Want to make candy at home? These tools will get you started.
Thoughts of candy making at home might elicit a scary swarm of visions of popsicle sticks, molds, fancy gadgetry, and any number of special tools that send the mind into a money-sign coma. Of course, all the fancy tools come in handy at times. You can't have a lollipop without a stick to attach the candy to, for example, but most beginner candy forays can come together before trips to the baking store become necessary. How? By pushing taste over fancy forms and perfect shapes. With just a handful of basic tools, you can make hard candies, truffles, sweet marshmallows, and more to celebrate National Candy Month. In time, you can work up to the piles of funky molds, petite boxes, and special forks. But for now, outside the usual mixing bowls, spoons, cookie sheets, and cooling racks, these basics -- which you might already have -- will get you started.
This is the big kahuna, the tool you must have if you want to grab that sugar and turn it into candy. The candy thermometer takes care of the hardest work -- temperature. It's the most essential part of candy making -- the one aspect that can make or break your confection. A good candy thermometer will give you temperatures, indicators for the different stages, like "hard crack," and it will also be sturdy. When choosing the right one for you and your budget, keep in mind that this thermometer will be in boiling liquid that's stirred and releases steam. You want to be able to read it clearly, and it should have a clasp that will firmly attach to your pot.
Quality Sauce Pot
Speaking of pots, make sure you have a quality one for candy making. A lot of ingredients can be a little finicky, and having a proper, thick-bottomed pot will save many a candy. The right one will not only help the mix cook properly, but also help ward off potential burning and candy chaos. Be sure to pick one that's taller rather than wider. Some recipes require a good boil, and only high sides will keep the bubbling sugar inside.
When you melt chocolate, you have to keep it away from water, and this is where a double boiler comes in. Water boils in a pan that's covered by a bowl. Essentially, the chocolate and treats are warmed with steam. Luckily, you can make this purchase really easy. Forget special double boilers with nonstick coating (it removes the option of using a regular old spoon), and just grab yourself a simple, cheap stainless steel bowl. It'll fit over the pot of boiling water just as easily for a fraction of the price.
Work & Rest Surfaces
While some wax paper and other throw-away objects can help with the formation and cooling of candies, it's a whole lot easier to grab a sil-pat mat or two, and a marble cutting board. The former is great for keeping candies from sticking while they're formed, warmed, or cool, and a marble slab is the perfect surface for working that hot candy. It can withstand it all.
There are lots of candies that require nothing more than a melt and a pour, but we like to have a dough scraper on-hand for any number of confectionary creations. This gadget is not only perfect for any number of bread and pie dough projects, but also dealing with melted sugar and other treats that must be worked and cooled, and scraping up the mix without damaging the work surface. It might not seem like a lot, but when you need it, it's a godsend.
Good luck, and happy candymaking!