It's no secret that we think sugar is pretty awesome. Not only is it sweet
and delicious, but for millennia people have been finding new and
innovative ways to turn it into the candies we know and love. Who'd've
thought that the very same sugar could become a colourful lollypop, fancy
rock candy, or even light-as-air candy floss, all depending on how it's
cooked and cooled? We think that's pretty neat.
So what happens to turn plain sugar into the amazing treats you know and
love? That depends what type of candy you're making! Here are just a few
different ways that candy manufacturers have pulled, heated, mixed and
turned sugar into a mountain of fun.
Hard Candy: Also called boiled candy, hard candies have been made for
centuries and come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. High quality sugar is
carefully boiled until it becomes a soft, pliable mass that can be
stretched, molded or cut into shape. This sort of candy is easy to make
but hard to master, everything from moisture to temperature to time can
change the exact texture of the candy, turning your delicious treat into a
grainy mess. Additives have to be carefully measured so they don't affect
the crystallization process.
Gummies: These treats start with a gelatin base, which was traditionally
made out of animal fat. Nowadays, many companies use a vegetable-derived
alternative. Either way, they provide gummies with that chewy texture and
melt-in-your-mouth quality. The ratio of sugar to gelatin, as well as the
temperature at which they're combined, affects the final texture. Whether
you end up with squishy soft gummy bears or a firm black licorice, it all
depends on the exact recipe used.
Rock Candy: This one's so easy, you can make it at home! Sugar naturally
forms into crystals, so the only trick is getting them to form in the
right place. Plain water is brought to a near boil, then poured into a
container and filled with sugar until no more will dissolve. When the
mixture is brought back to room temperature, the sugar will try and
re-crystallize onto whatever surface it can find, so putting a string or
wooden dowel in the mix results in a string or stick of yummy rock candy
crystals! The process can take several days to finish, so be prepared for
a bit of a wait.
Cotton candy: One of the coolest things you can do with just sugar! Cotton
candy doesn't require any special ingredients, just very special tools. A
cotton candy machine is designed to heat up sugar until it becomes liquid,
then fire it out of tiny holes very quickly. The sugar cools rapidly and
hardens into thin, whispy strands that can get gathered together on a
stick or in a bag and served as the popular carnival confection. A little
bit of food dye goes a long way in making the classic pink and blue
Caramel: You can make a basic caramel just by heating plain sugar at a low
temperature for a long period of time, mixing carefully so as not to burn
it. This turns the sugar golden brown, and imparts that delicious caramel
taste you know and love. The little soft caramel squares you're used to
are milk caramels, made by adding dairy ingredients (butter, cream and/or
milk) to the caramelization process. The dairy gives them their
characteristic chewy, creamy texture. An accurate thermometer is very
important when making chewy caramel candy; too little heat, and the candy
will be sticky. Too much, and it will burn or turn hard.
Want to know more? Watch this space for more fun candy facts, or drop us a
line on our facebook page with your own candy queries.