If you're interested in making your own sweets, then you definitely need some great tips for making candy. I consider myself a pretty good amateur candy maker, but I started out bad. I mean, really bad, as in making toffee that ended up a taffy, and I don't even know how that happens. Thankfully, I've gotten lots better and I wanted to share my most helpful, practical tips for making candy with all my fellow sweet toothed sisters out there. May the decadence be with you!
1. Invest in a Candy Thermometer
Purchasing a candy thermometer is one of the most essential tips for making candy. You simply won't succeed if you don't have one. Candy making relies on very precise temperatures; one degree too high or too low could easily destroy all your efforts. You don't want to make a mistake when you're working with chocolate and sugar. They're incredibly inexpensive, so if you make candy often, it's a worthwhile purchase. Try to get one with a clip and a display you can read easily.
2. Temperature Essentials
Like say, paying attention to the temperature is an important part of candy making. Frankly, it's even more vital when you're working with sugar. As you start making candy, you'll read a lot about its hard ball stage. At that point, the temperature is 250 degrees Fahrenheit. If you're making hard candy, it's at this point where you want to drop a dollop of the mixture into a container of cold water. That's the temperature where it will form a solid ball that you can still mold. If, however, a recipe tells you that the candy needs to reach its thread stage, then the temperature should fall somewhere between 230 degrees Fahrenheit and 233 degrees Fahrenheit. You test this by dipping a spoon into the mixture, then holding it over a container of cold water. If it has reached the proper thread stage, the candy will slide down from the spoon into the container, taking the shape of a slim thread.
3. Know Your Chocolates
Milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate – they all have their place in candy making and they all behave differently. White chocolate is notoriously difficult to melt, for example, and tempering chocolate requires a diligent touch. Make sure you learn what you can about working with chocolate. Learn the right way to melt it, temper it, and chop it. Trust me, you'll save yourself a lot of time.
4. Understand Sugar
You have to understand sugar to successfully work it it too. Candy making is pretty easy once you get used to it, but sugar can be tricky. After all, there are all different sorts, not to mention simple sugar syrups and taffies. Learn how to make these things before you even start. Perfect your pulling technique, get your syrup to the perfect temperature, and then start on more complicated recipes.
5. Have the Right Tools
In addition to having a candy thermometer, you're going to need certain tools. You have most of them already, like spatulas and metal spoons, but there are other things you need. For instance, you should have candy molds in your favorite shapes or styles, dipping spoons and hooks (ideal for fondue!), little candy cups and liners, pastry bags and brushes, and colors specifically for candies. It also helps to have a kitchen scale and a double boiler.
6. Read Twice, Measure Once
If you cook at all, especially if you bake, you already know this tip. It's incredibly important, though, so it bears repeating. When you're reading the recipe, read through it twice – at the very least. Go through it more than that if you can. That way, you only have to measure once and you won't have any mess-ups.
7. Always Assemble First
This matches up with tip number 6. It's better to gather up all of your ingredients first. That way, you can perform a check and make sure you haven't left out an essential ingredient. Skipping something important or adding ingredients in the wrong order will really wreck a recipe, so it pays to assemble. Plus, you keep your work space neater and more organized when everything is already gathered, measured, and placed in order.
8. Follow the Instructions
Candy making isn't like baking, at least not at first. Sometimes adding or subtracting the wrong thing can make your recipe a failure. When you're making something for the first few times, follow the recipe to the letter. Later, when you've conquered it, you can feel free to start experimenting with new flavors and additions.
9. Practice, Practice, Practice
Practice makes perfect in all things, especially in candy making. Sometimes a recipe won't work – it happens! But the more you make something, the better you'll get. In no time at all, you'll find that you have all the necessary skills to become a skilled confectioner!
10. Try New Techniques
Of course, part of being a good candy maker is experimentation. Don't stop at trying new flavors and textures. Start trying new techniques as well, whether you're learning to temper chocolate or pipe your candy. You'll have so much fun and you'll put together some really gorgeous creations!
Candy making really is an art. I would love to some day have enough skill to be a sugar artist – and that dream is attainable, for me and for you. These tips form the foundation of successful candy making. If you follow them and get lots of practice, you'll never have to purchase candy again! What's your favorite kind of candy to make? Share some recipes!