Homemade Hard Candy – Петушки на Палочке

When my kids ask me to buy candy I have the hardest time
saying “yes.”  Not only there is nothing
nutritionally valuable in candy, it is also often filled with additives,
preservatives, and weird colorings with names that remind me of aircraft
fuel.  So my solution to this problem is
to make homemade candy.   We can use ingredients readily available in
our kitchen, avoid the really bad stuff and learn some chemistry along the
way. 
Some of the things you can learn making homemade candy:
  • Measurements, volumes, and weights
  • How heat works and the process of evaporation
  • How to use thermometer
  • Why sugar solidifies into crystals

When the kids are older we can talk about sugar molecule and
about carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen.  For
now I just mentioned it in passing.  I
always look for an opportunity to throw in some confusing words just to see
what will stick.
If you think you are switching to homemade candy for good, I
highly recommend buying a good candy thermometer.  The most important aspect for me is that it’s dishwasher safe.  Cleaning the sticky
stuff off manually is a hard labor. Another important aspect is a good
clip.  I just hate when my thermometer
comes off when you least expect it and sprays sugary water all over the stove
top.

For my Russian friends I want to mention that this candy
comes out tasting exactly like our childhood treat Петушки на палочке
I don’t have a rooster-shaped form, but it doesn’t matter. It still tastes
the same.
What you need
  • 1 ¾ cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup corn syrup
  • 1/8 tsp cream of tartar
  • Parchment paper
  • Cookie sheet and perhaps cookie cutters

What to do
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a pan. 
  2. Slowly heat the mixture to low boil while stirring. 
  3. Keep the mixture at a low boil and place a candy thermometer
    in the container. 

  4. Keep the mixture at slow boil until the temperature reaches
    350F. If you don’t have a candy thermometer what do you do?  There is a trick to it.  From time to time scoop some syrup with a spoon and let it drop into a cup of cold water.  If the drop hardens, then the candy is ready.  Also, pay attention to the color.  You want a beautiful, rich, dark golden glow. 

  5. While the mixture is cooking, prepare cookie sheet and/or
    cookie cutters. I like to cover cookie sheet with parchment paper.  You can also spray it with cooking oil to
    make sure nothing sticks.  And generously
    spray cookie cutter with oil. 
  6. Once the mixture reaches the desired temperature, pour it
    into the cookie pan and/or fill the cookie cutters.  You can add food colorings and flavors, but I think it’s delicious as is.  
  7. If you are using cookie cutters and you want your candy to
    look like lollipops, insert sticks a few minutes after your filled the cookie
    cutter.  It’s that magic window of
    opportunity when mixture is hard enough not to flow freely from under the
    cookie cutter but still soft enough to allow the stick to penetrate.  

I like to break off a small piece and suck on it until it
disappears.  It goes a long way to tame a
sweet tooth! 
Some of the things you can mention along the way:
  • The white stuff you know as sugar is sucrose.
  • Sucrose consists of two simpler sugars stuck together – fructose and glucose.
  • Acid – like cream of tartar used in my recipe – breaks down sucrose into its components fructose and glucose
  • When you add sugar to water sugar crystals dissolve
  • As water begins to boil it starts to evaporate leaving the remaining solution saturated with sugar
  • Adding non-sucrose sugar like corn syrup prevents crystallization of sucrose in candy
Happy Candy Making!  Let me know what you think. 
                                                                               Eva

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