Preparation Method

Boiling sugar syrupCandymaking is an exact science and an art, its success largely dependant on the knowledge of the science of sugar crystallization and timing. But, you need not worry because we show you how to make candy recipes without your having extensive training; we give you ample explanations of what to do when throughout our step-by-step  recipe-tutorials, posted with ample photos and information.

Candy preparation happens in steps:
STEP 1: PREPARE THE SUGAR SOLUTION the sugar solution is made from crystalline (table) sugar (sucrose), sometimes along with its close relative such as glucose or corn syrup (invert sugars), dissolved in water;

STEP 2: COOK (BOIL) THE SUGAR SOLUTION INTO A CONCENTRATED SUGAR SYRUP it is then, cooked (boiled) into a concentrated sugar syrup to a codified density and temperature, indicated on the CANDY - SYRUP TEMPERATURE CHART; and,

STEPS 3 AND 4: COOLING AND BEATING (OPTIONAL) It is allowed to cool and any kneading, beating and manipulation may follow.

Crystalline sugar (sucrose) is a disaccharide made up of individual crystals, which make it an ideal candidate for candy recipes. Sugar crystals are a an orderly arrangement of sucrose molecules, comprised of one molecule each of glucose and fructose bonded together around a nuclei. Identical sucrose molecules arrange themselves in orderly geometric patterns repeated over and over again in orderly arrangements, called crystals. The tendency of sucrose molecules to form crystalline forms, gives us the amazing variety of candy. 

Controlling sugar crystallization is one of the most important aspects during the Preparation of Candy - controlling the initial sugar solution or the proportion of sugar to water, concentrating the sugar syrup as its cooks, essentially filled with sugar crystals broken into individual molecules and, finally controlling the physical rearrangement of the crystals as it cools. Using ingredients and techniques, the candymaker can control how the broken-apart sugar molecules are physically rearranged back into the soft textures of caramels and fudges, where crystallization is minimized, to hard candies where crystallization results in a desired grainy or crystalline structure. 

The goal in preparing soft, creamy and smooth textured crystalline candy is to develop numerous very fine nuclei in the sugar syrup solution. They are formed by: 1) controlling the form and content of the sugar; 2) controlling the temperature; and, 3) stirring correctly. As the solution cools, the sugar crystallizes into the proper size. If the nuclei appear slowly in the syrup solution, there is more time for the sugar molecules to aggregate around the nuclei and form large crystals.

Non-crystalline candies are simpler to make as the goal is to stop crystallization from happening. Two methods used are: 1) to create a very concentrated sugar solution by cooking the sugar syrup solution to a higher temperature than crystallized candies; and/or, 2) adding large amounts of "interfering agents" or extra ingredients which inhibit nuclei formation or by decreasing the amount of water available for sugar to dissolve in. 

Candymaking has to be done with great skill because controlling crystallization does not occur as smoothly as one hopes because of the nature of sugar crystals; once the sugar molecules are broken apart through heat, their scientific attraction is to form an orderly crystalline arrangement, again, on their own. One misstep in any part of the process, the whole candy batch is ruined from the sugar molecules prematurely crystallizing or reordering themselves back into a crystalline structure.
SARAH SAYS: Sometimes you can see unwanted crystallization happening before your eyes, for example when the sugar syrup becomes a stiff and crackled mess in your pot upon cooling, ruining the whole batch. Sometimes you don't always see that unwanted crystallization has occurred until it's too late. For example, once I made homemade fudge and could hardly wait to taste it. When the moment came, and it bit into a piece, to my surprise it was sandy and gritty, rather than smooth and creamy! Into the garbage can it went.


This step is basically the same for crystalline and noncrystalline candy. There are different ingredient (formulas) used depending upon the candy recipe.

All sugar based candies, whether creamy or chewy or brittle, typically start out with crystalline sugar (sucrose), sometimes along with its close relative such as glucose or corn syrup (invert sugars), as its main ingredient. What determines the type of candy being made is done through the type and proportion of ingredients that make up the intial sugar solution, typically sugar dissolved in water.

Prepare the ingredients, pans and your worksurface:  Weighing ingredients is the most accurate way to measure solids, such as sugar, but it can also be measured in a dry measuring cup. Measure liquids in a liquid measuring cup or weigh. Prepare all equipment and tools in advance; you won't be able to once the candy making steps start. All pots and utensils must be spotless and dry. Prepare your worksurface. If using a buttered pan or mold at the end, always have it ready. Keep a container of ice water handy. If you accidentally spill hot ingredients on your hand, immediately plunge it into the ice water to stop the burn.

Dissolve the sugar (a solute) in liquid, typically water (a solvent): and optionally mixed with other ingredients to create a sugar solution. Sugars have a strong afinity for water; sucrose is the second most soluable sugar and two parts can readily dissolve in one part water, called a sugar solution, whereby forming temporary but strong bonds to water molecules in their vicinity.

The sugar and water ingredients are put into pot large enough so boiled sugar does not overflow and placed over medium heat. Stir the mixture constantly until the sugar is dissolved. 

Sucrose tolerates the high heat of boiling; after a sugar solution is formed, it can be heated and boiled to certain temperatures concentrating the solution as a sugar syrup, whereby chemical changes or reactions in the sugar crystals take place. 

Most candy recipes require that the sides of the pot be washed down early in the cooking process, either with a wet pastry brush or by putting the lid on the pan for a few minutes to remove any sugar crystals clinging to the container walls. Afterwards, clamp or place a candy thermometer on the side of the pan.

Creamy Chocolate Fudge RecipeDepending on the candy being made, the syrup is boiled to a codified temperature, measured with a Candy Thermometer, and/or to the syrup's specific concentration indicated on the CANDY - SYRUP TEMPERATURE CHART. Keep the temperature constant; never try to rush a candy mixture by cooking it at a higher temperature than the recipe directs, or slow it down by reducing the heat.

The high heat dissolves the sugar, evaporates the water and breaks apart the sugar's molecules, causing the sugar syrup to get hotter and denser, resulting in a sugar syrup with concentrated sugar molecules. At this point, the sugar molecules are tightly concentrated in the water, reaching a supersaturation state, while at the same time more unstable. Any unnecessary jarring, stirring or bumping of the pot during the boiling phase, will cause the unorganized sugar molecules to recrystallize, or form an ordered sugar crystallline structure, ruining the whole batch. 

Even without heat, crystallized sugar will dissolve in water. Up to a certain point, that is. The general principle with candy making is that at a particular temperature, a given solvent (in this case, water) can dissolve only so much of a particular solute (sugar), reaching its saturation point where no more sugar can be dissolved. In other words, sugar crystals added to the solution after saturation will just sink to the bottom of the container. But heating the sugar/water solution will increase the amount of sugar that can be dissolved. That's because heat disrupts sugar's crystalline structure, breaking apart the sugar's molecules which allow more of it to dissolve in the water. As you have probably already found out, sugar dissolves more readily in hot liquids than in cold.

As the sugar solution continues to be heated, the sugar's molecules move faster and become farther apart, enabling the solution to dissolve more and more sugar molecules, until it boils. Here, the sugar solution turns into a clear, syrupy substance, called a sugar syrup. Sugar syrups have various other uses than in candy making, such as soaking cakes, glazing baked goods, poaching or preserving fruit, adding to frostings, etc.

Once the solution boils, many water molecules are released into the air, concentrating the solution as a sugar syrup and raising its boiling point. In general, a solid, such as sugar, dissolved in a liquid makes it harder for the liquid molecules to escape. Consequently, the solution has to be hotter for the liquid molecules to get away at the same rate, and the boiling point rises.

As boiling point increases, the concentration of solute continues to increase. You can use the temperature of the boiling syrup to tell when enough water has boiled away to give the syrup the right ratio of sugar to water for each candy recipe. For example, the boiling point of water is usually 212 degrees F. However, when the liquid is around 70 percent sugar, the boiling temperature rises to 230 degrees. At 240 degrees F, the solution will be 80 percent sugar, and a small portion of the solution will form a soft ball when dropped in cold water. At about 300 degrees, the solution, now about 98 percent sugar. Sugar begins to melt around 320 degrees F and caramelize around 340 degrees F.

As the solution is heated to above the boiling point, the solution becomes supersaturated. Here, more water evaporates and the concentration of sugar crystals to water increases. Now the solution has a delicate balance of just enough sugar molecules and just enough heat to keep them dissolved, but it is in an unstable state. The sugar molecules will begin to crystallize back into a solid at the least provocation and disruption of heat. Stirring or jostling of any kind or introducing a new sugar crystal from an outside source into syrup, can cause the sugar molecules to begin recrystallizing to return to their original, dry and stable crystalline state.

Sometimes you can see unwanted crystallization happening before your eyes, for example when the sugar syrup becomes a stiff and crackled mess in your pot upon cooling, ruining the whole batch. Sometimes you don't always see that unwanted crystallization has occurred until it's too late. For example, once I made homemade fudge and could hardly wait to taste it. When the moment came, and it bit into a piece, to my surprise it was sandy and gritty, rather than smooth and creamy! Into the garbage can it went.

The sugar solution is cooled and beaten, which in part controls how these individual sugar molecules come back together again as crystals. The goal in making crystalline candies is the formation of ordered sugar crystals, whereas the goal in making noncrystalline candy is to inhibit their formation.

Whether you cool and/or stir the sugar syrup during cooking or afterwards is determined by the type of candy being made. Many of the non-crystalline candies are poured out of pan immediately after cooking. They harden quickly because their are made from highly dehydrated sugar syrups and any agitation or stirring will cause unwanted crystallization. For example, in the case of caramels and hard candy, such as lollipops, their finished cooked recipes are poured directly into their molds or pans, and left to cool.

Pre-cool the concentrated sugar syrup: When boiling stops, the rate at which the solution is cooled is dictated by the type of candy being made. 

The higher temperature the sugar syrup is boiled to, slower the rate of crystallization, which becomes more rapid at a lower temperature. If you cool quickly after you boil at a known heat, the candy forms as a crystalline or brittle type such as rock candy. At a bit slower cooling after boiling at the same temperature, the candy forms a non-crystalline structure known as a taffy or caramel. Lastly, if you add a gelatin, starch, pectin, or gum to the boiling mixture the sugar will gel and make products like jelly beans, Turkish delight, and licorices. 

For fudge, pour the candy mixture at once onto a work surface. Do not be scrape the pan's sides or bottom; there is too much chance of scraping in a stray sugar crystal. The mixture is set aside to cool slowly to about 110 degrees F.

Beat (Knead): When boiling stops and the cooling process starts, if you've done everything right, the syrup continues to cool as a supersaturated solution and you get the recrystallization you want, the size of which is also influenced by stirring, kneading or beating. Fudge is kneaded to break crystals into smaller pieces, making its texture smooth and creamy.

Homemade Marshmallows Tutorial RecipeShape and Final cooling: There are two main ways of forming sweets: cutting into pieces, or setting in molds. Molds may be as simple as greased and lined pans or those which make more complex impressions. 

After kneading, fudge is pressed into a pan and left to set.

The white stuff we know as sugar is sucrose, a molecule composed of 12 atoms of carbon, 22 atoms of hydrogen, and 11 atoms of oxygen (C12H22O11). Like all compounds made from these three elements, sugar is a carbohydrate. It’s found naturally in most plants, but especially in sugarcane and sugar beets — hence their names.

The variables for controlling crystallization in candy are:
Unwanted crystallization can occur at any time during the making of sugar candy, ruining the recipe. That's because sugar crystals look for any excuse during the candy making process to return to their original, dry and stable state. Crystallization at the wrong time can be obvious early on when the sugar solution becomes cloudy or the whole mixture will literally freeze turning into a crackled mess. Sometimes crystallization is found when it's too late, such as when biting into fudge or caramel and you find its texture is like sand. 

However, sugar cannot start to crystallize at the wrong time without something to serve as a seed, pattern, or nuclei. It takes only ONE little, tiny crystal at the side of the pan, introduced from an outside source, to act as a seed, causing nearby crystals to follow the leader, ruining the whole batch.

1. Interfering Agents: Ordered crystallization in non-crystalline candy or an interference with crystal growth in crystalline candy is prevented by ingredients. These ingredients are called interfering agents. Check candy formulas to see what types are used. 
2. Start with clean bowls, pans and utensils: The first step to keeping any candy from crystallizing is to start with clean, dry bowls, pans and utensils. Having a foreign object in the pan, like old, dried caramel or dirt, will cause crystals to congregate and grow. In addition, introducing the mixture with sugar crystals (seeding) from a thermometer or spoon can start the crystallization process. These utensils should be cleaned and dried between uses and the pan should not be scraped. The thermometer should only be placed in the pot at the appropriate time.

3. Dissolve the sugar completely before the boil: If one tiny speck of a sugar crystal that hasn't been dissolved falls into the mixture during cooking, the whole batch will return to a solid state, ruining it.  Place the sugar in the pot by pouring it in the center. You don't want a lot of unwanted crystals to adhere to the sides. Pour in the water, washing the sides of the pan as you do. Mix the sugar and water together with your finger, by drawing an "X" across the sugar. You can also combine further, but avoid touching the sides with the sugar. Never stir your candy after the sugar crystals are completely dissolved in the water and when it has started boiling - this will incite the formation of big crystals that will make your candy grainy when it cools.

4. Keep the sides of the pan clean at all times: To ensure all crystals are off the side of the pan, oil the sides of your pan right up to sugar syrup's water line before you begin cooking. Because the fat is slippery, the crystals won't cling to the sides of the pan. After dissolving the sugar crystals and before boiling, you can also get rid of unwanted crystals on the side of the pan by: brushing the sides of the pan with a heatproof pastry brush dipped in water or by leaving the cover on the pan so steam forms, condenses and then washes off the side of the pan. 

5. Concentratie the solution to the appropriate degree: Candy solutions are boiled to a particular temperature and color, which are recorded on a Sugar Syrup Chart. During this process, the water evaporates and sugar in the solution becomes more concentrated. When the concentration of sugar increases, the boiling point of the solution also increases. As the temperature is raised, the solubility of the sugar increases and more can be held in solution making the mixture unstable and more prone to crystallizing at the wrong time.

6. Supersaturating the syrup to the appropriate degree: During cooking, the sugar solution is becoming supersaturated or it holds more sugar in the solution than normal. What you cannot see in the syrup is the sugar molecules have broken apart and is highly saturated with them, and very unstable - the candy molecules are bumping into another in a very tight space. The nature of sugar molecules is that the least agitation, such as bumping into the pan, picking it up and moving it or stirring at the wrong time will cause them return to their original orderly crystalline structure.  Sometimes this is referred to as "sugaring." Recipes will point out that the candy should not be disturbed.

7. Stirring or Agitation: gives the desired size of sugar crystals, unless done at the wrong time. Whether fudge has a grainy or smooth texture is determined by controlling the sugar crystallization through stirring, beating or kneading. 

Whether you stir the sugar syrup or not during cooking or afterwards is determined by the type of candy being made. Each recipe has its own specific mixing instructions that are important to follow carefully. If candy is agitated at temperatures higher than recommended, the crystals formed will be very large, adversely affecting the texture of the finished recipe. 

If the syrup is cooled and not stirred, it is a saturated solution. Then when you stir it, millions of tiny crystals form resulting in a smooth texture. With rapid stirring, more baby crystals are formed which is perfect when making Fudge or other creamy candies.

As you stir, the candy will begin to lose its glossy appearance, becoming somewhat opaque and lighter in color. As crystallization proceeds, the candy will become much thicker and cease to flow. At this point, crystallization is complete and candy should be removed from the pan as quickly as possible.

When the temperature and color of the sugar solution is reached, as specified in the recipe, the pan is immediately removed from the heat. (Note that the temperature of the mixture continues to rise even after it has been removed, so some recipes have you quickly cool the mixture by placing the pot in ice water). Optionally, cream, nuts, etc. can be added all at once and quickly combined with a clean and dry wooden spoon. With the addition of a liquid, such as cream, which causes the darkening sugar to bubble up violently for a few seconds. Stir madly and it will settle down into a creamy, golden syrup that can be made even more tasty with the addition of vanilla or other flavorings.

When done, the candy mixture is cooled by pouring its contents onto a marble slab, silpat mat or into a glass bowl or into a pan or mold to harden. (Do not scrape the bottom of the pan while removing its contents, unless specified.) Cooling is important in determining the size of the crystals. If you cool the sugar syrup quickly after you boil it to a known heat, the candy forms as a crystalline or brittle type such as rock candy. At a bit slower cooling after boiling at the same temperature, the candy forms a non-crystalline structure known as a taffy or caramel. If you stir a concentrated sugar syrup only occasionally, while hot, few crystals form. They become bigger as the mixture cools. Upon cooling, the sugar can crystallize into several small crystals or one large mass, depending upon what's being made. This is not desirable for fudge, because it will have a gritty texture. 

Temperature has an impact, as well: for a more crystalline candy like Fudge or Fondant, the mixture is boiled to 235 - 240 degrees F and then set aside to cool slowly. When it reaches 110 degrees F, it is stirred again to break crystals into smaller pieces, making the fudge smooth and creamy. When making rock candy, the solution is cooked to 250 - 265 degrees F and not stirred during cooling, allowing large sugar crystals to form. To make hard candy like lollipops, the solution is heated to 300 - 310 degrees F and cooled quickly.

During the first phase, the sugar solution is boiled on the stovetop at high heat, the ordered sugar crystals are broken into molecules floating in water, becoming a When boiling stops and the cooling process starts, if you've done everything right, the syrup continues to cool as a supersaturated solution and you get the recrystallization you want, the size of which is also influenced by stirring, kneading or beating. Or, no crystallization, which is to simply pour the heated solution into individual candy molds, such as lollipops, and let them set undisturbed.

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