Have you ever watched expert sugar artists on the food network? I have, on occasion, and I am completely floored by the delicate, whisper-thin creations they are able to make out of sugar. They also don’t stop telling you the whole time how extremely fragile everything is, and how the slightest heavy breathing could shatter all their painstaking work. So, when Kate and Carrie announced Homemade Candy Canes for this months First on the First challenge, I rolled into an armadillo-esque ball and sweated. Not that I’m a particularly heavy breather, but I am well aware that I do not have what one might call steadiness of hand. Let’s just say if I get Parkinson’s one day, it will take some time to notice.
My first plan was to just buy some candy canes, crush ’em up, and use them in some recipe involving chocolate and call it a good day. But I knew in my heart that that would be a total cop out, so I did the next best thing: I grabbed my unsuspecting husband and explained the challenge. He willingly set to the task, watching youtube videos of experienced sugar artists for much of the afternoon on his day off, and declaring it looked “so easy!” “This will be fun!” he said. “Perfect!” I said, not quite as convinced as he.
His watching of videos, if you know me a bit, may have tipped you off to a major difference between us. He is, like many people, a visual learner. I am not. I have no patience for a video longer than 60 seconds, and almost never frequent youtube (or watch any movies in general). I don’t have the attention span to watch and listen to someone explain something I could read about in less time. If we’re talking fiction, I don’t want someone else to dictate what the character looks like, or what mannerisms or body language they have, I want to imagine it up for myself, right or wrong.
So we set out, me with my written directions and him with his mental images. First thing the written directions said? Wear gloves. You have to pull sugar while it’s hot or else it will harden, and hands don’t generally like to hold things coming directly out of the oven or off the stove. The only clean gloves we could hunt down were new cleaning gloves which, naturally, I bought in the size of the person who would use them (me) – small. Those of you who know Carl know he is not at all that size, so I volunteered to do the pulling part. Not to be so easily dissuaded from what he viewed as the most fun to be had, Carl toughed it out and pulled his sugar barehanded.
When we were done, he showed me his blisters and shiny fingerprint-less fingertips. So yeah, that’s not a recommended method of doing this, unless you’re planning on committing a crime in the near future.
It turns out candy cane making isn’t really all that difficult, it just takes patience (we’ve discussed how I feel about that) and practice. Oh yeah, and gloves. You make a basic sugar/water syrup, as in any candy making, and you have to wait patiently for that to reach the proper temperature before continuing or their will be failure in your future. In the case of candy canes, you add a bit of peppermint extract to the syrup and add food colouring to some or all of it if you like. Then you pour it out and let it form a skin before you start working it. And working it. And working it. So I worked it.
For a first try we should have started with a smaller batch to figure out exactly how long the sugar stays hot enough. Thank you, hindsight. As it was, I tried to reheat my red portion in an oven that was on, which simply baked it – I guess that’s why the instructions said to put it in a hot oven that was turned OFF. So after our first few candy canes, I pretty much ruined the rest of the sugar because the parts that baked became unsightly chunks that didn’t work back into the rest evenly.
So our candy canes tasted great, and the hardness was there, but we didn’t get too many and you can see we struggled with consistency :) I broke the rest up into candy-sized pieces and ate it anyway, so it wasn’t a total loss. While it was a fun experiment, but I don’t have a recipe to share with you today because, while we learned a lot, I don’t feel confident that I could write a clear recipe anyone could successfully make candy canes with. We used a combination of Carl’s video watching and this recipe and this recipe.
What do you think, is homemade candy cane making in your future?
For the other participants’ candy canes. check out the links below!
- Homemade Candy Canes by Food Babbles
- Candy Cane Red Velvet Jars by Suitcases and Suites
- Candy Canes for Cheaters by Jenn Larson- Go Running, Mama!
- Homemade Candy Canes by poet in the pantry