Making The Best Candy
Candy is not difficult to make. Some candy recipes require little or no cooking at all. Other candy recipes need only careful timing and adequate beating. For some types of candy, however, special care is necessary. Follow these basic instructions and you can become a successful and versatile candy maker.
Always read a recipe through from beginning to end BEFORE starting to cook. This is important with all recipes, but especially candy recipes. You never will know if you need special equipment or a special ingredient until you read the recipe.
Always use the best quality, freshest ingredient available.
Measure ingredients accurately, using standard measuring spoons for small amounts, a fluid measuring cup for liquids, and graduated measuring cups for dry ingredients.
Follow recipes carefully. Use only the ingredients specified and add them in the order and by the method given.
To prevent sugaring, carefully follow directions about stirring and about covering the pan.
Use moderate or low heat, according to instructions in the recipe, so the syrup does not reach the boiling point too quickly.
Always use a saucepan large enough to allow space for the candy to bubble up when boiling. A 2 quart pan is large enough in most cases, but sometimes a 3 quart or even a 4 quart pan is preferable. A pan in which candy is made should be a heavy gauge metal, which holds heat evenly and will prevent sticking.
Candy making involves a lot of stirring and beating. Although an electric mixer may be used in some stages of preparation, such as beating egg whites for divinity, for most candy mixtures a spoon is best. A long handled wooden spoon is preferable, since it will never get too hot to handle. God bless wooden spoons!
A candy thermometer that clips onto the side of the pan is almost a necessity for successful candy making, since it is critical that the candy be removed fro the heat at the moment it reaches the proper temperature. It is best to use a clearly marked, easy to read thermometer with a mercury ball that is set low enough to measure the temperature of the boiling syrup, but does not touch the bottom of the pan.
To use a candy thermometer, be sure it is at room temperature before putting it into the hot syrup. Lower the thermometer gradually into the candy mixture AFTER the sugar is dissolved and the syrup has begun to boil.
The cold-water test is an alternative to a candy thermometer. Many cooks still rely upon this test, although it is not as accurate as a candy thermometer (hard ball/soft ball).
Temperature Tests For Candy
Temperature of Syrup Test Description of Syrup When Dropped Into Very Cold Water
234° to 240 ° Soft Ball Forms a soft ball that flattens on removal from water
244° to 248° Firm Ball Forms a firm ball that does not flatten on removal from water
250° to 266° Hard Ball Forms a hard ball that, on removal from water remains hard enough to hold its shape yet pliable
270° to 290° Soft Crack Separates into threads that are hard, but not brittle, when removed from water
300° to 310° Hard Crack Separates into threads that are hard and very brittle
To water-test, use very cold, but NOT ice, water. Use a clean cup, spoon, and fresh water for each test. Remove the pan from the heat and drop a little of the hot mixture into the water. Use your fingers to gather the drops into a ball and feel its consistency. If the candy is not yet ready, immediately return the pan to the heat.
Avoid making candy on damp or rainy days. High humidity is the candy maker’s enemy. If for any reason you cannot postpone a candy making session, cook the candy 1 or 2 degrees higher on the thermometer than indicated in the recipe.
Altitude also affects candy making. Temperatures given in recipes are typically for sea level. At high altitudes the candy must be cooked about 2 degrees higher.
Be patient and always allow sufficient time. Most candy does take time to make, and there is no way to rush the cooking with disaster.
"Work With What You Got!”
© Victoria Hart Glavin Tiny New York Kitchen