I have fond memories of making candy during the holidays with my mother, grandmother and aunts. The holidays is the only time we made candy and I am sure for many of you that is the same. I can still remember the beautiful glass tray full of fudge, divinity, pecan pralines, pink peanut patties and bon bons that sat on the counter. Then the annual delivering of gift trays to friends.
If you are new to candy making, or just want to brush up on those skills, here are a few tips to make have a successful candy making experience.
A good, accurate candy thermometer is a must. This thermometer isn't interchangeable with others. It will have an adjustable clip that allows it to rest against the side of a heavy pan. To test the accuracy of your candy thermometer, place the bulb in a pan of rapidly boiling water. Be careful not to let the bulb touch the bottom of the pan. Read the temperature at eye level while the thermometer is in the water. It should read 212 degrees F, while the water is boiling.
If the thermometer does not measure boiling temperature correctly, remember to adjust the candy temperature during cooking to reflect the difference.
Choose a dry day (not humid) for making candy. Weather can be a factor. If you choose to make it on a rainy day, you may need to cook it a degree or two higher than stated in the recipe.
A heavy pan is essential to prevent scorching or burning. It needs to be the correct size to prevent candy from boiling over. Not just any pan will work.
Using only the best and freshest ingredients. If your recipe calls for butter, you can use either salted or unsalted. Margarines or butter spreads may not be a good substitute because they do not create the correct texture in the final candy, because of the emulsifiers and other ingredients added to their formulas. Butter also gives candy that rich, creamy taste and texture.
When making fudge, it must be cooked to a full boil until the mixture reaches 242 degrees F. If you fail to do this, the result may be soft, sticky fudge. When storing, it is best to use wax paper to individually wrap or separate layers in storage container.
When displaying them on a tray to eat or give away, do not mix candies. Those that absorb moisture (caramels, mints, hard candies, toffee) in the same container as candies that lose moisture (fudge, fondant, meringues). If these types of candies are mixed, the hard candies will become sticky.
If you happen to make more than you can eat or give away at the holidays, package them, wrapped tightly in plastic food wrap or aluminum foil, label, date, and freeze. To serve, thaw wrapped candy at room temperature for 1 to 2 hours.
Candy making is a family tradition for many. Now that you know some of the tricks to making great, quality candy, why not make it a tradition at your house.
I would like to share with you a few of my favorite candy recipes.
Super Easy Fudge
1 package cream drops
2/3 cup peanut butter
Butter flavored cooking spray
Spray 8-inch square pan with cooking spray. Combine cream drops and peanut butter in microwave safe bowl. Microwave 1 minute, stir, and microwave 30 seconds more. Pour into prepared 8-inch square pan.
Pink Peanut Patties
3 cups raw peanuts
3 cups sugar
1 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup water
1 stick butter
Dash of salt
1 tsp vanilla
Red food coloring
In a large, heavy saucepan, mix sugar, syrup, water, butter and peanuts. Bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and add butter, salt, vanilla and 2 drops red food coloring. Beat until thick, and spoon onto buttered foil, or cookie sheets.
Grandma Brown's Divinity
2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup hot water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a heavy, 2 quart saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, hot water and salt. Cook and stir until the sugar dissolves and the mixture comes to a boil. Then cook to hard ball stage without stirring, 250 degrees F (120 degrees C.) Frequently wipe crystals forming on the sides of the pan using a pastry brush dipped in water. Remove from heat.
Just as the syrup is reaching temperature, begin whipping egg whites: In a large glass or stainless steel mixing bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Pour hot syrup in a thin stream over beaten egg whites, beating constantly with the electric mixer at medium speed. Increase speed to high, and continue beating for about 5 minutes. Add vanilla; continue beating until the mixture becomes stiff and begins to lose its gloss. If it is too stiff, add a few drops hot water.
Immediately drop by teaspoons onto waxed paper. For a decorative flair, twirl the top with the spoon when dropping or garnish with pecan half. Let stand until set. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
For more information, contact the Miller County Extension Office, 870-779-3609 or visit us in room 215 at the Miller County Courthouse. We're online at [email protected], on Facebook at UAEXMillerCountyFCS, on Twitter @MillerCountyFCS or on the web at uaex.edu/Miller.
Carla Due is a county extension agent-staff chair, with the Miller County Extension Service, part of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture.