Friday, December 19, 2008

Temperatures for making candy

I am snowed in. I don't mind other than the parties and family get together I'm missing. But I love to make candy and being snowed in is a good reason. I come by candy making through my Grandma Oblad. Her family left Sweden in the 1800's making and selling candy, my Grandma sold candy during the great depression in order to support her family. And I would be doing that now with our long unemployment but there are too many laws and health codes that keep a home candy maker from doing so for sale. The next best thing is to help teach you how to make candy.

This is a crash coarse because really practice is what makes a good candy maker.

Good tools are many

For candy making and I will put them in another blog with lots of photos. This time lets work with the thermometer and figure out why temperature makes such a difference to sugar and it's crystal factors

1) First boil a pot of water with your thermometer in the water. Let it boil for a few moments. Once your number on your thermometer settles down read it, write it down. If you are at sea level or close to it, the water should boil at 212 degrees F. You will subtract a degree for each 500 feet above sea level you are living at. If your water boiled at 208 on your thermometer like mine did I must subtract 4 degrees each time I make a recipe. If I don't I will be cooking everything 4 degrees higher. You'll see the problems with this in a moment. If my thermometer showed boiling water at 214 degrees then I am cooking everything 2 degrees less than my recipe needed. Make these adjustments.

2) No matter what kind of thermometer you will need to do this each cooking session if you want to get good results and I DO!

Sugar is a wonderful thing....oh I hear the sugar blues folks dropping like flies! I mean boiling Sugar is a wonderful thing. It changes the crystal structure and what I do with it is amazing, from hard, to crunchy, to creamy, to stretchy, Oh sugar does amazing things just with a little change in temperature.

Sugar chart

232 to 240 degrees F. SOFT BALL

Hot syrup makes a soft ball when you pick it up, but it does not hold hold it's shape.
This is the way to make fudge, penuche and fondant

242 to 248 degrees F. FIRM BALL

Hot syrup makes a firm ball that holds it's shape when you pick it up
This is the way to make Carmel's and Carmel corn.

250 to 268 degrees F. HARD BALL

Syrup makes a hard ball. It feel hard when you pick it up, but is till plastic.
This is the way to make divinity,nougat, sea foam and taffy.

270 to 290 degrees F. SOFT CRACK

Syrup forms hard, but not brittle threads rather then a ball
This is the way to make toffee, Brittle and butterscotch

300 to 310 degrees F. HARD CRACK

syrup forms brittle threads that break between your fingers This is the way to make brittles, lolly pops, hard candies and caramel or candy apples

With this chart you can make any candy and you can see how a few degrees takes you out of fondant and into taffy or worse. I cooked my first batch of fudge, right after I was married, right past hard crack. No kidding. Bleach Boy has a good story about that experience!

Even if you use a thermometer you should try cold water testing just to learn how sugar acts. It's fun and it means that those who don't have a thermometer can still make good candy by cold water testing.

Cold Water Test

Remove pan of cooking sugar from heat

drop a touch, off the edge of a spoon, of syrup into a glass of cold not ice water.
Let it stand for a minute and pick up the candy from the water. Feel it with your fingers. Where does it match in the chart above.
If you are using a thermometer you will want to do this test 2 degrees before the final temperature. A pot of sugar can quickly go up another 2 degrees even if you have removed it from the heat. So this is a good time to test. If it is done, don't worry about the next 2 degrees they do usually follow.

You might find the candy isn't matching the feel that matched the degrees. Return to the heat and check in another degree or so. Don't wait too long.

So this just gets you started. Tomorrow we will cover dealing with sugar and it's need to form crystals.

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