Thursday, 15 September 2011

Candy Canes

Candy canes are easily available in stores at least 2 months of the year, but there is something satisfying about making your own, if only to say that you did. This recipe for candy canes is a traditional pulled candy, based on a simple sugar syrup flavored with mint extract. You can always vary the flavoring and colors to customize your candies. Be warned that pulling candies can be tricky the first time, so be prepared to have some “special” canes on your first attempt.

If you have never pulled candy before, check out the step-by-step photo instructions showing how to pull candy.

1. Prepare two cookie sheets by spraying them with nonstick cooking spray or covering them with a light layer of oil. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees.

2. Combine sugar, corn syrup, and water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring continuously, until the sugar dissolves. Insert a candy thermometer and continue cooking without stirring until the candy reaches 285 (soft-crack stage).

3. Once the proper temperature is reached, remove the candy from the heat immediately and stir in the mint extract. Pour half of the mixture onto the prepared cookie sheet and place it in the preheated oven to stay warm.

4. Add red food coloring to the remaining candy. Pour the candy out onto a marble slab or heat-safe cutting board. Allow it to sit briefly until it forms a “skin.”

5. Spray a bench scraper or heat-safe spatula with nonstick cooking spray, and use the tool to begin spreading the candy out and pushing it back together, working it across the board and allowing it to cool. Don’t forget to check out the instructions showing how to pull candy if you get confused about the process.

6. As soon as the candy is cool enough to handle (but still quite hot), begin to pull it. If you have plastic gloves, put them on and spray the gloves with nonstick cooking spray—this will help prevent overheated or burned hands. Take the candy in both hands and pull the hands in opposite directions, stretching the candy into a long rope. Bring the ends of the strands together and twist the candy into a rope, then pull the rope out into a long strand. Continue to twist and pull the candy until it has a satin-like finish and is an opaque red color. Once the candy is still pliable but barely warm, pull it into a strand about 2” thick, and place it on the remaining prepared baking sheet. Put this sheet back into the oven, turn off the heat, and remove the baking sheet with the other half of the candy syrup. The pulled candy will remaining pliable in the warm oven while you work the second portion.

7. Repeat the pulling procedure with the second, clear portion of candy. At the end, the candy should be a pearly white color. Form it into a log 2” in diameter, just like the red candy.

8. Remove the red candy from the oven. Cut a 5-inch segment from the white and the red log, and place them next to each other. Begin to pull the candies together, twisting gradually to form the familiar candy stripes. Once the twisted candy is the thickness you want, use oiled kitchen shears to cut them to approximately 8” lengths. Immediately form the hook at the top of the cane, and place it on a baking sheet to set at room temperature.

9. Repeat the twisting with the remaining candy. If the candy gets too hard to pull, place it in the warm oven for a few minutes to soften, but don’t let it sit too long and melt. The candy canes will get very hard at room temperature, but if left out for long periods of time they will get soft and sticky, so be sure to wrap them in cellophane once they are set.

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