The Essential Guide To Making Homemade Candy

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The Technique

The Essential Guide To Making Homemade Candy

When sugar & liquids such as water or milk are combined & cooked down into various syrup stages, you are well on your way to hand crafting some of the South’s most iconic reception, holiday & celebratory event offerings. Divinity, fudge, pralines & nut brittles are truly some of the easiest treats to make in your own kitchen. In many cases, the only major equipment needed is a heavy bottomed pot, a spoon, a pan & a candy thermometer– the thermometer will take the guess work out of knowing when to pull the mixture off of the heat. Over the next few weeks, drop by for a daily tutorial & learn how to prepare some of your favorite confections. I would be willing to bet that you more than likely have the ingredients stashed away in your cupboard just waiting for you to give these recipes a try. 

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Handcrafted confections are some of the most lovely morsels as they can satisfy a craving for something sweet & make delightful gifts as well. Homemade caramels, fudge & toffee make memorable hostess gifts that the honoree can enjoy long after the social has wrapped. Consider curating a variety of confections & display them in a box for something even more attractive.

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From pans to parchment & temperature ranges to visual cues. Hone your skills & learn to prepare some of your favorite classic confections. Brush up on a little knowledge now & put it to use in the weeks ahead. Here’s what you should know.

How To Make Homemade Candy Cooking Classics. Bourbon-Pecan Brittle By Rebecca Gordon Editor-In-Chief Buttermilk Lipstick A Culinary & Entertaining Brand. Cooking & Baking Tutorials By Rebecca Gordon's Buttermilk Lipstick Pastry Chef Writer Food Stylist Digital Culinary Photo Journalist TV Cooking Personality Modern Southern Socials Game Day EntertainingNo. 1

The Temperatures & Candy Stages 

Boiling Point
212 degrees

Simple Syrup
A simple syrup is created when water & sugar are brought to a boil & cooked until the sugar granules dissolve. It can be used to sweeten iced tea & cocktails or brushed over spongy, genoise cake layers to help provide moisture. You can steep split vanilla bean pods or fresh mint once the mixture is pulled from the heat to add an extra flavor boost.

Thread 
230 to 234 degrees

Dessert Sauces
The syrup will literally form threads when dropped into water. They will not compress & form a ball.

Soft Ball
234 to 240 degrees

Pralines * Old-Fashioned Chocolate Fudge * Fondant
The syrup forms a soft ball when dropped into water but flattens out once removed.

Firm Ball
242 to 248 degrees

Caramels
The syrup forms a firm ball when dropped into water that retains it’s shape once removed. It’s a pliable mass that can flatten if pressed.

Hard Ball
250 to 268 degrees

Divinity * Nougat * Marshmallows
The syrup will form a ball when dropped into water & hold its shape when removed yet it will still be pliable. You can change the shape with pressure.

Soft Crack
270 to 290 degrees

Candy Apples * Taffy
The syrup forms hard, pliable threads when dropped into water & when removed, they will be flexible before cracking.

Hard Crack
300 to 310 degrees

English Toffee * Peanut Brittle * Lollipops
The syrup forms brittle threads once dropped into water.

How To Make Homemade Candy Cooking Classics. Bourbon-Pecan Brittle By Rebecca Gordon Editor-In-Chief Buttermilk Lipstick A Culinary & Entertaining Brand. Cooking & Baking Tutorials By Rebecca Gordon's Buttermilk Lipstick Pastry Chef Writer Food Stylist Digital Culinary Photo Journalist TV Cooking Personality Modern Southern Socials Game Day EntertainingNo. 2

The Cooking Pointers

The Visuals

As the syrup cooks, it can also be tested the old-fashioned way to determine whether or not you have reached the correct temperature for the candy in which you’re making. How the syrup responds once it’s dropped into a cup of water can give you clues as to what stage you have reached. It basically boils down to the percentage of sugar remaining due to the amount of evaporation that has taken place which can further be gauged by the size of the bubbles over the surface of the mixture as it cooks. The amount of steam still escaping out of the pot is another visual indicator that can provide solid information as to whether you should pull the pot from the heat or not. Use the temperatures & tips below to determine the stage you have reached in the candy making process when preparing some of your cherished heirloom recipes.

When To Stir & When Not To Stir

When preparing candy, many times it is thought that you should never stir the solution while it is cooking in an effort to prevent crystallization of the sugar as it’s imperative that new sugar granules are not reintroduced to the mixture. Crystallization is a chain reaction of sorts when one single sugar granule is present in a solution of water & sugar that is cooking. Once the process is set in motion, it does not stop. If allowed to continue, you could end up with a sauce or a pot of candy that is grainy in texture. Rock candy essentially thrives on crystallization but it is not desired for most candy & confection applications. 

Many cooks will take preventive measures in order to further avoid this from happening. The sides of the pot can be washed down using water & a pastry brush as the mixture is coming to a boil or you can place the lid over the pot briefly which will create steam & it will naturally wash down the sides if any stray sugar granules are present. I find that if you carefully stir the water & the sugar together once the process begins, these steps are not necessary. Proceed according to your own comfort level.

There are some combinations of ingredients that will require you to stir the mixture while it is being cooked over the heat to either keep the solution cohesive or to prevent ingredients from sticking to the bottom of the pot even when placed over a moderate heat level. The main take away is to pay close attention to how each recipe is written & to follow the instructions accordingly as to when the stirring action should take place or when you should pay particular attention that stray sugar granules do not thwart your efforts early in the process.

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The Additions

Some of the recipes I have selected to share with you include additional components designed to enhance the flavor & the texture of the candy. Toasted pecans, roasted almonds, pumpkin seeds, spices & liquor make lovely compliments to the confections & often times they are ways to counterbalance the overt sweetness of them. In many cases, these items are added last before the candy is to be turned out into the prepared pan so having these ingredients measured ahead of time & ready at a moments notice is crucial for success. If liquids are being added, expect bubbling & large amounts of steam to be released. Be cautious & careful during these moments.

Cooking Classics. Homemade Caramels By Rebecca Gordon Editor-In-Chief Buttermilk Lipstick Culinary & Entertaining Brand Cooking & Baking Tutorials For Everyday Cooks Pastry Chef Digital Culinary Photo Journalist Food Stylist Writer Tv Cooking Personality Game Day Entertaining Modern Southern Socials How To Make Homemade CaramelsNo. 4

The Pan Preparations

Have pans ready well in advance. Making candy is sticky business. Spray utensils, pans & parchment paper generously when instructed. Target temperatures guide the process & hot, liquid sugar does not wait for anyone. If anything, it simply grows hotter off of the heat. Have the pans close by for a quick transfer. Once it has been poured into the pan, that pan will be extremely hot & may prove difficult to handle. Use oven mitts as needed or place small pans on half sheet pans that can be transferred easily to a spot for the candy to become firm.

Cooking Classics. Homemade Caramels By Rebecca Gordon Editor-In-Chief Buttermilk Lipstick Culinary & Entertaining Brand Cooking & Baking Tutorials For Everyday Cooks Pastry Chef Digital Culinary Photo Journalist Food Stylist Writer Tv Cooking Personality Game Day Entertaining Modern Southern Socials How To Make Homemade CaramelsNo. 5

The Cooling, The Portioning & The Wrapping

Patience is key. Be certain to cool the confections completely before cutting them & take your time. If you rush, they will not look good. Most of the portioning will be simple as many items can be cut in half over & over again resulting in perfect little pieces of candy. There are some candies that will need to be wrapped individually for the best texture & so that they hold their shape. In many cases, simple rectangles & squares can be cut from wax paper. 

Cooking Classics. Homemade Caramels By Rebecca Gordon Editor-In-Chief Buttermilk Lipstick Culinary & Entertaining Brand Cooking & Baking Tutorials For Everyday Cooks Pastry Chef Digital Culinary Photo Journalist Food Stylist Writer Tv Cooking Personality Game Day Entertaining Modern Southern Socials How To Make Homemade CaramelsNo. 6

The Clean Up

Candy making is sticky business. In most cases, you can fill the saucepan that was used with water & place it back on the stove eye. Submerge any utensils in it & bring the water to a boil. Any remaining sugar syrup will disintegrate during the process.

The Tune
“Sugartime” The McGuire Sisters

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About Rebecca Gordon

* Southern Born * Southern Bred * Tailgate Queen * Southern College Football Fanatic * SEC Tailgate Strategist * Southern Recipe Writer & Sometimes Novelist * Half-Hour Hostess * Media Personality * Houndstooth Hound Owner * Small Town Dreamer * Big Idea Doer * 3rd Generation Pimiento Cheese Fixer * Casserole Maker * Budweiser Drinker * Bourbon Cocktail Sipper * Peanut Butter Love Affair * Cookie Monster * Calorie Burner * Retainer of Useless Pop Culture One Liners * Terrible Dancer * Even Worse Singer but doesn't care * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Rebecca Gordon shares over 20 years of cooking knowledge in the instructional filled original editorial content on Buttermilk Lipstick as well as the cooking class format videos that can be found on her YouTube channel through regular collaboration with numerous media outlets. Gordon draws from an extensive background in corporate publishing spanning over 13 years on both the business and editorial side focusing on women’s southern lifestyle. She is a classically trained pastry chef and draws from fine dining restaurant experience from a James Beard award winning chef as well as her southern roots upbringing to share cooking, entertaining & style content relevant to today’s modern woman.

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