use of a particular combination of ingredients that result in the desired color. There are numerous food-grade coloring agents in the prior art and available in the market for use with the invention.

For hard candy, the moisture content is typically in the range of about ½% to 4%, and soft candies have a higher moisture content, up to about 15%. Once the desired temperature is reached and the mixture thus has a desired moisture content, the mixture is discharged from the cooking vessel and placed into molds or cooled to a higher viscosity and processed further into shapes, for example.

When processing hard candies to form additional shapes, a temperature controlled table is preferred to cool the candy mass to a specified temperature such that the candy mass remains pliable, typically between 30 C to 100 C.

Referring now to the figures, FIG. 1(a) shows a view of a piece of candy 10 including a front face 11, a back face 14 (not seen), and a peripheral edge 13. The piece of candy 10 can have any shape such as circular, elliptical, square, rectangular, octagonal, and heart-shaped, to name a few. The piece of candy 10 further includes a set of predefined characters 12 that may be contained within the peripheral edge 13 or may touch and be part of the peripheral edge 13. The piece of candy 10 has a cross sectional area, (a) mm̂2, a diameter of (d) mm, and a length of (1) mm, although it is important to note that the piece of candy 10 may or may not be round or of a uniform length across the face, and may be otherwise imperfect. The characters 12 spell the message “HAPPY B-DAY JOE.” FIG. 1(b) shows a view of the back face 14 of the piece of candy 10, and the message appears as a ‘mirror image’ of what is seen when looking at the front face 11. In FIGS. 1(a) and 1(b) character ‘Y’ is used to draw attention to this reversed image.

FIG. 2(a) shows a mold 200 in the form of the letter “Y”. This mold 200 may be solid or hollow (solid shown), and made from a variety of materials, including steel, stainless steel, aluminum, other metals, plastic, wood, and other suitable materials. The mold 200 includes a mold top surface 201, a mold side surface 203, and a mold bottom surface 202. The length of the mold is L(m).

FIG. 2(b) shows a sheet of candy 210 that includes a long edge 211, a short edge 212, and a front plane 213 and a rear plane 214 (not seen). The sheet of candy 210 has a width of w(s), length of l(s), and thickness of t(s). The moisture content of the sheet of candy 210 is preferably less than 20%, more preferably less than 10%, and most preferably less than 5% by weight. The sheet of candy 210 is produced such that it remains somewhat pliable at room temperature and does not flow easily. The thickness of the sheet of candy 210, t(s) is preferably less than about ½″, more preferably less than ¼″, and most preferably less than ⅛.″ The width of the sheet of candy 210, w(s) is defined by the height of the desired final stencil length as described in more detail below, and the length of the sheet of candy 210 is sized to be convenient when producing a stencil as described below which takes into consideration the length of the perimeter of the mold 200.

In one embodiment, during production of the sheet of candy 210, a starting candy mass of desired size is rolled to give a thinner candy mass as identified above and cut into individual pieces to create a sheet of candy 210 of predetermined size, or a plurality thereof. The resulting sheet of candy 210 is optionally coated with a layer of fatty paste, corn starch, parchment paper, or other release layer such that it minimizes potential for a set of sheet of candy 210 to sick together, and can be packaged and shipped and/or stored for easy use. Due to the sheeting process, it is preferred to prepare the sheet of candy 210 wherein the material is a hard candy, but certain soft candies will work. If the material is not a hard candy the stencil may optionally be enhanced through the use of a hardening agent, although a hardening agent may be used for hard candies as well. Optionally, the temperature of the candy may be controlled through various means to change how the candy will flow. For example, with a typical hard candy, a lower temperature will cause the hard candy to be more solid, and a higher temperature will cause the material to flow more easily.

FIG. 3 shows a top view of one embodiment of a process to produce a stencil 300. FIG. 3(a) illustrates the first step in the process to form stencil 300. The sheet of candy 210 is wrapped and pressed against the mold 200 such that the sheet of candy 210 takes the shape of the mold 200. It is important to note that the sheet of candy 210 is pliable enough to wrap the mold without fracturing or breaking, but firm enough to hold the shape of the mold 200, once the mold 200 is removed from the sheet of candy 210 or newly formed stencil 300. FIG. 3(b) shows a top view of the completed stencil 300 that includes the sheet of candy 210, which has been wrapped around the mold 200. FIG. 3(c) shows a top view of the completed stencil 300, which includes the formed sheet of candy 210. The sheet of candy 210 has a predetermined width, w(s), and is preferably less than the length, L(m) of the mold 200. As such, there is sufficient length of the mold 200 to form the entire width of the sheet of candy 210. To facilitate removing the stencil 300 from the mold 200, the mold 200 may optionally be coated with a release agent such as oil, fatty substance, corn starch or other suitable edible product. Once the stencil 300 is separated from the mold 200, it is placed to the side for use or placed within the outer mold 401 for further processing, as described in more detail below.

FIG. 4 shows a candy mold 400 that includes an outer mold 401 that serves to contain the candy mix that will be poured around the stencils 300 that are placed within the outer mold 401. Note that one or more stencils 300 may be used. The stencils 300 are arranged within the outer mold 401 to form the desired graphic, which may include letter or numeric characters, symbols, geometrical shapes, and/or any other desired shape. It is important to note that instead of a stencil 300, a solid form may be used as well. For example, a solid round, square, or any other shape rod of candy may be inserted in the outer mold 401. If forming a lower case letter ‘i’ a round rod may be used to form the dot in the letter. Referring again to FIG. 4, an arrangement of stencils 300 are shown that form the phrase “HAPPY B-DAY JOE.” The space between the inner surface of the outer mold 401 and the stencils 300 is referred to as the matrix void 402, and the space within each of the stencils 300 is referred to as the stencil void or voids 403.

After assembling the stencils 300 in the desired configuration within the outer mold 401, the next operation to produce candy according to a first embodiment of the present invention is to prepare the candy syrup mixture, with the desired moisture content, as well as flavoring(s), and/or coloring(s), and/or other ingredients, for pouring into the outer mold 401 and the stencils 300. Once the desired syrup mixtures are ready to pour into the matrix void 402 and the stencil voids 403, apparatus is arranged such that the desired syrups can be poured into the proper locations. For example, to produce a 2-color candy of red characters and yellow matrix, apparatus is arranged such that one tube or multiple tubes are directed from the red candy syrup pouring vessel into one or more stencil voids 403, and one or more tubes is directed from the yellow candy syrup pouring vessel into the matrix void 402.

Next, syrup is directed to flow at a specified temperature, and a specified flow rate, from the pouring vessels into the matrix void 402 and the stencil voids 403. Preferably, the rate at which the level of candy syrup rises within each of the stencil voids 403 and the rate at which the level of candy syrup rises within the matrix void 402 is similar, such that the difference in level between the fluid in any stencil void 403 and the level of the matrix syrup is small, for example less than ½″ difference in level. An inner stencil void 404 is shown and can be filled with either mixture, but generally the mixture that fills the matrix void 402 is preferred.

Alternatively, during the filling process, one tube may be used to fill each of the stencil voids 403 slowly while the matrix void 402 is filled slowly as well, attempting to minimize the difference in level between the matrix level and fluid levels within the individual stencil voids 403. However, if the stencil 300 are thick enough and the syrup is cool enough such that it will not melt or quickly melt a stencil 300, each may be filled individually without concern of flow-through or other leakage of the syrup before the matrix material is poured.

After the syrup mixtures are poured and cooled to a predefined temperature, which is warm enough to allow the newly made candy billet of candy to be worked in the case of hard candy, or room temperature or cooler if the moisture content is high enough in the final candy to allow working at lower temperatures. Optionally, at this point (or after bringing up to a working temperature if the candy billet was allowed to cool below a working temperature), the cross sectional area of the candy billet is reduced through one of several processes. The cross sectional area may be reduced uniformly or it may be reduced in a non uniform manner, such that the graphic or pattern appearing in the moldable billet takes a different form from that contained within the moldable billet. In this way, fun shapes can be obtained in a similar way as a fun-house mirror can distort a reflection

In one embodiment, the cross sectional area of the candy is reduced in an extruder. FIG. 5(a) shows one example of an extruder 500, and includes three primary segments: a loading section 501, which generally defines a loading zone 502, a transition section 503, which generally defines a transition zone 504, and an exit section 505 which generally defines an exit zone 506. The extruder 500 also includes a plunger 507 which includes a plunger face 508. In use, a candy billet is loaded into the loading zone 502 of the extruder 500. It should be noted that the term ‘candy billet’ refers to any candy form that can be extruded, including a loosely packed assembly of candy segments, a densely packed assembly of candy segments, or a single piece of candy.

The internal diameter or cross section of the loading zone 502 is preferably close in dimension to that of the candy billet, but larger such that the candy billet fits into the loading zone 502 easily, but with as small a difference as practically possible. Once the candy billet is loaded, the plunger 507 is used to push the candy from the loading zone 502 through the transition zone 504, into the exit zone 506 and then out of the extruder 500, with the plunger face 508 making contact with the candy billet. The plunger 507 can be pushed by any suitable mechanical or human means. Sealing materials, o-rings, gaskets, and other devices may be included on the plunger to prevent or minimize the candy from leaking around the perimeter of the plunger.

The extruder 500 may be made of any suitable material that can withstand the required temperature and pressure to extrude the candy, which will vary depending on the type of candy, for example by moisture content and temperature. Preferably, the extruder 500 is made of metal or plastic that is suitable for use in processing food.

Optionally, the extruder 500 may be heated. Heating may be accomplished through preheating, for example in an oven, or by wrapping the extruder 500 in a heating blanket, heating wires, operated under a heating lamp, or other device made to heat to a controlled temperature. Optionally, the heater may be built into the extruder 500 and may include insulation.

FIG. 5(b) shows a front view of an extruder 500 that has a circular design, which is convenient to use when making a round candy. FIG. 5(c) shows a front view of an extruder 500 that has a square or rectangular design, which is convenient to use when making a candy product that has a square or rectangular cross section.

In another embodiment, the cross sectional area of the candy may be reduced in a rolling device. In one embodiment, the roller is a 2-roller device as shown in FIG. 6. The rolling device 600 includes a top roller 601, a bottom roller 602, and two mounting plates 603 and 604 on which the rollers are mounted and connected to suitable power devices or manual gears that can drive one or both of the rollers 601 and 602, and facilitate adjustment of the distance, d, between the top roller 601 and the bottom roller 602 and the space between each of the mounting plates 603 and 604.

Generally, the rolling device 600 is used to reduce the cross sectional area of square, rectangular, or other candy shapes that include a plurality of flat sides. In use, the distance between the rollers is adjusted such that a reduction in dimension can be achieved and the candy billet is fed to the back side of the rolling device 600. Power or other means is applied to cause one or both of the rollers to begin to rotate and the candy will then be pulled into the rolling device 600 and reduced in dimension as it passes through the rolling device 600. Optionally, the rollers may be heated or the device may be operated under a heat lamp or other heating means.

An alternate stencil form, where each letter is connected to the next on a given line, such that one pour location can fill the entire word or string of characters, thus simplifying the filling process, demonstrates another embodiment of the invention. This one piece stencil 700 is shown in FIG. 7, and employs a sheet of candy 210 to make for making the stencil 300 shown in FIG. 3, as described earlier. However, with the one piece stencil 700, characters, letters, and or other figures are connected such that the sheet of candy used to form the stencil forms a connected body. With this embodiment, only one syrup pour is required to fill a stencil void 701.

A further embodiment of the invention is shown in FIG. 8. FIG. 8(a) shows a front view of a graphic segment 801 including a letter character “H” therein that was produced through an embodiment as described above. FIG. 8(b) shows a perspective view of the same graphic segment 801. The graphic segment 801 has a defined cross sectional area and in this embodiment the graphic segment 801 is generally square. The length of the graphic segment 801 is defined by the desired length of the candy billet 800 that will be created in the process to be described. FIG. 8(c) shows a candy billet 800 that includes 35 individual segments—a mix of color segments 802 and graphic segments 803; the graphic segments 803 collectively containing characters creating a textual message spelling “HAPPY B-DAY JOE” in the candy billet 800 when viewed generally from the front. It should be noted that the term graphic segment is used to describe any candy segment comprised of two or more distinguishing colors such that an image or other graphic representation can be seen within the segment, and the term color segment is used to describe any other candy segment.

The candy billet 800 can be processed to produce a solid or fused candy billet, for example by heating and/or applying pressure depending on the moisture content and other properties of the candy, and then optionally reduced in cross sectional area as described above. It should be noted that the candy billet can be cut and made into larger candies, for example as a large lollipop. The candy billet 800 can also be directly reduced in diameter as described herein if desired.

This embodiment of “building” custom candy allows common candy stores to create custom candy in a simple manner, without the need for highly skilled artisans or other skilled labor. It also allows customers to create their own candy quickly and easily. The candy color segments and graphic segments with a variety of characters and other shapes made be made by a central processing facility in volume to reduce cost and shipped to and stocked in candy stores. Features such as hearts, or animal shapes, etc. that require a larger size may be made in various sizes. For example, FIG. 9 shows a view of a candy billet900 that includes 1 cm×1 cm graphic segments 901, 1 cm×1 cm color segments 902, 2 cm×2 cm graphic segments 903 (including a an image of a heart) and 2 cm×2 cm color segments 904. This embodiment allows a broad range of graphics to be incorporated into the desired custom candy.

In one embodiment of the invention, candy segments with predetermined characters or other features contained therein can be made in a high speed process. The process begins with the preparation of the candy mixture, as described above. The mixture can be made from any one of a number of recipes and is brought to a predefined moisture content. At this point, the mixture is forced to flow into a mold that includes an outer mold, of a predefined shape, and inner molds that form the characters or other features within the mold. As opposed to some of the earlier embodiments described herein, the inner molds in this embodiment are made of typical mold materials, such as metal or plastic, and can be solid or hollow.

It is important that the inner molds are coated with a release agent. In the high speed manufacturing operation, the outer mold along with the inner mold or molds are placed on a surface that has been coated with a release agent, then filled with the candy mixture of predefined recipe and color. This can occur quickly as the inner molds are not at risk of deforming. The mold/mixture is then rapidly cooled to a predefined temperature wherein the mixture will not flow, or flows slowly enough to allow the next processing step to occur while maintaining the integrity of the character or other feature. At this point in the process the inner mold or molds are released and then filled with the desired candy recipe and color.

The next step is to maintain or bring the candy mass up to a predefined working temperature and reduce the cross sectional area of the candy in such a way to substantially maintain the character or characters and/or other feature or features in the candy. The reduced diameter candy shapes can be sized to a predefined length and optionally coated with a handling and/or storage material and optionally stored in moisture tight containers. These shapes can be consumed directly or used to create custom candy configurations as described earlier herein.

In a further embodiment of the invention, candy color segments and graphic segments are assembled into a block to create a candy billet with predefined shapes therein. In one mode of operation, each is a color segment made in one of a variety of solid colors, such as red, blue, green, white, etc. The size of the color segments are determined by the desired resolution of the image or graphic that will appear in the candy. For example, if a resolution of 1 mm is desired, 1 mm diameter segments (if round) or 1 mm×1 mm segments (if square sticks are used). Similar to how individual single color pixels are used to build an image on a computer or other type of monitor, a front view of a candy billet is assembled to build a desired image, limited only by the resolution, which is equal to the size of the candy segments. Along with the resolution of the candy segments, the size of the candy billet being produced limits the type and quality of the graphic being produced.

An example of this embodiment of the invention is shown in FIG. 10. FIG. 10 shows a perspective view of a candy billet 1000 of premade color segments, each of a solid color, where two colors are used, a light color segment 1001, and a dark color segment 1002, and assembled to create a set of words spelling “EAT MORE CANDY” when viewed generally from the front. The candy billet shown in FIG. 10 includes 400 color segments, 20 color segments by 20 color segments. Each color segment 1001 and 1002 has a generally defined cross sectional area and in this embodiment is generally square, as is the candy billet 1000. The length of each candy segment is defined by the desired length of the candy billet 1000 that will be created in the process to be described.

The candy billet 1000 can be processed to produce a solid or fused candy billet, for example by heating and/or applying pressure depending on the moisture content and other properties of the candy, and then reduced in cross sectional area as described above. The candy billet 1000 can also be directly reduced in diameter as described above if desired.

The process of “building” custom candy from individual color segments and graphic segments as described herein allows common candy stores to create custom candy in a simple manner, without the need for highly skilled artisans or other skilled labor, and can be assisted greatly with an automated machine as described below. The starting candy segments with a variety of colors and/or graphic elements may be made by a central processing facility in volume to reduce cost and shipped to and stocked in candy stores.

In one embodiment, the candy billet is made in an automated process where a robotic or other automated device picks a candy segment of predefined color, type, flavor, etc. from one of various holding bins and places into the candy billet. In this manner, a candy billet can be constructed quickly and requiring little to no human labor. A microcontroller or computer could be used in such a system to control the pick-and-place operation and may optionally be interfaced to an input device that allows a user to draw a desired graphic.

In another embodiment of the invention, candy beads, chips, or other fragments are used to create a candy billet of candy. FIG. 11 shows a candy billet within a mold 1100 that includes an outer bead mold 1101, an inner bead mold 1102 in the form of a letter “H,” candy beads 1103 filling the space between the outer bead mold 1101 and inner bead mold 1102, and candy beads 1104 filled within the inner bead mold 1102. The inner bead mold 1102 may be made of thin metal or plastic, or may be a stencil made of candy as described earlier.

In use, one or more inner bead molds 1102 are assembled into the outer bead mold 1101 in the desired configuration, for example spelling a message or name if letter characters are used, and candy beads or other candy fragments of desired color or colors and flavor or flavors are poured into and filling the space between the outer bead mold 1101 and inner bead mold 1102. Candy beads or other candy fragments of desired color or colors and flavor or flavors are poured into and filling the inner bead mold or molds 1102. If a non-edible inner bead mold 1102 is used, such as stainless steel, the inner bead mold 1102 is pulled out of the candy billet. Because the inner bead mold 1102 is thin, it will minimally affect the location of the candy beads 1103 and 1104, such that the general shape of the characters or other shapes or figures remain. Next, the candy billet is heated and/or subjected to pressure such that the candy beads or other fragments fuse or sinter together to some acceptable degree. If desired, the candy billet can now be reduced in cross sectional area to form smaller pieces that can comfortably fit into ones mouth.

Boundary Layer Modification for Flow Control

Some moldable materials, such as sugar based candies, are very sticky and may require some boundary layer materials to be used in an extruder. Although simple coatings of corn starch or other materials may be used in any extruder, the boundary layer modification is intended to provide a way to use a significant layer of material to prevent sticking to an extruder.

FIG. 12 shows an example of an extruder 1200 that incorporates a boundary layer modification. The extruder 1200 includes a loading section 1201, a transition section 1202, an exit section 1203, a plunger 1204, and a push rod 1205 or other device for applying pressure and advancing the plunger 1204. One key element of the boundary layer modification of this example is the keeper plate 1206 that is attached to the loading section 1201, but may be designed to be easily removed from the loading section 1201 to enable easy loading of the extruder 1200. Also shown in the figure is the boundary layer material 1207 and the candy billet 1208. Another key element of this example is the extended plunger 1204, which has an extended length of material at it's outermost dimension to maintain contact with the boundary layer material.

In use, the boundary layer material 1207 is first loaded into the extruder 1200 and formed to the proper thickness using a mold or other device. Next, the candy billet 1208 is loaded into the extruder 1200, followed by the keeper plate (if detachable), and then the plunger 1204. Force is applied to the plunger 1204 and moldable material 1208 is then extruded. The boundary layer material 1207 may slowly degrade and be swept away with the moving moldable material 1207, but will greatly reduce the friction and sticking of the moldable material 1208, thus leading to a higher quality product.

Do-it-Yourself Workshop for Creating Custom Candy

Referring now to FIG. 13, a do-it-yourself workshop 4000 is shown. The do-it-yourself workshop 4000 includes a billet station 4100 that includes an inventory cabinet 4101 with a plurality of individual drawers 4102, each drawer 4102 containing one or more color segments and/or graphic segments 4103 and an assembly area 4104 where the color segments and/or graphic segments 4103 are assembled into a candy billet 4105; an extrusion station 4200 where the candy billet 4105 is loaded into an extruder 4201 which rests on an extruding table 4202. The candy billet 4105 is then extruded by the extruder 4201 to produce an elongated extrusion product 4203. The elongated extrusion product 4203 has a cross sectional area less than that of the candy billet 4105. Also included in the do-it-yourself workshop 4000, but not shown in the figure, is a cutting station where the elongated extrusion product 4203 is cut into sections generally across the cross-section of the elongated extrusion product 4203, such that the cut segments of the elongated extrusion product 4203 are more convenient, for example to fit in ones mouth for consumption or to transport for further cutting or size reduction. The cutting station may include a simple cutting device such as a knife or it may be more complex and incorporate a device designed to sheer the elongated extrusion product 4203 in a high-speed process. If hard candy is being made the cutting station may simply provide a work area for a user to break by hand the extrusion product 4203 into smaller pieces.

Although the invention has been described with respect to specific preferred embodiments for a complete and clear disclosure, the appended claims are not to be thus limited but are to be construed as embodying all modifications and alternative constructions that may occur to one skilled in the art and which fairly fall within the basic teaching therein set forth.