The one thing more important than anything else in making candy that comes out perfect batch after batch is to cook the candy until the right amount of water is left in the sugar. The easy way to do this is with proper temperature control - so you need a good candy thermometer. Get one marked in two degree divisions, using the Fahrenheit scale. One marked in five degree steps can't be read closely enough for it to make perfect candy every time. Sometimes you'll cook it a little too high and the fudge will be too hard, other times you'll cook it a little too low and it'll be too soft, or it won't harden at all.
Under normal conditions at sea level water boils at 212 F, but if you live above sea level (and as the weather changes) the temperature at which water boils will change slightly. Normally you wouldn't notice it, but when cooking a candy to a critical temperature it can be the difference between success and failure. It's not the temperature you cook it to that's important, it's how much hotter than boiling water you cook it to that matters. Test your thermometer before you make candy. It's easy to do while you're getting out the ingredients and starting the candy cooking on another burner. Testing the thermometer is positively the single most important secret of making consistantly good candy that there is. The best ingredients in the world won't make a creamy batch of fudge if you cook it five degrees too hot. The simple, easy, step of checking your thermometer before you make a batch of candy is the biggest secret there is when it comes to making candy. Other things are important, but if you don't check the thermometer you can't be sure the candy is going to come out the way you want it to.
To test the thermometer put it in hot water to the depth recommended. It the thermometer doesn't have a marke on it that shows how deep into the boiling syrup you should put it, try to keep it the same depth in the water that it will by in the syrup. Use the clip on the thermometer to keep it from touching the bottom of the pan, you want to measure the liquids temperature, not how hot the metal of the bottom of the pan is. Bring the water to a boil and let it boil for two or three minutes so the reading on the thermometer will stabilize. If it's reading 212 F cook the candy to the temperature indicated in the recipe, if it reads something else refer to the chart below.
|Test Temp||Subtract from Recipe Temp|
|Test Temp||Add To Recipe Temp|
For example, when making Double Chocolate Fudge the test comes out to 210 F. The chart above shows that the readings on the thermometer when the fudge is done should be 2 degrees less than the temperature given in the recipe. In this example, 238 F minus 2 F is 236 F, so the candy will be cooked properly when the thermometer reads 236 F.
If you don't have a candy thermometer, get one, if you do have one, use it. Proper use of the candy thermometer is the key to consistently making good candy. There are a lot of thermometers in stores that only have marks every five degrees. They are better than nothing, but don't buy one unless it's marked every two degrees. If you can't find one, your local hardware store can probably order you the Taylor Candy-Jelly-Deep Fry Thermometer Number 5983. It's the one I use. Wait until the syrup is boiling and the sugar is completely disolved before inserting the thermometer. This will keep it from collecting crystals that might make the candy grainy.
Another important item is the control of sugar crystals. Granulated sugar is made up of sugar crystals, and if they are not completely dissolved, or if new crystals form on the side of the pan during cooking it can lead to grainy, unappetizing candy. To control them you must do two things. First, all of the original sugar crystals must be dissolved or removed. Second, any crystals that form during cooking must be removed. Most candies should be stirred until they start to boil, then not stirred again during cooking - stirring while hot helps crystals to grow. (In these instructions candies that need to be stirred during cooking will be indicated.) As the syrup starts to boil in the pan the sugar will dissolve - except for a few crystals along the wall of the pan. These crystals can be eliminated in one of two ways. One, wipe them off with a damp cloth wrapped around the end of a fork. Two, put the cover on the pan and let the steam dissolve the sugar crystals from the side of the pan. it will take two or three minutes to completely dissolve the crystals, and be sure to check the pan after 15 seconds or so to be sure that it's not going to boil over. Method two is less trouble than method one, but it isn't as good with candies that scorch easily like caramels, and it can't be used to get rid of the crystals that might form later in the cooking process along the walls of the pan. (A coating of dried syrup on the walls of the pan isn't a problem, but if crystals form they can ruin the whole batch if not removed.)
Cook candy over medium heat. When the fudge first starts to boil it will be almost like water, as the water boils out of the sugar and the temperature goes up it will take less heat to keep it boiling, so keep an eye on it and graually turn the heat down after the syrup reaches 230 F or so. If there are any signs of scorching of if it boils too hight on the side of the pan turn the heat lower. You want to keep it boiling so the temperature keeps going up but you also want tomake sure it doesn't burn. If you answer the phone and the syrup scorches on the bottom, you can still save most of the candy. Turn the heat down to keep it from getting worse and cook it to the correct temperature. Then, instead of cooking it int he pan you used to cook it, pour the syrup out into another pan to cool it and beat it in. Don't scrape the syrup out because you'll get some of the burned taste, just pour it out. Add a little less of the butter and flavorings that go in after cooking so that you keep the proportions of ingredients the same. A heavy two quart saucepan is about right for most of the recipes included here.
It takes good ingredients to make good candy, so use quality products in your candy. We've called for butter in many of these recipes, but you can substitute margarine if you wish. When you buy brown sugar to make candy be sure that you get traditional brown sugar. Some of the brown sugar products on the market today have corn sugar added to them and this corn sugar will affect the ability of the candy to harden. Several of the recipes call for evaporated milk. This is to save time when cooking, half the water has already been boiled out for you. If you don't want to use evaporated milk, use double the amount of regular milk. You'll have to cook it a little longer, but it will come out every bit as good. When a recipe calls for Peanut Butter, the non-separating kind is recommended as it will melt and mix in better than the old-fashioned kind style peanut butters do.
Teaspoon is abbreviated tsp, and tablespoon is tbs.