Somehow, this post got lost in transition from one internet provider to the next. Here it is, the coveted Part 2 of my candy making series. Just in time for Valentine’s day!
A lot of the time, the hardest part about making candy and sweets is deciding exactly what to make. With the huge variety of treats that are available, both commercially and at home, you amy find inspiration anywhere you look. Imaging big puffy marshmallows that are lightly flavored with mint or dusted with hot cocoa mix, great for a goodie bag for your weary holiday guests, or sweet little lollipops for your children’s class, designed and packaged by an army of your kids and their friends.
Let’s go over some of the choices you have when deciding what kind of candy to make, split into two groups: chocolate based and sugar based.
Sugar Based Candies:
Glazes, Candied Fruits
Fudge and Fondant
Chewy or Caramel Candies
Divinity and Marshmallows
Nougat and Taffy
Brittles, Hard Candies and Lollipops
Chocolate Dipped Treats
Solid Chocolate Bars
Treats with Chocolate Centers
I know, at this point, your mouth is watering and you are having even more trouble deciding. I told you, this is the hardest part about making candies. Gather your kiddos and ask them what their favorite treat is, odds are you can find a very simple and easy recipe for it.
Sugar based candies are very simply created, the most difficult part is achieving the proper temperatures for the type of candy that you wish to make, and making sure that your ratio of water to sugar when mixing your initial ingredients is correct. Too much or too little of either and you might spend more time than you like trying to fix your recipe rather than decorating them.
Temperature is critical, I can’t stress enough that a good quality calibrated candy thermometer is the single most important ingredient to any recipe, chocolate or sugar based, so make sure you have one. For the bold and daring, there is a thermometer-free method of checking your candies temperature utilizing cold water, but it can often be wrong or misinterpreted, so I don’t recommend it for your first attempt at candy making. If you want to learn more about the cold water method please click HERE.
So at this point you’ve traveled to the grocery store, gotten your basic supplies, and have maybe even considered a recipe or two. Let’s go over the temperature chart, the different names for each stage of heat levels, and the different types of candies that can be made from each stage
There are seven different temperature stages for your candy making pleasure, ranging from 223* to 350* depending on what type of candy you want to make. They are listed as follows:
223*-235*F: Thread Stage, for making sgar glazes and candied fruit type treats
235*-245*F: Soft Ball Stage, for making fudge and fondant
245*-250*F: Firm Ball Stage, for chewy candies and caramels
250*-266*F: Hard Ball Stage, for divinity and marshmallows
270*-290*F: Soft Crack Stage, for nougat and taffy
300*-310*F: Hard Crack Stage, aptly named for hard candies and brittles
320*-350*F: Caramel Stage, the sugar will turn yellow gold, used for pralines.
Familiarize yourself with each stage of heat, and if you examine your candy thermometer it will likely be marked with some of these stages to help you achieve the proper heat level for each type of candy you make.
Now that you have a basic understanding of what candies can be made and how, let’s take a look at a very basic hard candy recipe, perfect for Christmas treats.
You Will Need:
A sturdy sauce pan
A cookie sheet lightly greased with cooking spray
A wet basting or pastry brush
2 cups of Sugar
2/3 cup of Karo light corn syrup
¾ cup of Water
1 teaspoon of flavoring oil, such as peppermint, (extracts will not work)
Mix together the water, sugar and corn syrup in the saucepan and stir the ingredients together over medium heat. Clip your candy thermometer to the side of your pan, making sure that it does not rest on the bottom of the saucepan. The closer you can position the bulb to the center of your mixture the better. Slowly bring the syrup mixture to a boil, and watch for sugar crystals that will start to grow around the edge of the liquid in the pan. If you see them, use the brush to gently melt them away. If you let them grow and fall into the syrup, the hardened sugar crystals will ruin the texture and make it grainy.
When your syrup reaches the Hard Crack Stage, or 300*, remove it from the heat and let it set until it stops boiling. Add your food coloring and flavoring and stir until completely combined. Pour the syrup onto your cookie sheet and wait a minute or so as it begins to cool. When the surface of the candy starts to cool use a VERY greased knife or a pizza cutter to gently score a crisscross pattern in your candy, to form little squares. Don’t try to cut all the way through at this point, just about halfway is fine, you’ll break the pieces up later. Let the scored sheet of candy cool completely.
This part is great for little helpers. Dust the top of the candy with the powdered sugar, then remove it from the cookie sheet, (aren’t you glad it was greased!) and dust the other side. Make sure your powdered sugar coating is smooth and even and then gently break the candy along the scored lines that you made, making bite size squares that are great for treats bags, gingerbread house decorations, and party favors. Add more powdered sugar to your pile of candy pieces to keep them from sticking, and keep them in an airtight container in the refrigerator until you are ready to package them and give them out.
I found these red striped and clear cellophane bags on sale as William Sonoma, I think they would be adorable for Valentine’s Day classroom favors.