Making your own candy Conversation Hearts and Necco Wafers is pretty easy. Plus, with the Conversation Hearts, you can write whatever you want on them.
And, as an added bonus, you can make candy cigarettes from the same dough. I love candy cigarettes because they are such fun.
I have 2 different recipes, and have a fondness for the one made with Sprite as it remains a softer, tastier candy.
I will give the other recipe first, and then my favorite version. The first one is closer to the original.
Candy Dough for Necco Wafers, Conversation Hearts, and Candy Cigarettes:
1 packet (or 2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons light corn syrup (or brown rice syrup or tapioca syrup)
2 pounds powdered sugar, plus another pound for dusting your work surface
Small heart-shaped cutter (fondant cutters are about the right size)
Edible Food Writers/Markers
typesetting letters (if you can find them)
Bloom the gelatin in the water for about 5 minutes, then stir in the syrup and heat either in the microwave in 5 second bursts or in the top of a double boiler until the gelatin is melted. In a stand mixer or by hand, knead in 1 cup of the powdered sugar at a time. The dough should be very thick and sticky. If you use a stand mixer, pull the dough out onto a powdered sugar surface and knead until the dough is the texture of Play-Doh.
Divide the dough into as many sections as you want to use colors and flavors, and wrap the unused balls of dough in plastic wrap to keep them from drying out. Doing one ball of dough at a time, tint and flavor it, then roll it out about 3/8" thick for the hearts. Cut hearts out of the dough and arrange on parchment paper to dry. If you have typesetting letters (very small ones, say an 8 pt or 6 pt font) use them to press the messages into the hearts. If you don't have the typesetting letters, let the hearts dry for 24 hours, then flip and dry the other side for another 24 hours, and then using the edible food writers, write messages on the hearts. Repeat with each ball of dough to get the colors and flavors you want.
Traditional color/flavor combinations are:
white - wintergreen
yellow - lemon
pink - strawberry
green - lime
orange - orange
purple - clove
If you want to make Necco Wafers, use the same basic dough, only roll them 1/4" thick, cut into small circles.
The traditional flavor/color combination for Necco Wafers are:
orange - orange
lemon - yellow
lime - green
clove - purple
chocolate - brown
cinnamon - white
licorice - black
wintergreen - pink.
There is also the chocolate assortment:
mocha - light brown (freeze dried pulverized coffee and powdered cocoa for flavor and color)
white chocolate - white (white cocoa powder)
milk chocolate - brown (regular cocoa powder)
dark chocolate - dark brown (dark chocolate cocoa powder)
Since you're making your own, though, you can make them whatever colors and flavors you want. You can have blue, and violet, and peach, and tan colors in coconut, grape, pineapple, mango, strawberry, blueberry, or vanilla flavors. Or rum.
For candy cigarettes, flavor the dough with white vanilla (so the dough stays white and doesn't turn beige), peppermint, or spearmint. Roll to 3/8" thick, then using a pizza wheel, cut the dough into very, very narrow (1/4") strips. Round each strip and cut into cigarette lengths. Allow to dry 24 hours, flip and dry another 24 hours. Tint one end red by dipping it into a thinned red gel food coloring.
Now, my favorite recipe is slightly different from the above. Instead of using water, I used Sprite:
1/4 ounce gelatin
4 ounces Sprite
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/2 pounds powdered sugar (or more)
Bloom the gelatin in the Sprite for about 5 minutes. Melt the gelatin with the salt in the microwave using 5 second bursts or in the top of a double boiler. When the gelatin is melted, using a stand mixer, beat in 1 cup of powdered sugar at a time until it is fully incorporated. The dough should eventually resemble Play-Doh. Turn the dough out onto a powdered sugar surface and knead it smooth.
At this point, the instructions are pretty much the same as above - divide into the number of colors/flavors you want, and work with 1 ball of dough at a time.
I use gel colors because the colors are richer. Start with one drop and knead it in well, adding more color for deeper hues.
I am also likely to substitute freeze dried fruit, pulverized to a powder, as my flavoring. Usually 1/4 ounce of pulverized freeze-dried fruit works fine (strawberries, cherries, bananas, mangos, pineapple, blueberries, even apple). Where I can't get freeze-dried fruit, flavor extracts work well. One to four drops of flavoring works - taste test the dough between drops to get your correct flavor.
Remember to let the candy dry 24 hours, flip them, and dry them another 24 hours.
The Sprite dough stays softer, and the doughs flavored with freeze dried fruits will never dry out completely, but they will still be crisp, just not hard.
This is a fun dough to use with kids, too. Just remember that it needs 48 hours of drying time.