Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Homemade Candy Corn

When most kids receive candy corn in their trick-or-treat bag, they feel instant disappointment, and it's some of the first candy to get traded (I always ate candy corn, but I think I was more turned on by the colors than the taste). However, had I tried homemade candy corn as a kid, it might have been the crowning glory of the whole bag! The homemade goodness of this traditional Halloween treat is infinitely better than that store-bought stuff (if you think they taste like wax, that's because they're made with it). Of course, making your own takes a lot more time, but you get to play with the dough like playdough while you make it, and who doesn't like that? 

As cute as these little buggers are, they didn't come without trouble! The candy corn you see pictured here was my third attempt. At times, candy making can be deceivingly simple. I'm a big fan of Alton Brown and his recipes have a good reputation for being fool-proof, so I was at a loss when they didn't turn out. The first time I made these I was using an altered recipe of Alton's with the incorrect ratio of  water to sugar. The second time, I used the correct measurements, but I overlooked one important direction in the recipe... to use a 2 quart pot! Since the circumference of the pot I used was too big, the heat was not concentrated, so it took too long for the candy to reach 230 degrees. After the second attempt, I almost threw in the towel, but luckily I didn't give up! Every time you cook you learn something new. This lesson was simple: READ! Was it worth all the trouble you ask? After eating my candy corn, I'd have to say yes, indeed.

Courtesy: Alton Brown 

4½ oz. confectioner’s sugar, approximately 1¼ cups
½ oz. nonfat dry milk, approximately 6½ tsp.
¼ tsp. kosher salt
3½ oz. granulated sugar, approximately ½ cup
3¾ oz. light corn syrup, approximately 1/3 cup
2½ tbsp. water
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
½ tsp. vanilla extract
3 to 4 drops yellow and orange gel paste food coloring (or to make the orange, use 2 drops red and 3 drops yellow food coloring)

Combine the powdered sugar, dry milk and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse 4 to 5 times until the mixture is smooth and well combined. Set aside.
Combine the sugar, corn syrup and water in a 2-quart pot. Put over medium heat, cover and cook for 4 minutes. Add the butter, clip on a candy thermometer, and bring the mixture to 230 degrees F, about 1 to 2 minutes (if it takes much longer than this, either your heat is too low or your pot is too big). When the sugar syrup reaches 230 degrees F, take the pot off the heat and remove the thermometer. Add the vanilla and the dry mixture, stirring continuously with a silicone spatula until well combined. Pour onto a half sheet pan lined with a silicone baking mat. Cool until the mixture is cool enough to handle, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. Add 3 drops of yellow food coloring to one piece and knead the dough until the color is consistent throughout. Add 3 drops of orange to the second piece, and knead until the color is consistent throughout. If the dough seems too stiff and difficult to knead, place it in the microwave for 5 to 10 seconds to soften. Leave the third piece white. Roll each piece of dough into a strand, about 18-inches long. Cut each strand in half.
Roll one of the white pieces into a strand that is about 1/2-inch thick and about 22-inches long. Repeat with the yellow and orange pieces. Lay the strands side by side and press them together using your fingers (the order should be: white, yellow, and orange). Cut the strand into 4-inch pieces. Lay the strands, one at a time, onto the silicone mat and press into a wedge shape (I use the straightedge of a ruler to accomplish this), like a triangle. Use a knife, metal bench scraper or pizza cutter to slice the dough into small pieces. Repeat the procedure with the remaining dough. Lay the finished pieces on a sheet of parchment or waxed paper to dry for 1 hour. Store in an airtight container with parchment paper between each layer. The candy corn can be made up to a week in advance.

Yield: 80 to 100 pieces 

  • As for all candy making, try to use a kitchen scale for exact measurements.  
  • Be sure to use a 2-quart pot when making these candies.
  • You can find gel food coloring at most baking supply stores or online.

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