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Candy Making Basics

Making candy at home can be a special event!

Invite friends and family for a taffy pull or to make popcorn balls. It's also satisfying to personalize candy we take for granted. Making your own gumdrops, lollipops, fudges, truffles or taffy can lead to wonderful flavor combinations that are so much tastier than "store bought".

Always use the recommended size saucepan. A smaller or larger pan could affect quality and cooking time. If a size is not stated, size is not important.

Don't double the recipe -- make another batch. Increasing ingredients changes cooking time.

A cool, dry day is best for making candy. Heat, humidity and altitude can affect quality. On a humid day, cook candy to a temperature a degree or so higher than the recipe indicates.

Consult an altitude table to determine boiling point in your area, then adjust recipe if necessary.

To prevent crystallization or grainy candy, sugar must dissolve completely over low heat; stir down any grains from side of saucepan. After candy has boiled, do not stir until it has cooled as the recipe indicates. To prevent crystals, do not scrape pan or stir candy during cooling.

Use a reliable candy thermometer. check your candy thermometer for accuracy by placing it in water and bring it to boiling. The thermometer should read 212°F | 100°C. If the reading is higher or lower, take the difference into account when testing your temperature while making candy.

To get an accurate reading, be sure the thermometer stands upright in cooking mixture and bulb does not rest on bottom of pan. Read it at eye level; watch temperature closely. After 200°F (95°C), temperatures go up very quickly.

If you don't have a thermometer, use the cold water test. Using a clean spoon, drop small amount of cooking mixture into a cupful of very cold water. Test hardness with fingers (see candy cooking test chart). If candy does not pass test, continue cooking. Repeat water test with clean water.

Source: Tips and information adapted from Betty Crocker's 40th Anniversary Edition (Prentice Hall, 1991).

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