Thursday, December 18, 2008
A Holiday Tradition at My House: Homemade Hard Candy
Making hard candy is a much loved tradition for my family. My grandmother used to make candy, my mom always makes it every year and now I make it. In fact, when I made it this year I was talking on the phone to my mom and sister who were also making it. Fun memories.
The ingredients are pretty basic. You will need: granulated sugar, light corn syrup, water, Lorann flavored oils, liquid food coloring and powdered sugar. Also, you absolutely must have a candy thermometer.
Usually, I order these flavor oils directly from the LorAnn website, but I found them at Wal*mart this year, which was even easier. I only did 5 flavors this year: Peppermint, Spearmint, Wintergreen, Cinnamon and Orange. When I was a teenager, I would convince my mom that we needed to make 15 different flavors. It would take all day, but it was so much fun.
In a large pot, mix together 2 cups of sugar, 2/3 cup of light Karo syrup and 3/4 cup of water. Mix together until the sugar has dissolved. I use a pastry brush lightly dipped in water to brush down any sugar crystals that remain on the side of the pot. You don't want any weird crystals in your hard candy.
Once the sugar has dissolved, attach the candy thermometer to the side of the pot, making sure that the thermometer is NOT touching the bottom of the pan, and leave it alone. No more stirring. No more fussing. Just walk away. Well, don't go too far because you need to watch the temperature. Closely. You can look, but don't touch. Hee Hee. Sorry, couldn't help myself.
While the sugar mixture is heating, butter your cookie sheets. If you are making just one kind of candy, you will only need one cookie sheet. Since I got overboard with about everything I attempt, I need to prepare lots of cookie sheets.
Once the temperature reaches 260 degrees Fahrenheit, you will need to add the food coloring. Since this batch is going to be cinnamon, obviously I will use red. Brad thought I should make it green just to confuse people. I would like to think that I was being sneaky when I colored the peppermint candy purple, but really it was just a "dusty rose" gone awry. **Do not stir** the food coloring. The boiling action will mix the color for you. Handy, right?
Make sure that your pans are ready to pour the hot sugar mixture into. You might want to grab some pot holders or towels, just in case. Once the sugar mixture reaches 300 degrees Fahrenheit, remove the mixture from the heat. Add the flavor of your choice, and stir. Let me warn you, if you are using the cinnamon, peppermint or clove flavors you will want to adjust the amount. You will not need the whole amount of flavor because it is really, really strong. Just ask Brad.
Pour the mixture into the buttered pan. I know it sounds weird that I buttered it, but trust me, it's my magical tip. The butter does not affect the flavor at all. It just allows the candy to slide right out with no issue, no drama. As you can see, it is hot. 300 degrees hot.
Repeat with any other flavors that you are going to make. Just a tip: the easiest way that I have found to clean the pot and utensils is to fill the pot with hot water and set it on the stove to boil. The boiling water will loosen the candy and it will melt into the water. Easy.
Once the candy has cooled completely, you can break it into pieces. There are molds out there that allow for uniform pieces and neat little shapes, but I like to break it into random pieces. It is how Nan always did it, and it's how I will do it.
If it is humid when you are making candy, your candy might be sticky. This is easily solved by dusting confectioners' sugar over the top of the candy. Even if it isn't sticky, I always use the confectioners' sugar because I like the way that it looks. Pretty, right?
I bought cute little cellophane snowman bags to package the candy in. They will be delivered along with all of my Christmas cookies. Baking Day is in 3 more days!! I had better start preheating my oven. :)