Sugar and water....lots of crystals
1) When melting sugar avoid against getting crystals on the side of the pan, on the stirring spoon and on you!
2) Use a 3 minute, lid on, BOIL to wash sugar crystals off the side of cooking pan
Be careful not to let things boil over during the 3 minutes and have your "pot minder" ready to turn on for when the lid comes off.
Boiling..... lots of steam to wash things down!
If that doesn't get the sides clean put a piece of paper towel around a fork and get it wet
Moisten and remove any crystals on the sides but only at the beginning of the cooking time, later there is too big a risk in knocking a crystal into the candy recipe.
4) Remove thermometer as soon as temperature is reached. This keeps crystals some starting to form on the tool
5) Use a recipe that has a crystal inhibiting ingredient as Corn syrup, honey, molasses & maple syrup. These ingredients pull moisture from the air and keep the larger crystals from forming
Not as reliable but often used in older recipes:
lemon juice, cream of tarter and vinegar
When pouring finished candy from the pan
DO NOT SCRAPE THE EDGES.
What you scrap may hold a crystal that will spoil the whole recipe. What does it do? Makes the syrup reform sugar crystals and not smooth candy. It has happened to all of us!
If everything goes well you will make a yummy candy like this divinity
Beating and stirring
the cooked mixture lets you decide how the sugar will return to it's crystal form.
If we have used a crystal inhibitor and we have kept the undissolved crystal out of the candy mixtures then we can encourage the sugar crystal to form so small that the candy seems creamy and smooth.
Let the candy cool slightly and then you stir or beat or a mixture of both.
Your recipe will tell you but this is very important to the finished texture so don't skip this step it is the way you get control of the sugar.
Fondant is paddled and folded over and over. Fudge is beaten to a gloss, Divinity is beaten and stirred to a dull finish. Hard candy is just poured out and the sugar is allowed to form larger than normal crystals in the shape you choose. Isn't this fun?
Tips for beating and stirring sugar
1) The temperature you start at is very important. if is says lukewarm you must wait. Many a fudge has been ruined by starting too soon. Your recipe should state this or check my chart below.
2) Keep at it (beating, stirring, pulling or paddling) until the candy is finished
How will you know when the candy is finished? it's hard to tell if you haven't made the recipe before, hopefully you have had that candy somewhere else and can aim for that, sometimes the recipe describes how the candy should act, maybe my chart below will help.
4) Beat or stir steady, not fast. STEADY
5) Some candies need to be pulled as in taffy or mints, or paddled as in fondant. Once again Keep at it until finished and aim for STEADY.
This is fondant. I have already paddled it and then kneaded it until it is very smooth. It molds almost like a soft clay. See my finger print in one piece.
This is what is looks like when it's ready, I add lots of tasty flavors. This batch is getting orange. I've done pecans and chocolate and lemon, cherry etc.
When I've flavored the fondant the way I want I roll into small balls and hold them until I dip them in dipping chocolate! yum Now who wouldn't want a nice plate of candy for their birthday, a thank-you, a welcome home? It's fun and it's a good gift!
How it should be made basically
Fudge: start when lukewarm, beat until creamy and looses gloss
Penuche: cool to lukewarm, beat until thick and creamy
Cream candy: add butter, cool to lukewarm, beat until it looses gloss, pour into pans
Caramels: you stir often while cooking these, often there is a milk or cream added half way through the cooking be prepared for this. When correct temperature pour into lightly buttered pan.
Divinity and Nougat: Pour syrup over egg whites, beat immediately until mixture holds a peek when dropped from a spoon and looses it's gloss. Lots and lots of beating.
Fondant: cool to lukewarm paddle until white and creamy. Knead to remove lumps and smooth candy.
Toffee, Butterscotch, hard candies: work quickly, add flavoring, nuts etc and pour into prepared pan.
Marshmallows: Beat until fluffy and creamy, add flavoring and pour in prepared pan.
Taffy: cool until you can handle. Pull and pull, some people just twist and cut it just won't be creamy.