• With a pastry brush, continuously brush cold water over the inside walls of the pan of boiling syrup. This cools the sides of the pan and keeps sugar crystals from forming; don’t stir the brush down into the syrup. If butter is an ingredient of the candy recipe, buttering the sides of the saucepan will also help prevent crystalization; if not, it may affect the flavor.
• An inexpensive Chinese wooden rice paddle (often sold for use with woks) is perfect for beating fondant syrup.
• Wearing a pair of latex gloves will allow you to begin pulling taffy or ribbon candy sooner without burning your fingers.
• Spray molds, marble, or forms with a light coating of vegetable spray to prevent sticking and possibly breaking the candy.
• A candy thermometer that touches the bottom of the pan will register temperatures inaccurately. Adjust the clip on your thermometer to the height of your pan before you start cooking, or hold the thermometer in the center of the pan.
• Fruit juice will lighten in color and turn somewhat yellow on cooking. A red juice will end up pink to orange, and purple juice will look blue to green. Orange, grapefruit, lemon, and lime juices burn readily and thus are not recommended.
• Your pan should be clean, dry, free from scratches, and its capacity about four times the volume of your ingredients. Syrup will not cover evenly in a pot that is too large and can boil over in one that’s too small. A heavy-bottomed stainless steel or heavy-gauge aluminum pan spreads the heat evenly.
• A marble slab, which costs $10 to $15, is ideal for candymaking, but a chilled baking sheet is an adequate substitute.
• Weather and altitude can affect candy. Make candy on a dry day when humidity is low. At high altitudes, cook candy to a slightly lower temperature than at sea level–10° less at 3000 feet, 13° less at 5000 feet, or 16° less at 7000 feet.
• Frozen juice cans are perfect round sucker molds. Cut off and discard the bottom inch with the metal ring. Hollow cookie cutters also work well.
Jennifer Van Norman of Loveland, Colorado, is a freelance food developer and recipe tester. Besides frequent appearances in Woman’s Day magazine, her work is featured on the recipe cards packaged with Perdue chicken.
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