All candy recipes follow a particular order, and this section of the book endeavors to show you how nearly all candy makers prepare their creation.
First of all, before doing anything, all of your tools, cooking ware, and equipment for candy making must be prepared in the kitchen. Measuring cups, spatulas, mixing bowls and most especially, your candy thermometer must be in reach when you begin making candy.
It is important to prepare everything in advance because you have to focus your attention solely on the cooking candy once you set the pot on the kitchen range. Not paying attention to cooking candy can result in an imperfect or ruined batch of candy later on. All pots and saucepans that will be used for making candy should already be cleaned and dried before the cooking process begins.
The basic components of candy are sugar and water. These ingredients are usually placed first in the pot or saucepan. Low to medium heat is then applied to start cooking and caramelizing the sugar. The sugar must be mixed well with the water for a more even cooking.
At this point in time, some recipes will ask you to cover the pot or saucepan so that condensed water will naturally wash away sugar fragments on the sides of the pan. This will prevent unsightly crystallization from taking place.
After the pot has been covered and moisture has washed down the sides of the cooking ware, it is time to clip the candy thermometer unto one side of the pan. Make sure that the main bulb of the candy thermometer does not touch the bottom part of the pan or pot, as this can result in an erroneous temperature reading.
The next step is to transform the mixture of water and sugar to sugar syrup by allowing the mixture to boil. Note that the sugar solution will be boiling at a much higher temperature than plain water – so do not attempt to taste the resulting syrup while it is still cooking!
Follow the instructions in the recipe. If the recipe calls for low heat, use low heat. If the recipe instructs you to increase the temperature after ten minutes, do so. Do not attempt to shorten the cooking time by increasing the heat on the burner. This will most likely scorch the candy and will reduce the quality of the final product.
Once the sugar syrup comes to a boil, watch the candy thermometer carefully because you have to turn off the heat and remove the pot from the kitchen range once the target temperature has been reached.
If you prolong the cooking process without making the necessary adjustments (such as adding a few tablespoons of water to the candy), the batch of candy might burn.
As we have mentioned in an earlier section of this book, it is important that you stir the candy only when the recipe you are following calls for it.
Do not attempt to stir the candy early in the cooking process, as this might increase the grittiness of the candy. Irregular sugar crystals will also form if the candy is stirred too early or too late in the cooking process.
Note that when you are making hard candies like lollipops, there is little or no stirring needed to bring the candy to an evenly cooked state. Also, hard candies like lollipops can be transferred directly to a storage or mold after cooling for several minutes.
To be on the safe side, allow your fresh batch of candy to cool for a few minutes before pouring it into a clean, flat surface or in candy molds. The cooling process is also vital to the final outcome of your candy-making project.
Two things can happen when candy is cooled. If the candy cools at an accelerated rate after cooking, the physical structure of the sugar will change to form brittle candy. If the cooling process is prolonged, the batch will transform to a non-crystalline candy like caramel (or even taffy!).
If you want other types of candy to emerge (like jelly beans), starch can or gelatin can be added to the batch after the initial cooling to produce the desired candy.
Before your batch of candy can be served to your family and friends, you have to produce serving size pieces. This can be done through the following methods: