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The most important thing to do before making any kind of candy is having all the essential tools. Here are some that I recommend, however they will vary by recipe. Most tools you will have on hand already; others can be purchased at a general cookware or cake decorating store. Not all tools are needed when making a candy recipe; it will direct you as to what you need. For stores carrying candy making supplies, see Pantry: Sources.
Pots: Many candies scorch easily in lightweight pans.
- Heavy (copper, anodized aluminum, cast aluminum or cast iron) pot with deep and straight sides; this will help prevent boil overs. If sugar is boiled in too small a pot, the bottom of the solution burns quickly and becomes dark and bitter-tasting.
- It should be large enough to hold 3 to 4 times the volume of the ingredients; typically a 2- to 3-quart capacity for making sugar candy.
- Preferably the large pot's bottom should be the same size as your burner to minimize heat fluctuations in the candy.
- Oil the sides of the pot to prevent crystals from sticking or boiling-over only if there is fat added to the recipe in the beginning of the recipe
Pans or molds: The pan or mold needs to be heat safe since you may be pouring molten sugar syrup directly into it. This effectively rules out plastic ones.
Spoons: Long handled wooden spoons unless you can find heat proof metal spoons. Plastic spatula will melt since this solution is much hotter than boiling water. Make sure it is clean and dry EVERY TIME you dip it in the candy mixture to stir.
Candy Thermometer: When to stop cooking the sugar syrup, is indicated by either temperature and/or what it looks like when dropped in cold water, called the Cold Water (Viscosity) Test. They are recorded on CANDY - SYRUP TEMPERATURE CHART. Experienced candy makers use the Cold Water Test and know when it's done, but I recommend using a Candy Thermometer at all times. Mine is made by Taylor (or Wilton) and is mounted on a metal frame, preventing the bulb from accidentally touching the bottom of the pan, which will give false readings. Select one that registers from 100 to 400 degrees F .
Before you start making candy, calibrate your candy thermometer: Water should boil at 212 degrees F. Measure the boiling point of water with your new thermometer by leaving it in boiling water for 10 minutes. Add or subtract any difference when determining the end-point of the boil of your sugar slurry. (However, I always recommend getting a new one if it is very far off).
Tips: Once attached to the pan, it should be left there for the duration of cooking. When finished, remove and let thermometer completely cool before storing.
- Buy a thermometer with a clip that attaches to the side of your pan.
- Every time you place the thermometer in the pot, make sure it is spotless and dry. A speck of old sugar left on it could ruin the whole batch by crystallizing it.
- When you start to cook your candy, have the thermometer nearby, resting in a container of WARM water. Be sure to dry it before using. Then it will be preheated when you lower it into the hot mixture.
- Knowing when to stop boiling the sugar solution is crucial. Stopping the boil at 234 degrees F really means 232 0r 233 degrees F for an semi-experienced candy maker. Don't sit and watch the thermometer climb to 234 or 235 degrees F 'just to be sure.' The candy will continue to cook and heat even when removed from the heat. Remember, over boiling is as bad as under boiling.
- When you remove the thermometer, put it back into the HOT water. To remove sticky sugar, while still warm, place in hot water.
- Dry and let the thermometer cool before putting away. I keep mine in the drawer where it won't be disturbed.
- Be careful when reading the Candy Temperature. If you leave the thermometer in the pan, you may notice the temperature rises even after the candy is removed from the stove because it continues to cook.
- Make sure the quantity in the pot great enough to get an accurate reading off the thermometer. Insufficient quantities usually result in over-cooked syrups.
How to use a Candy Thermometer
- Make sure the initial ingredients have been mixed, stirred and heated, and right BEFORE they begin to boil. You should no longer to feel any grains of sugar against the bottom of the pan.
- Clean the sugar from the sides of the pan with a damp pastry brush.
- Clip the candy thermometer to pan right BEFORE syrup begins to boil. The bulb of the thermometer must be covered with boiling liquid, not just foam, but it should never touch the bottom or sides of the pan.
Make sure you read the Candy Thermometer at eye level for an accurate reading.
Spatulas: At least 2 or 3 that can handle high temperatures
Ice water: in a large bowl, big enough to fit the pot when immersed and ready to dip your hands in in case of burns.
Pastry brushes: Whenever a recipe calls for a hot, cooked sugar mixture, you will need to wash down the sides of the pan with a heat-proof pastry brush dipped in water. This prevents crystallization that would ruin the batch.
Stand mixer with paddle attachment (not a hand-held one), optional (just easier than mixing by hand)
Liquid and dry measuring cups & spoons
Sieve or perforated spoon with heat-proof handles for skimming
Cooling and kneading surface: Marble or granite surface or vegetable-sprayed parchment paper placed on the back of a baking sheet, or a Silpat mat.
Aluminum foil: For a candy making surface that can take the heat, use a sheet of foil. Spread candies such as peanut brittle, fudge and almond bark into a thin layer on a foil-lined cookie sheet. There's no sticking and no cleanup.
Vegetable oil spray
Timer or clock
Good oven mitts, preferably ones that cover your forearm.
Dehumidifying agent (silica blue gel or quicklime) to protect the finished pieces.
Glycerin; glycerine The commercial name for glycerol, a colorless, odorless, syrupy liquid--chemically, an alcohol--obtained from fats and oils and used to retain moisture and add sweetness to foods. It also helps prevent sugar crystallization in foods like candy. Available from wilton.com.
• Kitchen scissors
• Heat lamp to keep sugar warm and pliable
• Leaf mold to form larger rose leaves
• Oiled metal spatula for sugar ribbons
For Sugar Cages, Corkscrews, Teeter-Totters, Shards:
• Ladle, copper or stainless steel mixing bowl or other bowl to form cage shape
• Knife-sharpening steel or wooden spoon to form corkscrews
• Dinner knife or narrow metal spatula for teeter-totters and shards
For Spun Sugar:
•Metal whisk with end cut off and wires spread slightly or long, narrow metal spatula
For Pulled Sugar:
•Lemon juice (delays re-crystallization and gives sugar flexibility)
•Small drop bottle