Homemade candy canes? I didn't even know there was such a thing! Today, the very talented CMcLaws walks us through how to pull sugar to make candy canes.
CM: So what was the impetus for making candy canes? Are you going to give them as gifts?
Peppermint candy has always been a favorite of mine, and I've always stocked up on Candy Canes when the holidays roll around. They've always been a comfort food for me. I get migraines quite often, and last Christmas, I had a DOOZY. No medicine could touch it, and I wanted nothing more than to just lay in my bed in the dark and eat a candy cane.
About an hour or so later, it dawned on me that my migraine was gone! I did some research into it and found out that peppermint oil is actually used as an herbal remedy for migraines, even morning sickness! I remember telling myself "I need to learn how to make these!" I wanted to make sure I would never run out!
I would love to give these as gifts, but nobody else in my family really likes peppermint. I may pull the sugar with another flavor though, and gift those instead. The possibilities are really endless!
What is "pulled sugar"?
Pulled sugar is just what it sounds to be. After the sugar is poured and cooled to the right temperature, you can literally pick up the sugar (using a pair [or two!] of gloves, of course) and pull it apart, fold it back on itself, and pull it again. Pulling sugar adds a beautiful pearly sheen to the candy, but more importantly adds air to it so you don't break your teeth while eating it.
How do you do it?
The act of pulling sugar is pretty simple, but it goes without saying that it can be dangerous since it is so hot, so make sure to wear gloves!
Lay down a silicone mat onto a heat-proof surface and pour the hot sugar onto the mat. Let the sugar cool for just a few seconds until you can touch the top of it without it sticking to your gloves. At this stage, is it starting to become firm, yet still pliable. If you leave it much longer, you will have one solid sheet of hard sugar, not suitable for pulling. Since your mat is silicone, the sugar shouldn't stick very much. Roll the sugar into a long rope and begin pulling it, folding it back on itself, and pulling it again. The more you pull, the more air you work into the sugar, and the shinier it becomes.
Making candy canes really isn't much more challenging, just a few extra steps in the process.
You will need:
Two non-stick cookie sheets (or line a cookie sheet with parchment paper)
Non-stick pan (also can be lined with parchment paper)
Non-stick spatula (silicone works great for this!)
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup (Make sure the corn syrup is light in color, not sugar content. Corn syrup with less sugar is NOT suitable for candy making. (I learned this the hard way!)
1 tablespoon peppermint extract (this is for a strong flavor - you can use less)
Red food coloring
Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees, for helping keep the sugar warm later. (You can use a heat lamp for this step if you'd rather.) Melt the sugar, corn syrup, and water in the saucepan over medium heat. Stir continuously until the sugar has dissolved, then do not stir anymore until the sugar reaches 295 degrees. Remove from heat, and add the flavoring, then pour half of the mixture into the nonstick (or parchment paper lined) pan and place it in the oven until you're ready for it. Add red food coloring to the remaining mixture, then follow the steps above in pulling the sugar. When the red sugar has been pulled, form it into thin sticks the length you want for the candy canes. Place all of the sticks on a cookie sheet and switch out the pans in the oven, red candy goes in, white candy comes out.
Working quickly (so your red sticks in the oven only get soft, not melt), pull the white sugar and form it into the same sticks you made with the red sugar. Then, remove the red sticks from the oven, and twist one stick of each color together to form the candy cane. Don't forget to make the hook on top!
If you find your candy gets too hard to form into the candy canes, you can place one red stick and one white stick next to each other on your cookie sheet, and place back in the oven just until the candy gets soft enough to twist the sticks together. This should give you enough time to twist all of the sticks and make the hooks.
How do they taste?
The flavor in my candy canes are VERY strong, probably three times as strong as one you'd buy in a store. I add a lot of peppermint extract to help with my migraines, but I'd like them that strong regardless. You can never have too much peppermint! That being said, it is very easy to alter the recipe and add less if that strong of a flavor isn't your cup of tea. The textures are exactly the same as store bought candy canes I like to individually wrap them in parchment paper soon after they're finished or they will get softer and a bit sticky.
Have you made anything else with pulled sugar?
I just tried salt water taffy, which was a lot of fun! I found, as least for me, that it was easier to pull a different way than I would a hard candy, such as a candy cane. Plus, since the end product of the taffy is softer, you have more time to work with the sugar before it becomes too hard.
Are you planning to make anything else with pulled sugar in the future?
Have you ever seen those beautiful edible candy cane baskets? The handle is even braided candy canes!! That is my next goal in pulling sugar, but I think I have a bit of practice left before I can get there. :-)
Wow, CMcLaws, I'm impressed.
Have you ever made candy canes?