Holiday Treats: Candy Recipes for the Season
Experience sweet success with these easy candy recipes.
Yummy candies, like Heavenly Hash, French Fudge, Divinity and Toasted Pecan Cream Fudge, add a sweet touch to holiday gatherings.
Candy making carries a mystique that many folks find intimidating, but there is simply nothing that satisfies a holiday craving like candy recipes and homemade sweets. We’ve all heard tales of fudge that wouldn’t set or brittle that just would not break, but with a bit of care and a little understanding, comforting confection is easy to achieve. Employ these few practical suggestions, and you can make holiday treats to share with family and friends this season or any day. Who knows? Your candy may become a family tradition.
My grandmother’s specialty was divinity, or sea foam candy. She made it often, choosing days carefully after consulting the weather report. If it rained, her candy making was postponed. If it was dry and clear, out came the old candy pot, spoon and sugar canister.
My mother’s specialty is fudge. Chocolate, peanut butter, white fudge studded with red cherries and, her favorite, pineapple. She has a special fudge platter from her high school days. Yellow roses rim the large, deep dish that came from redeeming Octogon Bar Soap wrappers.
I am partial to fudge, too. We are always looking for new and unique flavors. The vote is still out on the carrot and prune fudges we recently tried. Through practice and advice from others, I’ve found candy making easy when three basic tips are followed.
1. Understanding candy temperatures is key to candy success. Each level of heat is called a stage. The following basic stages describe what to look for while cooking sugar syrup.
Soft Ball: 234 to 240 degrees. If a spoonful of syrup is dropped in a cup of cold water, it will quickly form a soft ball that loses its shape as soon as removed from the water. Most fudges and fondants are cooked to this stage.
Firm Ball: 245 to 250 degrees. This syrup will form a firm but pliable ball in cold water. It will hold its shape momentarily out of water. Most divinity and caramels are cooked to this stage.
Hard Ball: 255 to 265 degrees. This syrup forms a hard ball, will not lose its shape and can be rolled around on a platter. Most taffy is cooked to this stage.
Soft or Light Crack: 270 to 280 degrees. This syrup forms brittle threads in cold water that melt when taken from the water. Most butterscotch is cooked to this stage.
Hard Crack: 285 to 300 degrees. This syrup forms brittle threads in cold water that stay brittle out of water. Most brittle candies such as peanut brittle are cooked to this stage.
You can test the syrup in two ways. A candy thermometer, which costs $10 to $30, can be purchased at hardware, kitchen stores and large discount stores. It is the most reliable.
You also can use the old-fashioned cold water method. You’ll need a cup of cold water ready as you are cooking the syrup. As soon as the syrup has boiled at least 5 minutes, drop a teaspoonful of syrup into the cup of water. It should sink to the bottom. Use your finger to see if it holds shape, cracks, dissolves or spreads. If you are a novice at candy making, you should remove the pan from the heat so as not to scorch the syrup while testing it. Be careful not to get hot syrup on your skin.
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