Posts Tagged ‘fun with candy’
Now I know that my posts usually focus on nutrition and attempting to cut out the amount of sugar that your family consumes, but that does not mean that you can’t MAKE treats and give them away to other families. Lots of Moms have tried and failed at making candy, with a majority of them giving up, tossing the “ruined” sugar in the trash and selling their candy thermometer for a serious loss at the next neighborhood yard sale. But with a little practice, some creative techniques, and pretty basic equipment, you can have colorful and tasty sweets that even Russel Stover would be proud of, just in time for holiday gift bags and party favors!
You’re going to need a few things for your candy making adventure, most of which is probably already stored away in your cabinets. Now you may not need all of these items, depending on the types of candy you plan to make, but lets go over the list, just in case.
- Candy Thermometer (critical for good candy, there is no substitute for this item, borrow one or buy one)
- Candy Molds
- Dipping Tools
- Pastry Bag with Tips
- Candy Colors or Candy Dye (Food Coloring is an Okay Substitute but Doesn’t Work Right in All Recipes)
- An Offset Spatula
- Good Quality Sugar
- Good Quality Chocolate
- Corn Syrup
- A Food Processor
- Flavor Extracts, (Almond, Mint, Vanilla etc)
- Wax Paper, Plastic Wrap
- Sprinkles and Other Decorations
- Lollipop Stems or Popsicle Sticks
- Non-stick Cooking Spray
- Double Boiler
- A Timer, and Patience
Nothing affects your candy more than what you use to make it with. If you use low grade (read: cheap) ingredients, you’re going to get cheap candy. But you don’t have to spend a million dollars on the finest handmade Swiss chocolate, or grow and process your own sugar to get good quality stuff. If you have friends in the confectionary industry ask them what they use, or if they can help you find something to use, or search the Net. There are literally thousands of forums and websites about what to use when making everything from fudge to lollipops, so don’t be afraid to ask questions and learn.
When it comes to chocolate a good starting point for beginners is some of the widely available Ghirardelli chocolates that are sold in both craft stores and kitchen supply stores around the country. If you can find a real chocolatier, like a Kilwins shop, close by, ask what they would recommend, and by all means look, touch, smell and taste the chocolate before you buy it. It’s important that your chocolate have a smooth glossy finish, a dark even color, and a strong chocolate smell and taste. If the chocolate breaks easily in your fingers, pass on it, it’s probably either old or low grade. Remember that not all chocolate is sweet, there are many varieties of flavors that can enhance or detract from your finished product.
Sugar is pretty basic, but there are a surprising amount of differences in types, quality levels, and flavors of sugar, much more than whether its white sugar, powdered sugar or brown sugar. Look for a good quality, name brand sugar to start with, since the majority of hard candies are made with a boiled sugar syrup, or another name brand type of confectioners sugar is you are making fudge or other candies.
The rest of your ingredients don’t have to be as high brow as your main ingredients, no one’s going to really care if your sprinkles are the expensive kind or the store brand, but make sure that the equipment that you have is in good condition. Make sure that your candy thermometer is accurate, or at the very least, calibrate the thing so that if the reasing is wrong, you know its wrong and can compensate for it. Temperature is very important when it comes to taste, texture, and even the look of your candies, and a bad or broken thermometer is going to turn your candy experiments into failures before you get halfway to the fun part of decorating.
Please remember that what you are doing, basically heating sugar, is inherently very dangerous. Molten sugar and chocolate burn quickly and can cause a large number of injuries be it from a spill, a spray, a splatter, or a slip. Since most of my projects are kid friendly, I am not going to say keep the kids out of the kitchen for this one, but I am going to recommend an age limit of at least ten years old for the cooking process. Let your little ones go to town in decorating and wrapping and “prettifying” your candies, you can even make an assembly line for dipping your chocolates in sprinkles and a variety of other items, but keep them away from the stove while you are working with the hot stuff. Use aprons and protective gear, even goggles are a good idea. Make sure that your hot pads are the wearable kind, instead of the little square ones, I had a friend who had a bubble of hot sugar/water explode and hit her hand while moving the pot from one burner to another, and she still has the scar. Have fun and be creative, but most of all be safe.
Tomorrow I’ll go over some recipe basics and cooking techniques, as well as links to temperature charts and other such information for the perfect snacks and goodies!