One of my most treasured Christmas memories is learning how to make handmade candies from my mother and my grandmother. December and snowfall always makes me want to head to the kitchen and start working chocolate and sugar. There were lots of phases in my learning from rolled candies to the first hot sugar options, and candy canes were always the thing at the top of the list. Mostly they were at the top of the list because you had to work sugar at such a high temperature and you couldn’t just work it with a spoon. Candy canes, like taffy, pour out mostly clear or a little golden and they have to be pulled to work air into the mix and then rolled and twisted to put in a stripe. When you first pick the hot sugar up it’s a little like working with sugar flavored napalm. It sticks to everything and burns, which is part of why it’s a family activity so you can pass the mass around and pull and pull as it cools.
Since marrying I’ve taught my husband and children about candy canes and it’s gone from being my mother’s traditions to one of mine, so much so that my boys promised their friends that they’d bring in homemade candy canes as presents this year. So last week we threw our first batch… I think they turned out lovely.
Not the most even candy canes in the world, but that’s what makes them uniquely original and did we mention yummy?!?
I’ll be talking candy making techniques this week on the blog and answering questions like: What is washing down crystals and why do we do it? If you have any specific questions toss them in the comments!
Cornaby Candy Canes
6 cups sugar
3 cups cold water
2 Tbl light corn syrup
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp Ultra Gel (do NOT over do this or you’ll end up pulling rubber bands instead of smooth candy!)
flavoring and coloring as desired
Combine sugar, Ultra Gel and salt in a heavy saucepan. Add corn syrup and water and stir well. Heat to a boil, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolve, then remove spoon from pan and bring to a rolling boil. Wash down the crystals, then add the cream of tartar. Boil to a hard crack stage. Pour sugar mixture onto a greased baking sheet or marble slab, reserving enough for the stripe which is poured into a buttered pie plate.
Turn in the edges of the hot sugar and add flavorings and color as desired. Gather the candy from the baking pan into a ball and pull until cream, then shape into a ball. Meanwhile, mix the flavor and color into the mixture in the pie plate and shape it into a rope. Wrap the colored stripe around the creamy ball and stretch and pull them together twisting into a stripe.
Cut into desired lengths and fashion hook. Allow to cool on a waxed paper lined tray. Store in tightly sealed container.