Chapter 4 : Tools of the Trade

As we have mentioned in an earlier section, some tools are essentialto making candy while some are merely used to speed up certain processes.

If you have most of the tools listed here, then congratulations, you will be able to tackle many recipes with little difficulty.

If you have some or just a few of the tools and cooking wares outlined in this book, there is no need to go out and buy all of them. The best route would be to purchase candy making tools as you go along and as the need for the tools presents itself.

I. Measuring cups (for liquids)

Measuring cups used for liquids in candy making (such as corn syrup) are often made from graduated glass or hard plastics. Some retailers also offer liquid measuring cups made of stainless steel.

Certain professional chefs and confectionery makers like stainless steel measuring cups because they are hardier and easier to clean.  However, the downside with using these is that you won’t be able to see through the measuring cup (which always makes measuring easier).

The usual sizes for liquid measuring cups are:

  • 1/2 cup
  • 1/4 cup
  • 1/3 cup
  • 1 cup

Larger sizes are also available for larger batches of candy. The main difference between these cups and regular measuring cups is that they allow the liquid inside to move about (as all types of liquid are apt to do) while minimizing the risk of spillage.

Such measuring cups also have a pointed spout on top, which facilitates the transfer of liquid from the measuring cup to any container.

II. Measuring cups (for powders & other solids)

Cups for dry ingredients are equally important in any candy maker’s kitchen. These regular measuring cups are marked in such a way that you have to fill the entire vessel with the ingredient and level the top to achieve an accurate amount.

So if you are using powdered milk for a particular candy, you have to scoop the powdered milk and use a leveler to remove the excess milk on top.

Since you won’t have to see through the measuring cup to get an accurate measurement of the ingredient that you are using, we recommend that you use stainless steel measuring cups.  Stainless steel cups are highly durable and can last a lifetime if you know how to store the cups properly.

The usual sizes for this type of measuring cup are:

  • 1/2 cup
  • 1/4 cup
  • 1/3 cup
  • 1 cup

What do you do when a measurement calls for something less than 1/4 of a cup?

Don’t fret. Just use a conversion table so you can measure the correct amount of the ingredient using teaspoons or tablespoons. Once you get the hang of it, you would be able to flawlessly carry out measurements in your kitchen; it just takes a bit of practice.

III. Measuring spoons

Like larger measuring cups, measuring spoons are indispensable tools in any kitchen where candy making is taking place.

Some ingredients do not require large quantities - this is why you needat least one small set of measuring spoons in your kitchen before you start making candy.

Recipes from local and international publications are prepared by chefs and professional candy makers using standard measuring cups, spoons and other such tools. If you wish to try such recipes, you’ll need exact measurements, and in order to do so, you’ll need to invest in the right measuring tools.

A set of measuring spoons usually includes:

  • 1 tbsp.
  • 1 tsp.
  • 1/2 tsp.
  • 1/4 tsp.

You have the choice of buying a set made of metal or plastic.  In terms of durability, metal wins over plastic. But many candy makers still like the weight and feel of plastic measuring spoons.

Some manufacturers provide extremely small measuring spoons in sets; some spoons may yield 1/8 of a teaspoon or even 1/16 of a teaspoon.

If you find such measuring spoons, we highly recommend that you obtain a set because small measurements are usually performed in homemade candy recipes.

IV. Kitchen scales

Some measurements cannot be performed in terms of spoons or cups. In such cases, kitchen scales should be used. If you need to prepare a pound of something, it is much easier to use kitchen scales.

There are two types of kitchen scales: spring-loaded scales (usually priced at $20 or less) and digital scales (priced at $50 and above).

The price of a pair of kitchen scales is determined by the type of metal used and the number of features available in the machine.

The simplest kitchen scales are the least expensive. You don’t need expensive scales. A reliable unit that costs $15 would be perfect for candy making.

Kitchen scales are usually capable of measuring the weight of the ingredient that needs to be weighed minus the weight of the container. This capability is extremely useful when you are measuring large quantities of ingredients.

To deduce the tare weight (the weight of the container) from the final weight measurement, simply place the empty container on the kitchen scales and wait for the kitchen scales to measure the weight. Once a reading has been done, simply set the kitchen scales back to zero.

Once you have reset the kitchen scales, simply place the ingredient on the container and voila! you have  an accurate measurement minus the container’s extra weight.

V. Candy thermometer

A candy thermometer is another essential tool in any candy maker’s kitchen that allows chocolate and other candies to be cooked to just the right temperature.

The slightest increase or decrease in the temperature of candy can produce different results in terms of color, taste and texture.

You can buy either a traditional candy thermometer or a digital thermometer that can provide an accurate temperature reading in a matter of seconds.

Some thermometers make use of laser to obtain the temperature of the cooking candy. While this type of candy thermometer may seem efficient, it’s actually not the best choice.
Such thermometers only record the temperature at the surface of the cooking candy. Since the temperature of candy decreases toward the surface, the surface temperature reading will not reflect the actual temperature of the candy at a lower depth.

Regardless of the type of candy thermometer that you want for your kitchen, choose one that can easily be clipped to the side of the pot or kettle. That way, the thermometer will not lean sideways or sink into the cooking candy.

VI. Saucepan

The best type of saucepan for cooking candy are heavy saucepans because these can easily handle large quantities of candy and extremely high cooking temperatures. The following sizes are recommended for cooking candy:

  • 1 quart
  • 2 quarts
  • 4 quarts
  • 5 quarts

In terms of distributing heat evenly, the following types of saucepans stand out:

  • Heavy saucepans
  • Copper saucepans
  • Cast-iron saucepans and pots
  • Stainless steel saucepans

Heat distribution is a key factor in cooking good candy because if high temperatures are isolated in just one region of the pot or saucepan, the sugar will burn easily.

Whatever saucepan you use, keep your cooking temperature range between low and medium heat (not medium-high). Lower cooking temperatures will allow you to cook your candy adequately without scorching the ingredients.

VII. Scrapers

Scrapers are flat-edged kitchen tools used to collect cooked candy from kettles, pots or saucepans.

Scrapers are also excellent when you are working on confectionery like fondants.  Also, Ii you need to add heavy cream later on in the cooking process, scrapers are an excellent choice. You can find this tool under “kitchen scrapers” in local discount stores.

Modern kitchen scrapers often have plastic or rubber grips and are crafted from stainless steel. Be careful when using a kitchen scraper because many scrapers have sharp edges because people also use this tool to cut candy.

Many scrapers also have measurements (in inches and centimeters) etched on the surface, which allows the candy maker to make accurate cuts of candy and chocolate.

VIII. Spatulas

Who doesn’t recognize the spatula? Spatulas are useful not only in general cooking but also in candy making. An 8-inch plastic spatula is adequate for making confectionery. Spatulas can be used for mixing and for scraping off candy (if a kitchen scraper is not available).

There are two kinds of spatulas used for making candy: rubber spatulas and stainless steel spatulas (or offset spatulas).

Rubber spatulas can be used for combining different ingredients in bowls. Spatulas can also be used to facilitate the transfer of liquids and solids from mixing bowls to cooking wares or storage containers. 

Make sure that the spatula you are about to buy is made of hard rubber. Not only are these spatulas far more durable than regular rubber spatulas, and more appropriate for making candy, but they also will not wear out even with repeated use.

While having an 8-inch spatula is a good start, investing in a few more spatulas of different sizes can make the process of cooking candy much easier. For larger batches of candy, 12-inch spatulas and even 16-inch spatulas can be used.

Offset spatulas are quite different from rubber spatulas in terms of appearance and function. Rubber spatulas have a somewhat rounded appearance.

On the other hand, offset or stainless spatulas are narrow and flat and are usually secured with hard, wooden handles. This type of spatula is “offset” because there is a slight curve that runs from the base of the wooden handle to the stainless steel blade.

Offset spatulas are usually used for:

  • Tempering of cooked batches of chocolate.
  • Spreading freshly cooked candy across a surface.

If you plan to work with chocolate, we highly recommend that you obtain an offset spatula that is at least 12-inches for maximum usability.

IX. Baking pans

Baking pans are often used as temporary containers for freshly cooked candy. Some people like glass, while some prefer the durability and safety record of aluminum baking pans.

There are two kinds of aluminum baking pans: one type is made from heavy aluminum and the other is made from less dense, disposable aluminum.

The problem with glass baking pans is that candy is usually cooked at very high temperatures and the candy maker is exposed to the risk of glass breakage during candy preparation. When in doubt, just use an aluminum baking pan to be on the safe side.

The most common sizes used in making candy are 8” x 8” and 9” x 13”. These sizes have a depth of no more than two inches. Baking pans are often required in chocolate fudge recipes.

To prevent the candy from being permanently stuck to the bottom of the baking pan, you can use a baking liner or plain butter.  Use a small, fine brush to spread a thin layer of butter on the baking pan prior to pouring or transferring the candy.

If you prefer using a baking liner in place of plain butter, you will get better results with wax paper. Wax paper is a bit more expensive than regular baking liners, but the price is well worth it.  Candy is not like cakes and other pastries - hot candy can easily disintegrate regular lining paper once it hardens.

Now, if you are cooking small pieces of candy or chocolate-dipped treats, non-wax baking liners can be used because these candies have lower temperatures and the risk of sticking is minimized. The same principle applies when you are making truffles.

X. Cookie sheets

Cookie sheets are by no means only useful for baking cookies.  Due to the clean, smooth surface of cookie sheets, these can be used to make excellent, small candies.

If the recipe you are planning to work on requires a baking tray, cookie sheets can be used instead. Some cookie sheets have only 1 raised area, while some have a total of 4raised areas.

XI. Knife set

Every serious candy maker needs a good set of knives. After cooking candy, candies that are not poured into molds will require manual cutting after the material has hardened.

The same applies to homemade chocolates. You will not be able to present the cooked chocolate on its own.  You should make some measurements and cut individual bars or blocks.

XII. Microwave-safe bowls

Microwave-safe bowls are handy when you are tempering chocolate.

Additionally, these bowls are useful when you have some cocoa that requires melting beforeit is added to the final batch of candy.

Instead of using the stove, put the chocolate blocks in a microwave-safe bowl and put the bowl in the microwave for a few seconds.

For the functions mentioned above, a bowl that can easily contain about two quarts of liquid or solid ingredients is ideal.

Plastic bowls are recommended for chocolate recipes, as it is easier to maintain a high temperature in plastic containers than in glass containers. Additionally, glass containers that have not been specifically designed for candy making may break.

XIII. Pastry brushes

Pastry brushes and other kinds of straight brushes (including new paintbrushes) can be used to spread melted sugar across a smooth surface. Keep at least one brush handy when you are making candy at home.

XIV. Mixing spoons

You will be doing a lot of mixing when you make candy.  In fact, mixing ingredients and cooked candy may be the most useful skill you can learn as a budding candy maker.

As such, you will need a reliable set of mixing spoons that will not bend or break as you mix dense combinations of sugar and chocolate.

Metal mixing spoons or spoons made of hard plastic can be used. It should be noted that a mixing spoon ideal for making candy should be no less than 12-inches long.

XV. Whisks

Stainless steel whisks made of wire will also be in constant use as you explore various candy recipes - especially chocolate recipes.

When there are dairy ingredients involved, you will most likely need a wire whisk to combine all of the ingredients. Unless specifically stated by the recipe, do not substitute a wire whisk with a motorized, handheld mixer.

XVI. Strainers

You probably already have at least one large metal strainer at home, so you shouldn’t have to buy another one.

However, it might help if you can invest in a small metal strainer since small portions of ingredients are often used for making candy. It is also easier to sift ingredients with a small strainer.

XVII. Rolling pins

Rolling pins are quite useful when you are making treats like marzipan.

Rolling pins are made from different materials (including hard plastics) but the most ideal for candy making is heavy aluminum. If you don’t like the idea of using a metal rolling pin, you can opt for traditional wooden rolling pins or even those made from marble.

XVIII. Scoops

In addition to transferring ingredients from one vessel to another, a set of durable scoops are also useful for carving out small balls of candy from a larger batch. A good substitute to scoops (if you don’t have a set at home) would be a melon baller.

XIX. Metal grater

Some candy recipes call for the addition of lime or lemon zest. The best tool for this is your traditional metal grater. You can also use a zester, a small tool that was made solely for that function.

XX. Candy molds

The appearance and presentation of homemade candy also matters.  This is the reason why it would be a good idea to invest in candy molds. Decorative molds are essential for small candies and treats, and these molds can also be used when making special batches of chocolate for the kids.

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