FORTVILLE –– For years, everyone who tasted Scott Wood’s divinity candy knew he had something special.
But it wasn’t until he brought his homemade confection to the Indiana State Fair that his recipe finally received official recognition as an especially sweet treat.
He won first place in the candy category using a traditional recipe with nuts; second place with an organic recipe; and three honorable mention awards. All 10 of Wood’s entries were put on display.
Wood has been perfecting his divinity recipe for decades.
“Since I was big enough to stand at that stove and not get hurt,” Wood said. “The syrup is 260 degrees, and if it gets on you, there’s no getting it off.”
The process takes almost two hours to complete, and there are a variety of ways to make it. The recipe requires that the syrup be added to beaten egg whites, but Wood knows the exact right consistency to look for before he adds the nuts and dips it onto the wax paper.
“Some people will pour it into a pan and let it set up and cut it in squares. That’s not going to get it. Some people will take a spoon and push it off onto the wax paper. It’s still not the consistency
I want. That kind of divinity is kind of chewy, like warm taffy. Mine melts – it turns into a cream – in your mouth. That’s why I won. (The judges) had never tasted anything like that before,” Wood said.
He got his start at about age 10, when he came across a Peanuts cookbook – featuring Charles Schulz’s Peanuts characters –that had a recipe for divinity.
“That’s where the recipe came from,” Wood said. “I got that when I was a kid.”
He was starting to get more involved in the kitchen at that time, following his mom, June, around, picking up what tips and tricks he could.
“It never got good, until I got older,” Wood said. “When I got a candy thermometer, I could start really dialing it in.”
At 57, Wood has had ample time to make the divinity recipe his own. His fans love his divinity, and Wood says nothing compares to his method.
“I watched (celebrity chef Paula Deen) make it once, using the exact same recipe as mine, but I could tell by looking at it when she dipped it out on the paper, it’s not mine,” Wood said. “It’s the technique I use that makes it what it is. All recipes are the same.”
Wood has been making the candy for decades but only recently wanted to get involved with competition at the Indiana State Fair.
Friends around the country, including several chefs, are no stranger to his special divinity. They usually get a fresh batch for Christmas and special occasions. His friends knew that his talents could earn him some recognition, and they encouraged him to compete.
“One of the reasons I entered is because, when I looked at the divinity last year at the State Fair, I could tell by looking at it (that) it wasn’t as good as mine,” Wood said. “When I looked at it, I could tell immediately mine would win if I put it in. And it did.”
Still, he was surprised to have swept the competition so handily.
“I thought I would get something. But I had no idea I would take five of the ribbons that were available,” Wood said.
Wood still lives in the Fortville home where he grew up. He has also lived in St. Thomas, California and Miami.
He started out as a bartender before working in places where he could both bartend and cook. His skills were developing, and in the mid-1990s, Wood worked at St. Elmo Steak House in Indianapolis, where he was in charge of the pantry. Nightly, he would cut up about 60 pounds of butter before he moved on to making the restaurant’s famous shrimp cocktail. He made 750 of those shrimp cocktails in one 12-hour shift during an NCAA tournament. Wood has also worked at The Fort Grille restaurant in Fortville.
Wood is diabetic and unfortunately can’t enjoy too much of his own creations. But seeing others enjoy his candy is almost as good.
“I’m not supposed to have any, but you have to taste test it,” Wood said.