Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Sugar Magic (i.e., DIY Lollipop Tutorial)

For Molly's Gingerbread Party favors, I decided to delegate the candymaking to my brother.  But because everyone doesn't have a Walter handy, church member Sharon was nice enough to photograph this tutorial from Walter.  Because lollipop making is pretty magical and simple enough to try at home, there is plenty of time to kick some Valentine's Day ass.  

What you need to make the lollipops pictured here:
We got most of these supplies at  Amazon will also have everything and your local Michaels will have everything except molds (at least that is true for mine).  

Capital Investments:
  • Molds (we got our's here)  (This recipe yield is 12+ 2.5" diameter)  
  • Candy Thermometer
Hard Candy Base:  
  • Sugar
  • Corn Syrup
  • Water
  • Vegetable Oil  (for mold release)
Some people like to use Isomalt (in lieu of sugar) but we find it doesn't taste as good and it is  A LOT more money than sugar.  And it's a laxative.  Also, glycerin is the gold standard for mold release but vegetable oil works well (it was used here because Walt was out of glycerin).  

  • Candy flavoring (we recommend 2 bottles of flavoring per batch--these are tiny bottles, btw, "drams" from LorAnn Oils).  
  • Candy coloring (not food coloring)
  • Disco dust 
  • Star Sprinkles (Wilton)
These little metallic stars work well and look awesome.  In our experience, "Sequin" type sprinkles work well--like the little snowflake sprinkles they sell this time a year.  Decorations made out of sugar should be good, but watch out for decorations made of wax.  One batch of Christmas lollies ended up a brownish black mess when the red and green jimmies melted into the sugar.
  • Lollipop sticks
  • Candy bags and twist-ties are handy

Step 1:  Get your molds ready
Clean your molds and clean them again.  Dust, hair, etc. are not good.  Paint the molds with vegetable oil or glycerin.  Decorate the molds with glitter and stars (or other sprinkles if you are doing your own thing).  Lay out the sticks.

Also, get a large bowl of cold water ready--large enough that you can put the bottom of your saucepan full of molten sugar in the cold water.

(not pictured, adding the sticks)
Step 2:  Boil the sugar
Add sugar, water and corn-syrup to a pot and boil--2 cups of sugar, 1/2 cup water, 2/3 cup of corn syrup.  Bring it to 260 degrees.  Add coloring and glitter (eye-ball it, but 1/4 tsp sounds right).  Don't stir, the bubbling of the sugar mixes the glitter and coloring in.  Get to 300 degrees, take off stove and add flavor (2 drams)  Put bottom of pot in cold bath, wipe it off well (don't want to drip water in the lollies).  

The cold bath stops the temperature from continuing to rise.  By 310 degrees, your flavoring will have burnt off, and the sugar will caramelize (darken) so it is a not a good step to skip.  

(A standard candy thermometer works just fine--no need to steal one from your immersion circulator.)

Step 3:  Pour the lollies.  
First, a safety warning--hot sugar will burn you very badly as it envelops and sticks to your skin at ~300 degrees.  So make sure kids are a safe distance from the molten sugar.  And don't think a little drip on the counter is exempt--as pretty as the sparkly sugar is, it feels lava until it is semi-solid.  If you do get some on your skin, stop the heat source (cold water) but only as long as it takes to make the sugar cool/wash off.  Otherwise, the longer you leave it in ice water the more it will hurt (per the internet).  After that, follow standard burn first aid.  Terrified?  Prime yourself some sugar work gloves used for pulling sugar or some weird grilling/heat proof gloves.  

There are fancy candy pourers you can buy, and some people transfer to a warmed pyrex measuring cup, but if your hand is steady you can pour straight from the saucepan.  If you use a second container to pour, warm it up in the oven first.  Even with that step, just know that the outside will start to crystalize and you'll loose some hard candy that way.  Per online resources, you can remelt the sugar in a 250 degree oven, but we haven't tried it.  

Typically, 10 minutes is enough for the lollipops to set, but it will depend on the temperature and humidity.  The harder the candy is (i.e., the closer to fully set) the more likely you are to get them out of their molds without warping or fingerprints (yuck).  However, if you overfilled the mold and want to try and save the lollipop, if you carefully remove it while soft you can use scissors to trim the blobby edge off.  

You want to wrap the finished lollipops in plastic bags.  Walter recommends a stiffer, thicker plastic if you have a choice.  Lollipops can be stored a long, long time, but only if you keep them in a dry place.  Humidity is not their friend.  

See, you can do it!

P.S.  Walter posts his lollipop adventures on Instagram under Azalea_Circle, the name of his freshly started Etsy shop (should be stocked next week).  

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