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Back to Basics / Hard Candy

December 22, 1996|JOAN DRAKE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

I learned to make hard candy in a place where there was usually enough snow on the ground to step out the kitchen door and set the tray of hot syrup on cold white crystals to cool. But since the melted spots were a dead giveaway to family and neighbors, any candy intended for gifts had to be packaged quickly and hidden.

It was easier to disguise my candy making in warm, sunny Southern California. The bed of ice that substituted for snow simply melted and disappeared down the drain. Once the tray was cool enough to handle, rubbing the bottom of the pan with ice cubes hastened the hardening of the candy.

The recipe is a cinch to make, but I recommend using a candy thermometer to check the syrup temperature. If you don't have one and still want to try, rely on the cold water method of testing.

Water for testing should be cold but not icy. Dip a clean spoon into the candy syrup, then let a few drops fall into the water. The mixture is cooked to the proper temperature when it separates into hard, brittle threads that break easily.

This recipe also calls for candy flavoring oils, available at cookware stores and pharmacies. The high temperature of the mixture will cause alcohol-based flavorings like vanilla to evaporate.

The same stores are also good sources for containers to package the candy. When tightly covered and kept in a cool, dry place, it should stay fresh for two to three weeks. Unless, of course, it gets discovered.

HARD CANDY

1 cup light corn syrup

1 cup water

2 cups sugar

2 drops food color of choice

1/2 teaspoon candy flavoring oil of choice

Cook syrup, water and sugar in heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring, until sugar dissolves.

Bring mixture to boil. Cover pan for about 3 minutes so steam washes down any crystals on sides of pan. Uncover and cook, without stirring, over high heat to 310 degrees or hard crack stage.

Remove pan from heat and cool mixture to 160 degrees. Stir in food color and flavoring.

Pour mixture onto chilled nonstick baking sheet, quickly tipping pan to spread hot syrup as thin as possible. Do not scrape cooking pan, but fill with hot water immediately.

Chill candy by setting on bed of ice (or in snow). When cool, crack into pieces. Store in airtight container.

Makes about 1 1/2 pounds.

Each ounce contains about:

102 calories; 16 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 0 fat; 27 grams carbohydrates; 0 protein; 0 fiber.

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