Spinning cotton candy at a funfair
|Alternative name(s)||Candy floss, fairy floss|
|Place of origin||Europe then USA|
|Creator(s)||William Morrison and John C. Wharton|
|Main ingredient(s)||Sugar, food coloring|
Cotton candy (U.S., Pakistan, India, Canada), candy floss, or candyfloss (UK, Ireland, New Zealand, India and South Africa), or fairy floss (Australia) is a form of spun sugar. Since it comprises mostly air, a small initial quantity of sugar generates a tremendously greater final volume, causing servings to be physically large and voluminous. A typical serving on a stick is approximately 1 ounce/30 grams. It is sometimes sold in bags containing several servings (see accompanying photos). Cotton candy is often served at carnivals or circuses. Food coloring can be used to change the natural white color. There are many flavor variants. A similar confectionery is the Persian Pashmak, and the Turkish Pişmaniye, although the latter is made with flour and water in addition to sugar. Ngathrek Golop Lhakpa is also a Bhutanese variant, but with added Butter tea and chilli peppers.
Cotton candy was first recorded in Europe in the 18th century. At that time, spun sugar was an expensive, labor-intensive endeavor and was not generally available to the average person. Machine-spun cotton candy was invented in 1897 by the dentist William Morrison and confectioner John C. Wharton and first introduced to a wide audience at the 1904 World's Fair as "Fairy Floss" with great success, selling 68,655 boxes at 25¢ per box (equivalent to $6 per box today). Joseph Lascaux, a dentist from New Orleans, Louisiana, invented a similar cotton candy machine in 1921. In fact, the Lascaux patent named the sweet confection “cotton candy” and the "fairy floss" name faded away, although it retains this name in Australia. In the 1970s an automatic cotton candy machine was created which made the product and packaged it. This made it easier to produce and available to sell at carnivals, fairs, and stores in the 1970s and on.
Typical machines used to make cotton candy include a spinning head enclosing a small "sugar reserve" bowl into which a charge of granulated, colored sugar (or separate sugar and food coloring) is poured. Heaters near the rim of the head melt the sugar, which is squeezed out through tiny holes by centrifugal force. Pre-colored sugar packaged specially for the process is milled with melting characteristics and a crystal size optimized for the head and heated holes; granulated sugar used in baking contains fine crystals which spin out un-melted, while rock sugar crystals are too large to properly contact the heater, slowing the production of cotton candy.
The molten sugar solidifies in the air and is caught in a larger bowl which totally surrounds the spinning head. Left to operate for a period, the cotton-like product builds up on the inside walls of the larger bowl, at which point the machine operator twirls a stick, cone, or their hands around the rim of the large catching bowl, gathering the sugar strands into portions which are served on stick or cone, or in plastic bags. As the sugar reserve bowl empties, the operator recharges it with more feedstock. The product is sensitive to humidity, and in humid summer locales, the process can be messy and sticky.
In 1972, the first automated machine was used for the production of cotton candy. Since then the creations and innovations of this machine have become greater and greater. They range in sizes from counter-top accessible to party and carnival size. Modern machines that are made for commercial use can hold up to 3 pounds of sugar and have compartments for storage of extra flavors. The rotating bowl at the top spins at 3,450 revolutions per minute.
Pashmak, a kind of Iranian Cotton candy
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Cotton Candy. N.p., Aug 11, 2010. Web. Sep 14, 2011.
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