Candy making is the preparation of candies and confectioneries. Candy making includes the preparation of many various candies, such as hard candies, jelly beans, gumdrops, taffy, liquorice, cotton candy, chocolates and chocolate truffles, dragées, fudge, caramel candy and toffee.
Candy is made by dissolving sugar in water or milk to form a syrup, which is boiled until it reaches the desired concentration or starts to caramelize. The type of candy depends on the ingredients and how long the mixture is boiled. Candy comes in a wide variety of textures, from soft and chewy to hard and brittle. A chocolatier is a person who prepares confectionery from chocolate, and is distinct from a chocolate maker, who create chocolate from cacao beans and other ingredients. Cotton candy is a form of spun sugar often prepared using a cotton candy machine.
Adherence to safety practices is an important aspect of candy making, because the preparation of candy can be hazardous due to the use of boiled sugar and chocolate, which can cause serious burns upon skin contact. Boiling sugar often exceeds 150 degrees Celsius, and even small drops of boiling sugar burn skin and cause blisters.
Hard candy, also referred to as boiled sweet, is a candy prepared from one or more syrups boiled to a temperature of 160 °C (320 °F). After a syrup boiled to this temperature cools, it is called hard candy, since it becomes stiff and brittle as it approaches room temperature. Hard candy recipes variously call for syrups of sucrose, glucose, or fructose. To add color, food coloring is sometimes used.
The final texture of candy depends on the sugar concentration. As the syrup is heated, it boils, water evaporates, the sugar concentration increases, and the boiling point rises. A given temperature corresponds to a particular sugar concentration. In general, higher temperatures and greater sugar concentrations result in hard, brittle candies, and lower temperatures result in softer candies. The stages of sugar cooking are as follows:
|thread (e.g., syrup)||110 to 112 °C (230 to 234 °F)||80%|
|soft ball (e.g., fudge)||112 to 116 °C (234 to 241 °F)||85%|
|firm ball (e.g., soft caramel candy)||118 to 120 °C (244 to 248 °F)||87%|
|hard ball (e.g., nougat)||121 to 130 °C (250 to 266 °F)||90%|
|soft crack (e.g., salt water taffy)||132 to 143 °C (270 to 289 °F)||95%|
|hard crack (e.g., toffee)||146 to 154 °C (295 to 309 °F)||99%|
|clear liquid||160 °C (320 °F)||100%|
|brown liquid (e.g., liquid caramel)||170 °C (338 °F)||100%|
|burnt sugar||177 °C (351 °F)||100%|
The names come from the methods used to test the syrup before thermometers became affordable. The "thread" stage is tested by cooling a little syrup, and pulling it between the thumb and forefinger. When the correct stage is reached, a thread will form. This stage is used for making syrups. For subsequent stages, a small spoonful of syrup is dropped into cold water, and the characteristics of the resulting lump are evaluated to determine the concentration of the syrup. A smooth lump indicates "ball" stages, with the corresponding hardness described. At the "soft crack" stage, the syrup forms threads that are just pliable. At the "hard crack" stage, the threads are brittle.
This method is still used today in some kitchens. A candy thermometer is more convenient, but has the drawback of not automatically adjusting for local conditions such as altitude, as the cold water test does.
Once the syrup reaches 171 °C (340 °F) or higher, the sucrose molecules break down into many simpler sugars, creating an amber-colored substance known as caramel. This should not be confused with caramel candy, although it is the candy's main flavoring.
Cotton candy is a form of spun sugar. Typical machines used to make cotton candy include a spinning head enclosing a small bowl into which granulated sugar is poured. Colored sugar or separate sugar and food coloring are used to provide color. Heaters near the rim of the head melt the sugar, which is squeezed out through tiny holes by centrifugal force, and the molten sugar solidifies in the air and is caught in a larger bowl which totally surrounds the spinning head. After the product builds up on the inside walls of the larger bowl, a stick, cone, or hands are used inserted, upon which the sugar strands are gathered.
Cotton candy being prepared
Marshmallows are prepared using egg whites, corn syrup and sugar. The use of marshmallow to make a sweet dates back to ancient Egypt, where the recipe called for extracting sap from the marshmallow plant (Althaea officinalis) and mixing it with nuts and honey. Another pre-modern recipe uses the pith of the marshmallow plant, rather than the sap. In modern times, marshmallows are often commercially prepared using extrusion.
Chocolatiering involves the preparing of confections from chocolate. A chocolatier that has mastered the artistry of chocolate may be referred to as a Master Chocolatier. Chocolatiering involves the techniques of tempering, molding and sculpting. Tempering is a heat treatment method performed on chocolate involving heating and cooling the chocolate to result in desired characteristics like shininess of the chocolate or 'snap', the way it breaks. Molding is a design technique used in making chocolate pieces that are of a certain shape by taking liquid chocolate and pouring it into a mold and letting it harden. Sculpting is a type of three-dimensional artwork that may involve using molds and pieces of chocolate, and decorating the piece with designs in chocolate.
A chocolatier making chocolate eggs
Tools and machines
A variety of tools and machines are used in making candy, ranging from simple kitchen tools like bowls and spoons to elaborate factory machinery.
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- Candy Making Made Easy - Tamara E. Serna. p. 34.
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- Candy Making Basics - Evelyn Howe Fryatt
- Candymaking - Ruth A. Kendrick, Pauline H. Atkinson
- Truffles, Candies, and Confections: Techniques and Recipes for Candymaking - Carole Bloom
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- Edwards, W. P. (2000). The Science of Sugar Confectionery. Cambridge: Royal Society of Chemistry. ISBN 0854045937. Retrieved 20 March 2014.
- Media related to Candy making at Wikimedia Commons
- Media related to Chocolateries at Wikimedia Commons