Have you ever bought (and eaten) a delicious piece of candy and wondered what it would be like to make it at home? Whether it’s making gooey marshmallows or soft caramels for gifting, candy—unlike other sweet treats—is the type of cooking project that seems intimidating and pretty advanced. However, at OXO we’re always up for a new challenge and making even challenging-seeming things accessible.
If you’re new to candy making, start simple. We say tackle caramels first since they don’t require a lot of ingredients and look impressive. The key? Use a Candy Thermometer. Thermometers make complex cooking approachable and take the guesswork out of it: you’ll know exactly when the sugar syrup is ready for cream or when your chocolate is melted by reading the temperature.
Candy Making Methods
Cooked sugar and water = sugar syrup (the base of most candies). As the mixture cooks on a stovetop, it goes through different stages. This changes its pliability and outcome. The Cold Water Test is one way of figuring out the stage sugar syrup is in. Once the sugar syrup is heating up, drop a spoonful of the syrup in a bowl of ice cold water. Use your hand to form the syrup into a ball. Take the ball out of the water. The texture of the ball will inform what stage the syrup is in based on the chart below. The alternative to the Cold Water Test is simply looking at a candy thermometer.
Here’s a breakdown of different temperatures and consistencies for sugar syrup:
Since candy making can be a little scary (hot, hot, hot liquid splashing), we made the measurements on our thermometer large enough to see from a safe distance and the handle wide enough for a kitchen utensil like tongs or a spoon handle to help lift it out of the pot.
Once your sugar syrup starts to boil, things also start moving around a lot in the pot, that’s why we like to always use the clip on the thermometer to keep it in place.
Good tip: Overestimate your pot size. The last thing you want is the sugar syrup bubbling over your pot, so make sure to use a large one. We stick to a 6QT or 8QT so there is room.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of candy making, try tackling homemade caramels. We adapted a recipe from The Kitchn.
Homemade Caramels Recipe
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup corn syrup
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Coarse Sea Salt for Topping
1. Line a 2Qt baking dish with parchment paper and make sure there is excess paper hanging over the edges. Spray the paper with nonstick spray.
2. Melt the butter, cream and salt in a Sauce Pan over medium heat. Once melted, remove from heat.
3. In an 8Qt pot combine sugar, corn syrup and water. Stir until you form a thick paste. Clip on your Candy Thermometer to the side of the pot.
4. Place the pot over medium to medium-high heat. Let the sugar come to a boil without stirring.
5. At 245-325 F, turn off the heat and slowly whisk in the cream and butter. The sugar syrup will bubble and triple in size—and you’ll be happy you went with the bigger pot!
6. Return the pot to medium heat and do not stir the caramel. Heat the caramel to around 245 F.
7. Whisk in the vanilla and immediately pour the caramel into the lined baking dish. Knock the baking dish on the counter a tiny bit so air bubbles come out.
8. Let the caramels set for at least 2 hours. Once the caramels have cooled, they can be covered.
9. Once they have set, lift the caramel out of the pan from the parchment paper. Use a knife to cut into candies.
10. Sprinkle sea salt on top and wrap in wax paper. Caramels will keep at room temperature for two weeks.