Chapter 12 : General Guidelines for Cooking Candy

I. Cooking candy is not like cooking regular dishes. Solid and liquid sweeteners have one thing in common – sugar crystals.

Sugar crystals are quite delicate and react quickly to the introduction of heat. More often than not, you will find that the bottom part of your batch has burned (at least slightly) because of direct contact with the pot or kettle.

Do not attempt to save the hardened candy that has stuck to the bottom of the saucepan or pot. The burnt flavor of this hardened candy will affect the taste of the entire batch. Instead, use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides of the pot. Leave the bottom part for washing later.

II. As a candy maker, remember that you can exert full control over what is happening to your batch of candy.

At any point during the cooking process, you can cool down the entire batch by submerging the entire cooking ware in ice water. This step is quite useful when the temperature of the candy suddenly exceeds the ideal or target cooking temperature.

III. The size of the pot or kettle that you will be using is very, very important. We cannot emphasize enoughhow the size of the cooking ware will affect the outcome of your first candy recipe.

The size of the pot should ideally be three to four times larger than the actual volume of all the ingredients of the recipe combined. The pot should also have depthand fairly straight (not curved or bell-shaped) sides.

What happens when you use a small pot for cooking a large quantity of candy?

Because of the size of the cooking ware and the heat required to adequately cook the candy, high temperature will be centered on the bottom of the pot and will most likely burn a large quantity of the candy.

The situation is very different when you use a thick-bottomed pan when cooking candy.

Because the bottom of the pan has a larger surface area, heat is will be well-distributed throughout the batch of candy, including the sides. Though some scorching will occur, the scorching will be minimal.

You might have heard of the age-old practice of greasing the sides of the pot when cooking candy.

Is this a good practice? Yes, but only if ingredients with fat have been added to the candy beforehand. If all goes well, a well-greased pot will prevent accelerated crystallization of the candy at the sides of the pot.

IV. If you can find thick-bottomed saucepans or pots that have bottoms that are smaller than the size of your burner at home, invest in these cooking wares. These small-bottomed pots will help cook candy more evenly by minimizing sudden changes in the temperature of the cooking candy.

V. Many candy recipes call for bringing the entire batch of candy “to a boil”.  While many will be tempted to simply turn up the kitchen range to high heat, don’t do this. The temperature will rise far too quickly and the bottom part of the batch will burn while the rest of the candy will remain uncooked.

So how can you bring a batch of candy to a boil without scorching the bottom?

Do this instead: set your burner to low or medium heat at the beginning of the cooking process and wait for the solid ingredients to melt. Don’t forget to mix the batch regularly with a wooden mixing spoon.

Once the ingredients have sufficiently melted into the batch, you can turn the burner up to medium-high (not high).

When you see small bubbles releasing steam at the surface of the candy, you have achieved boiling point. And the best thing about this is you were able to do so without burning the melted sugar!

If your first batch of candy got scorched – don’t fret. Simply start over again with a fresh batch and try our tip for bringing sugar to a boil safely.

VI. There is no need to buy overly expensive candy thermometers – a candy thermometer that costs ten to fifteen dollars will most likely be sufficient for all your cooking needs.

The first thing that you should do when you get your first candy thermometer is to find out whether it is accurate or not.

Accuracy can be determined easily by brining a pot of water to a boil. When the water is boiling, the candy thermometer should read 100 degrees Centigrade.

What should you do when the reading is a bit higher or lower than what is expected?

You have two choices: adjust your thermometer readings when you are cooking candy or you can get a new one. Many candy makers find an inaccurate candy thermometer unacceptable, so they just choose to replace faulty thermometers.

When choosing a candy thermometer, pick a thermometer that has been encased in metal.

The metal jacket will prevent the bulb of the thermometer from coming into contact with the bottom of the pot. If the bulb comes into contact with the cook ware, there is a big chance that you will get an inaccurate reading.

Your goal as a candy maker is to always get an accurate reading whenever you place the candy thermometer in a batch of candy or chocolate.

Since the temperature of the cooking ware is much higher than the actual temperature of the batch of candy, the candy thermometer should not touch the sides or bottom of the pot, unless the candy thermometer has been equipped with a metal jacket or casing.

Candy thermometers also require a particular volume of candy to work properly. Usually, very small batches of candy cannot be measured accurately by conventional candy thermometers.

In such cases, you can try substituting a conventional thermometer with a digital thermometer or a laser-aided thermometer. Try to see which type provides a more accurate temperature reading, because conventional thermometers tend to provide a lower temperature reading.

Never used a candy thermometer before? No problem – here is a step-by-step guide:

  1. When all of the ingredients in the concoction have already melted, that is the time to use the candy thermometer. Do not stick the candy thermometer in immediately after placing the pot on the burner.
  2. One easy way to check whether all the solid sweeteners have melted is by using your mixing spoon.
    Run the tip of the spoon against the surface of the bottom of the pot. Do you feel any gritty sugar crystals? If you don’t, the batch is ready for its first temperature reading.
  3. Move the pot away from the burner. Using a straight brush or pastry brush that has been moistened, remove cooked or crystallized sugar above the liquid’s level.
  4. Clip the candy thermometer to one side of the pot.
  5. Place the pot back on the burner.

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