Homemade candy

Feed Your
Sweet Tooth

Taffy, fudge, caramels and lollipops are just a few of the goodies you can make in the comfort of your own kitchen on days when your sweet tooth won't take "no" for an answer.

Candy-makingThe keys to success when making candy is temperature, attention, and patience. Candy thermometers give you an edge because — in addition to degrees — they actually list the different stages of candy.For example, if you are making fudge, a soft candy, you want the temperature to reach and stay in the soft-ball range. If you are making lollipops, a hard candy, you know that your candy temperature needs to reach the hard-crack stage.While you are cooking your sugary sweet concoctions, keep an eye on the thermometer to make sure you reach the right temperatures, not above or below. If you have never made candy before, be patient, it is a matter of getting familiar with technique.The following recipes give you a variety of candies to hone your candy-making skills.

Chocolate-Walnut Fudge

Makes 2 poundsIngredients:
3 (1-ounce each) squares unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
3 cups sugar
1 cup half-and-half
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnutsDirections:
1. Butter the bottom of an 8-inch square pan.
2. Combine the chocolate, sugar, half-and-half, corn syrup, and salt in a large saucepot fitted with a candy thermometer. Heat over medium-low heat, stirring continually with a wooden spoon until the chocolate melts and the mixture boils.
3. Let the mixture cook, without stirring, until the temperature reaches 235 to 240 degrees F. If sugar crystals stick to the side, use a pastry brush dipped in water to brush down.
5. Take the pot off the heat and let mixture cool to 110 degrees F. This can take a few minutes.
6. When the mixture is cooled, stir in vanilla and butter, using a wooden spoon. Add the nuts. Continue to stir the fudge for about 15 minutes or until it sets and the color lightens. The appearance of the fudge will go from glossy to dull.
7. When the fudge is set, pour it into the prepared pan and smooth it out with a spatula. Let cool for a few hours then invert the pan onto a cutting board. Cut into 1-inch squares and store in an airtight container layered with wax paper.

Caramels

Makes 1 poundIngredients:
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons butter, plus extra for greasing
1/2 teaspoon vanillaDirections:
1. Butter the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish.
2. Combine the heavy cream, sugar, corn syrup, and salt in a large saucepot fitted with a candy thermometer. Heat over medium heat, stirring continually with a wooden spoon until the sugar is dissolved.
3. Mix in the butter and stir until it melts and is fully incorporated.
4. Let the mixture cook, without stirring, until the temperature reaches 245 to 250 degrees F. If sugar crystals stick to the side, use a pastry brush dipped in water to brush down.
5. Stir in the vanilla and then pour the mixture into the prepared pan.
6. Let the caramel cool completely then invert onto a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to cut into 1-inch squares.
7. Store the caramels in an airtight container between layers of wax paper.

Saltwater Taffy

Makes 50 piecesIngredients:
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup light corn syrup
2 teaspoons glycerin (optional)
3/4 cup water
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 to 1 teaspoon flavoring (such as vanilla, lemon, maple, or mint)
3 drops food coloring (optional)Directions:
1. Combine sugar and cornstarch in a large saucepot fitted with the candy thermometer. Add corn syrup, glycerin, water, butter, and salt. Heat over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.
2. Bring mixture to a boil and cook, without stirring, until the temperature reaches 270 degrees F.
3. Take the pot off the heat and stir in the food coloring and flavoring. Pour onto a greased cookie sheet and let cool.
4. When the taffy is cool enough to handle, grease your hands with oil or butter and pull until the color lightens and has a glossy sheen. This will take about 10 minutes.
5. Roll the taffy into a long rope and cut it with scissors into bite sized pieces. Let the pieces rest for an hour then wrap in plastic wrap or wax paper. Store in a cool, dry place.

Lollipops

Makes 10Ingredients:
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 to 1 teaspoon flavoring
Liquid food coloring
1 to 2 teaspoons citric acid (optional)Directions:
1. Prepare an upside-down cookie sheet by covering it with parchment paper and spraying it with oil. If you're using molds, spray with oil. Place them on a cookie sheet and place the lollipop sticks in molds.
2. In a large saucepot over medium heat, combine the sugar, corn syrup, water, and cream of tartar and stir with a wooden spoon until the sugar crystals dissolve.
3. Continue to stir until the syrup boils. Use a pastry brush damp with warm water and brush down any sugar crystals clinging to the sides of the pan.
4. Clip the candy thermometer to the side of the pan, being careful not to let it touch the bottom or sides, and let the syrup boil without stirring until the thermometer reaches 300 degrees F.
5. Take the pan off the heat and let the syrup cool to about 275 degrees F. before adding the flavor, color, and citric acid, if using.
6. Working quickly, pour small (2-inch) circles onto the prepared cookie sheet and place a lollipop sticks in each one, twisting the sticks to be sure they are covered with candy. If using molds, pour the syrup into the prepared molds, twisting the sticks to coat.
7. Let the lollipops cool for at least 10 minutes or until they are hard. When completely cooled, wrap individually in plastic wrap or wax paper and seal with tape or twist ties. Store in a cool, dry place.

Pralined Almonds

Makes about 1 1/2 cupsIngredients:
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup slivered almondsDirections:
1. Heat sugars and cream over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until sugars dissolve. Bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat to medium. Cook until softball stage (238 degrees F.).
2. Mix in the almonds and cook to hardball stage (248 degrees F.). Pour onto a cookie sheet to cool. Pull apart any large clumps of almonds. Cool completely and store in an airtight container.



Suggested reading:

The Ultimate Candy Book 

Candy Making for Dummies

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