Monday, July 2, 2012

Homemade Cinnamon Red Hots

Most people associate hard cinnamon candies exclusively with Christmas. I get it, cinnamon and Christmas are synonymous. But by increasing the amount of cinnamon oil, these little buggers become piping hot. So hot, they reminded me more of firecrackers and fireworks than Santa and his elves. So I asked myself, why not make them for the 4th of July instead? Well, that’s just what I did.

For the past several years, Aaron and I have been lucky enough to be invited to our friend Caitlin’s beautiful home in Rhode Island for the 4th. It’s become a yearly pilgrimage for us and a small group of friends. In many ways, Caitlin’s parents, Annette and Ed, have become our adopted east coast parents away from home. Annette is a fabulous cook and has graciously been feeding the masses of “kids” that come her way every Independence Day. We couldn’t be more delighted or grateful.

Our fondest summer memories are of spending a few magical days along the Narragansett Bay. Watching fireworks on Ed’s boat, or eating smores at the campfire along the shore. So uniquely New England. 

This year, I thought it might be fun to bring these candies along for the 4th, stuffed in festive paper rockets made out of recycled toilet paper rolls (post to follow). I’ve always thought of homemade candies as something special. They’re not an everyday indulgence, but one that comes about on special holidays of one kind or another. Just a small gesture to thank Annette and Ed for their friendship and hospitality over the years. Happy 4th!

Adapted from Country Woman Christmas, 1999

Vegetable oil, for brushing
2 cups sugar (see notes below)
1 cup water
½ cup light corn syrup
1¼ to 1¾ tsp. cinnamon oil (see notes below)
½ tsp. red food coloring

Begin by lining a baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat mat. Lightly brush with vegetable oil and set aside. Place a small piece of parchment on a plate and set aside.

In a large heavy 4-quart saucepan, combine sugar, water, and corn syrup. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Once boiling, cover and cook for 3 minutes. Uncover, increase heat to medium-high, and cook without stirring until a candy thermometer reads 310 degrees F (hard crack stage). Immediately remove from heat and stir in the cinnamon oil and food coloring, keeping your face averted as it may splatter (DO NOT inhale any fumes once you add the oil as this can cause burns). Place a small amount of the hot candy mixture on the prepared plate lined with parchment. Blow on it to cool, and once hard, give it a taste. If you prefer it hotter, add more cinnamon oil, but work quickly as you don't want the candy to set.

Very carefully pour the candy onto the prepared pan and smooth out using a spatula. Shape into a 13 x 9 inch rectangle and let rest for a minute. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, score the candy int0 ½-inch by ½-inch squares. Re-score as necessary until the lines are well set. Once completely cool, break the candy apart along the scored lines, using a sharp knife as necessary. Wrap in cellophane bags or individually in wax paper. Store in a cool place.

Yield: about 1 lb. 

  • Cinnamon oil can be found at specialty cooking or bake shops or online. It's usually sold by the fluid dram (approximately 3/4 tsp.). Cinnamon oil is powerful stuff, so avoid contact with eyes or bare skin. Keep out of reach from children and pets.
  • Cinnamon extract is not as strong as cinnamon oil. The basic ratio for extract to oil is about 4:1. However, substituting extract in the candy will effect its taste and overall clarity. Try to seek out the oil if you can.
  • I generally use organic or unbleached sugar, but to achieve crystal clear candy, I used regular white refined sugar for this recipe. 
  • For easy clean up, soak the saucepan and any utensils used to dissolve the sugar. Alternatively, you can fill the saucepan with water, add your utensils and bring to a boil.

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