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BTRT Patterns (on Etsy)

Thursday, 28 August 2014
Making your own sweet and yummy rock candy from scratch is pretty simple, once you learn to respect the sugar!  After a few rookie mistakes, we got the hang of it and made such pretty pretty candy for my daughter's 9th birthday party.

I make my daughter a cake for her birthday each year.
I am not what you would call a 'baker', so the cake comes from a box and the icing from a can (oh, the humanity!)~ you can read about the Great Rainbow Cake Disaster here.
One cake a year is about all I can handle.

This year, dragon-crazy Rowan requested: "a dragon's treasure chest full of jewels OR a cake in the shape of the carcass of an animal a dragon killed."
I know, right?
How to choose?!
Treasure chest it is.

Sifting through Pinterest I spotted rock candy~ perfect for jewels!
And all I needed was water, white sugar and white corn syrup to make it.
{{at this point Ro's holistic nutrition Aunties are crying kale flavoured tears, I know... but this is a kid's birthday party! }}

At this point I should note that I am also not what you might call a 'scientist' (dyeing aside) and making candy and working with boiling sugar is totally a science!  But the good thing is that you can learn from my mistakes!
So here is what you need:
+ white sugar
+ white corn syrup
+ water
+ measuring cups and spoons
+ metal utensils (spoon)
+ medium pot
+ candy thermometer is a big help but not required
+ cookie sheet
+ parchment paper or aluminum foil
+ candy flavouring (if desired)
+ food colouring (liquid or gel), if desired
+ powdered/ icing sugar , if desired

One Batch = 2 cups of sugar + 2/3 c. corn Syrup + 3/4 c. water
(one tsp. of flavouring and a teeny bit of colouring if desired)

A Few Basics:

+ this may seem obvious, but boiling sugar is incredibly HOT and it STICKS, young children and pets underfoot should be at a safe distance.
+ sugar wants to crystallize (this is a sciency-bit), even while extremely hot, the addition of any unmelted crystals will cause the whole pot to re-crystallize and spoil... so be sure to get all the sugar crystals off of the side of your pot when you begin to heat (a lid placed on it for a few minutes at first will allow the steam to melt any crystals clinging to the sides), and never use a spoon with sugar on it to stir (best bet = do not stir).
+you want to bring your sugar to the 'hard crack stage' (300 F), any further and it begins to caramelize.
+be sure your sugar mixture comes up to about 1/2 way on the sides of your pot, any less and your pot may be too large, which will cause the sugar to burn (read on, brave reader!)

Set Up Your Space:
+ gather all your ingredients and utensils
+ lay a sheet of parchment or aluminum on your cookie sheet and set this by the stove.
+ lay a piece of aluminum foil beside the cookie sheet and measure out your colour and flavour and set aside
+lay a piece of foil on your stovetop in case you need to quickly drop the thermometer or a spoon (easier to clean up!)
+ if using a candy thermometer (non-digital) be sure to calibrate it

Mix Your Ingredients & Begin to Cook:
Combine sugar, corn syrup and water.
No need to stir, see above if you have sugar on the sides of the pot.
Attach your candy thermometer.
Turn stove burner to high and be prepared to watch your pot throughout.
At first your mixture will give off steam as the water boils and evaporates out~ hitting boiling at 212F. And then the sugar has to boil until it reaches the correct stage at 300F.  This part (212-300) can take a little while (10-15 minutes for us on our 40 year old stove).

++If you are not using a candy thermometer, this would be a good time to familiarizing yourself with the candy stages and the ball test (I flipped to it in our old Betty Crocker to demonstrate the progression to Rowan.. yay science + sugar!). ++

Here is where things can go terribly wrong...
I started our first batch with a pot that was much too large.
I decided to write down the progression of the boiling (sciencey me!).
It went something like this:
1:20 First batch started, lots of steam.Rowan observes that there is no smell of candy.
1:28 boiling at 220F, steam pretty much exhausted. Smells a little like candy/ caramel.
(no time) 250F very strong smell and colour changing (not clear as it should be!)
(no time) 265F Burnt.
And it looked like this:

Our whole house was full of acrid smoke that stung the throat and nose. I dropped the pot in the sink and ran water into it (NO!)~ and a series of small explosions began, little geysers of bursting boiling burnt sugar and steam. Rowan was fanning the smoke detector and crying until I threw her outside and waded back in, mouth and nose covered with a damp towel like a pioneer battling a prairie fire.
Well. That was fun.

Even funner? I scraped up and threw out the burnt stuff and our baby puppy raided the garbage bag, getting his whole head covered in insanely sticky burnt sugar. 

Cleaned up. Started again.
This time with a smaller pot and much more research!
Also~ don't stir the hot candy with a plastic spoon, don't add too much colouring (our blue comes off on everything!) and a little flavour goes a long way.

Next batch... much better progression. So much so that I sat down to answer emails, trusting our digital thermometer to let me know when it hit 300F.  Which it did, except that I didn't recognize the beeping, vaguely wondered why someone had set the egg timer, and ignored it. Yep.
Decided a few minutes later to check the pot... 330F and a lovely light caramel on the boil.
{Truthfully this batch actually tastes the best!}
And, we tried again!

Back on Track:
Once your sugar reaches hard crack/ 300F you need to move quickly.
Drop the thermometer on the foil you laid out, and remove the pot from the heat to stop the cooking.
Add your food colouring and flavour oil, stir and pour onto your waiting cookie sheet.
Allow the mixture to spread out and after a few minutes, you can place the pan in your fridge to cool.
(Place it on a tea towel on the shelf).
The boiling takes 30 minutes or so, the cooling another hour.

Crack it!
Once your candy has chilled, take it out and CRACK it!
This is super fun... I used the end of a butter knife (it was on hand).
If you make blue like we did, you will feel like you are in the lab on an episode of Breaking Bad, so crack away with your bad self, yo!

Storage: {{You can decide if your candy is too sticky to bag up and store on its own.  It shouldn't be terribly sticky, done right, but humidity etc. will affect this quality. As we were storing our for a few days, I coated it (toss it is n a plastic bag and shake up with icing sugar) with powdered sugar which was a big help in keeping it in smaller pieces).}}

We ended up with a pale yellow/ root beer flavoured (no colour added, just cooked too long), sapphire blue (licorice), emerald green (key lime) and amethyst purple (grape) to be the dragon's jewels on the birthday cake. Yay!

It really was amazing to see the changes and the beauty of the sugar, and to learn a few valuable science bits as well.  We will definitely try again~ maybe using some candy molds at Christmas time and some favourite holiday flavours.

Now go play with sugar! Enjoy! ♥♥


Anonymous said...

This looks yummy.

I had to sigh for you about the puppy getting into the trash... silly dog.

Thank you for stopping by the Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop this week. We hope to see you drop by our neck of the woods next week!

Fluster Buster said...

Rock Candy is one of my favorites. Thanks for sharing at Fluster's Creative Muster.

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