Monday, January 2, 2012

Cooking: Homemade Hard Candy

If you follow my Twitter or Facebook, you already know that I burned myself making candy this year. I was testing for "crack," that magical (ok, it's science, not magic) change from gooey melted sugar to hard, suckable candy. I dipped a spoon in the goo, waited a couple seconds, then touched it with my finger (better test method described below). IT. WAS. HOT. I blew on it. The goo stuck to my finger and continued to burn me. I knew I had to get it off. So I did what any panicked, burning, too-proud-to-yell-for-help woman would do: I put my finger in my mouth. In my haste, I smeared some of the burning sugar on my upper lip. I quickly put my burning finger under the cold running water in the sink. I burn myself all the time. I'm a pro at this. The relief flooded over me. That was when I realized that my lip was burned. I guess the endorphins kept me from feeling it right away. As soon as I was able, I looked in the mirror to see what looked like a herpes blister on my upper lip. Four days before Christmas. Great.

This is my second year of making hard candy, and I think I have it down now. My first two batches burned this year, much to the dismay of Little Miss Farmer and the delight of the local wildlife who enjoyed licking the burnt sugar off a rock in my yard. Then I located the recipe I used last year and had much better success. Here's what worked for me:


2 cups white sugar
1 cup water
3/4 cup light corn syrup
flavorings (optional)*
food coloring (optional)
confectioners' sugar

*Flavorings that have worked for me:
  • Mild Ginger Flavor - 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • Sweet Cinnamon - 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Peppermint - 1 tsp peppermint extract
  • Fruity - one (0.15 oz) packet of unsweetened drink mix, any flavor (adds color, too!) 


In a heavy 2 quart saucepan, combine the sugar, water and corn syrup. Cook, stirring constantly until the sugar is dissolved; then cook without stirring, lowering the heat and cooking more slowly during the last few minutes (seriously, do not rush it; sugar burns easily!), to the hard crack stage (EVERY recipe I have seen calls for 300-310 degrees F, but at my altitude, it is about 250 degrees F). An easy (and safe!) way to check for crack is to dip the tip of a dinner knife into the the candy, then plunge into ice water for a few seconds. If it is ice cold and rock hard like a lollipop, but not sticky, you're there.

Remove from heat, add flavoring and enough food coloring to color; stir only to mix. Pour into a cookie sheet or shallow baking dish that has been generously dusted with powdered sugar. Allow to cool slightly, score with a butter knife, and allow to cool completely. (Many people skip this step, but I find little squares more attractive than the "shards of glass" look accomplished by the traditional method of allowing it to cool then hitting it with a hammer.)

I'm not sure if dusting the top helps or not, but I did it...
Break the bits apart after it is completely cooled. Who am I kidding? Some of it is going to look like broken glass no matter how you do it. Toss in a small amount of powdered sugar to keep it from sticking together.

Now the hard part... try to keep the kids out of it!


  1. I love candy making- and 'broken glass' was a favorite!
    A few years ago I received a nasty burn while making peanut was awful. Took the skin of several fingers.
    We look back now and laugh; sometimes the best memories are the painful or embarrassing ones.

  2. so sorry about your burns. I hope they don't effect your typing fingers. I love this Blog!! I can't get enough of your humor. Take care of the burns.

  3. The lip burn healed very quickly. The fingertip burn left behind a tiny scar, much like a callous from playing guitar. I can still type! Yay!