Tips for Candy and Confections
1) Don´t get burned! To avoid getting burned while making candy, attach your candy thermometer to a wire whisk and lay the whisk across the top of your cooking pan.
2) For a candy making surface that can take the heat, use a sheet of aluminum foil. Spread candies such as peanut brittle, fudge, or almond bark in a thin layer on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Cool the candy at room temperature or in the refrigerator and then gently remove from the foil.
Tips For Chocolate:
MELTING CHOCOLATE WITH LIQUID
What if your recipe calls for melting chocolate along with water or some other type of liquid? That´s fine, as long as the liquid is mixed with the chocolate from the beginning of the melting process, it won´t get grainy on you. Be careful though, because adding even a drop in mid-melting will cause this problem.
OVEN MELTED CHOCOLATE
Alternatively, you can melt chocolate in a dry oven. Place grated chocolate in a metal bowl and place it in an oven set at 110°F (if your oven doesn´t go that low, use the lowest temperature and keep the door ajar). Your chocolate will melt in about an hour.
To create a chocolate coating of manageable consistency for candies and other treats, add shortening, peanut or vegetable oil in a ratio of 1 tablespoon fat to 6 - 8 ounces of solid chocolate and melt them together.
Why Chocolate Turns Gray or Discolored Sometimes
There's nothing quite like opening a much-anticipated box of chocolates only to find discolored, slightly gray candy. When chocolate turns gray like that, one of two things could be the culprit: Sugar Bloom or Fat Bloom.
Sugar bloom is normally caused by surface moisture. The moisture causes the sugar in the chocolate to dissolve. Once the moisture evaporates, sugar crystals remain on the surface. If this process is repeated, the surface can become sticky and even more discolored. Although sugar bloom is most often the result of overly humid storage, it can happen when the chocolate has been stored at a relatively cool temperature and is then moved too quickly into much warmer surroundings. When this happens, the chocolate sweats, producing surface moisture.
Fat bloom is similar to sugar bloom, except that it is fat or cocoa butter that is separating from the chocolate and depositing itself on the outside of the candy. As with sugar bloom, the most common causes of fat bloom are quick temperature changes and overly-warm storage.
Although it might look a little less appetizing than a lustrous, rich chocolatey-brown piece of candy, chocolate that has suffered bloom is still okay to eat. You may find the texture of sugar-bloomed chocolate to be a bit grainy on the outside, but it should still taste good. To prevent this from happening to your chocolate, simply use proper storage methods.
How to Store Chocolate
Whether it is white chocolate, baking chocolate, milk chocolate or some kind of chocolate confection, proper storage is key. Since it can easily absorb flavors from food or other products situated nearby, chocolate should be tightly wrapped and stored away from pungent odors. The ideal temperature for storage is somewhere between 65 - 68 degrees F (18 - 20 degrees C), with no more than 50 percent to 55 percent relative humidity. If stored properly, you can expect milk chocolate and white chocolate to be good for up to six months. Other types of chocolate can have an even longer shelf life.
Candy Making Hints And Tips
Candies are sweet treats composed primarily of sugar and flavoring. They satisfy our cravings for sugar. Textures vary from rock hard to soft and gooey. Most candy is commercially produced, but some can be prepared at home. Holidays, especially Christmas and Valentine's Day, are perfect times to make homemade candies. The whole family can help create these luscious treats. Give them as gifts and wow your friends and family.
Most of the classic candies, such as fudges, fondants, caramels, toffees and brittles, are cooked candies. Cooked candies are formed from a boiling syrup made from sugar, a liquid, and a variety of ingredients for flavor. They are prepared the conventional way on the range top in a heavy saucepan and cooked to the proper temperature. Care should be taken when boiling syrup because the hot syrup can cause serious burns if spilled or spattered.
There are three important things to remember when preparing cooked candies:
FIRST, it is necessary to prevent large sugar crystals from forming since they cause the candy to become grainy and coarse in texture. To prevent large crystals, the sugar should be completely dissolved. Large crystals can form on the side of the saucepan; they should be washed down before a candy thermometer is placed in the pan.
To wash down the crystals from the side of a pan, use a pastry brush dipped in hot water. Gently brush the crystals down into the syrup or collect them on the brush bristles. Dip the brush frequently in hot water to clean off the bristles. Another easy way to wash down crystals is to place a cover on the pan for 2 or 3 minutes. This allows the trapped steam to wash down the crystals. If you use the cover method, make sure the syrup does not boil over.
SECOND, it is important to cook candy to the correct temperature. If you make cooked candy often, a candy thermometer is essential. Thermometers are available in cookware stores and some supermarkets. Test the accuracy of your candy thermometer before using. If a candy thermometer is not available, use the cold water test as described in the section titled "Cold Water Test." However, using a thermometer is much easier and more accurate. The proper use and testing for accuracy of candy thermometers are discussed in the section titled "Candy Thermometers."
The shape, size and thickness of the pan will determine the time required for the syrup to reach its final temperature. Times given in recipes are only approximate. It is more important to refer to the temperatures of the syrups. Also, the temperatures are given in ranges. To achieve the proper consistency, the syrup must be heated to at least the minimum temperature without exceeding the higher temperature. Heating the syrup concentrates it. The longer the syrup is heated, the more liquid is evaporated and the more concentrated the syrup becomes. The higher the temperature, the firmer and more brittle the candy will be.
THIRD, candies, such as fudges, must be cooled to lukewarm before they can be beaten and shaped. This cooling can take almost 2 hours for large fudge recipes, and patience is necessary. Do not place the hot candy mixture in the refrigerator or freezer to cool unless noted in the recipe.
Heavy saucepans with flat bottoms will prevent candy from scorching during cooking. Pans should be large enough to prevent syrups from boiling and foaming over the rims. Always use the size pan suggested in the recipe and never double cooked-candy recipes.
Cold Water Test
Place a small amount of the hot syrup into a cup of very cold, but not iced, water. Using your fingers, remove the cooled syrup. If the syrup has not reached the desired stage, continue cooking the candy and test again.
Soft-Ball Stage (234° to 240°F)
The cooled syrup can be rolled into a soft ball that flattens when removed from water.
Firm-Ball Stage (244° to 248°F)
The syrup can be rolled into a firm ball that does not flatten immediately when removed from water.
Hard-Ball Stage (250° to 266°F)
The syrup can be rolled into a firm ball that gives some resistance when pressed.
Soft-Crack Stage (270° to 290°F)
The syrup can be stretched into strands that are hard but elastic.
Hard-Crack Stage (300° to 310°F)
The syrup forms strands that are hard and brittle and can easily be snapped in half.
Candy thermometers are the most accurate way of determining the temperature of boiling syrup. Always attach the thermometer to the side of the pan after washing down sugar crystals. Make sure that the thermometer does not touch the bottom of the pan. Read the thermometer at eye level.
Verify the accuracy of a candy thermometer by checking its reading in boiling water. Water normally boils at 212°F at sea level. If your thermometer does not read 212°F, either you do not live at sea level or your thermometer is not accurate. (Water always boils at a lower temperature above sea level because there is less air pressure.) To adjust the temperature given on a recipe, add or subtract the difference from 212°F as needed. For example, if your thermometer reads 210°F in boiling water and the recipe temperature is 240°F, cook the candy to 238°F, or 2°F less than the temperature stated in the recipe.
Uncooked candies can be as rich and creamy as cooked candies. Truffles and nut clusters are examples of uncooked candies. The ingredients are mixed, then either shaped into balls, coated or pressed into pans or molds. Ingredients typically used for uncooked candies are fruits, nuts, sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, powdered sugar, marshmallows and extracts. Some uncooked candies are mixed and topped or coated with melted chocolate. While a heat source is needed to melt the chocolate, these candies are still considered uncooked.
A Note About Melting Chocolate
To prevent scorching, chocolate should be melted with care. It can be melted in a saucepan over direct heat at a very low setting, in a double boiler or in a microwave oven. See Chocolate for detailed melting directions.
A Note About Butter
Butter, not margarine, should be used in most candy recipes to ensure the best texture and results. Butter also contributes flavor to candies. Today many margarines have added water to decrease the amount of fat they contain. Margarine-type products marked as "spreads" or those that come in tubs should not be used because their water content will cause melted chocolate to become stiff and grainy. Also, the added water will change cooking times for cooked candies. If you must use margarine, use only stick products labeled as margarine.