How to Make Candy

Depending on the recipe, candy can be easy or labor-intensive to make. For example, candy bark takes about 20 minutes and doesn't call for any special equipment. On the other hand, nougat, fudge, and peanut brittle recipes require a candy thermometer and a little know-how. Here's a rundown on all your favorites and some helpful candy-making tips.


Chocolate Candy

If you're looking for a quick candy recipe, chocolate candies usually top the list. The most popular kinds of chocolate candy include chocolate truffles, chocolate clusters, fudge (see How to Make Fudge, below), and chocolate-flavor barks (see Candy Bark, below).

Chocolate Truffles

  • To make traditional chocolate truffles, most recipes start with a ganache (a mixture of melted chocolate and whipping cream). This smooth mixture is then beaten and/or chilled until it is firm enough to scoop and form into ball-shape truffles. Truffles are then rolled in finely chopped nuts, unsweetened cocoa powder, powdered sugar, or other garnishes.

Chocolate Clusters

  • To make chocolate clusters, stir nuts, dried fruit, pretzels, and/or other ingredients into melted chocolate. Then scoop the mixture onto waxed paper into small piles to create clusters. The clusters are chilled or allowed to stand at room temperature until the chocolate hardens.

Get more delicious chocolate candy recipes.

Learn how to wrap and store homemade candy.

Candy Bark
  • Bark can be made in many different flavors, but the base of this easy candy is typically a mixture of melted candy coating (vanilla or chocolate flavor) and chocolate (regular or white chocolate). The melted mixture is spread on a foil-lined sheet pan and sprinkled with desired toppings, such as crushed candies, chopped candy bars, chopped nuts, dried fruit, shredded coconut, toffee pieces, and more. The bark is chilled or allowed to stand at room temperature until firm before it is broken into large, irregular-shape pieces.

Make a batch of our Lemon Drop Bark recipe.

Check out more candy recipes.

How to Make Fudge
Enlarge Image Butter the sides of a large heavy saucepan.

Fudge is a favorite candy recipe year-round, but it's especially popular during the holidays. Traditional fudge requires a candy thermometer and lots of stirring, while easy fudge recipes have been simplified for cooks of any skill level. Here are some tips for making traditional fudge perfectly the first time, every time.

  • Butter the sides of a heavy saucepan before adding the sugar mixture. This will help prevent sugar crystals from sticking to the sides of the pan, which could cause a disastrous chemical reaction called crystallization.
Enlarge Image Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan, and stir to prevent burning.
  • Clip a candy thermometer to the inside of the heavy saucepan in a place where the bulb is submerged in the boiling mixture. You want an accurate reading of the mixture, rather than one of the pan bottom or the foamy bubbles at the top of the boiling mixture.
  • Gently stir fudge mixture only as needed when cooking to prevent burning on the bottom of the pan.
  • Give the mixture adequate time to cook and cool. Both of these processes are essential to creating the proper texture.
  • Once the fudge mixture has been cooked to the recommended temperature, remove from heat and leave the candy thermometer in place. Let mixture cool to 110 degrees F (this could take 35 to 40 minutes).
Enlarge Image When you start beating the fudge mixture, it will be loose, flowing, and shiny.
  • When the mixture has cooled, it will be glossy and shiny. At this point, you will begin to beat it (stir vigorously) with a wooden spoon. This is going to take a long time and lots of muscle, so be prepared.
Enlarge Image The mixture will thicken and lose its gloss as you beat it. Stir the nuts in just when the mixture begins to thicken.
  • Continue to beat the mixture until it begins to thicken and loses its glossiness.
  • If you're adding nuts, stir them in as soon as the fudge starts to thicken. The thicker the fudge gets, the harder it will be to stir the nuts in.
  • Once the fudge starts to lose its gloss during beating, work quickly to pour the fudge mixture into a pan lined with buttered foil. Gently shake the pan to spread the mixture evenly.
  • NOTE: It's important to never make a double batch of fudge in the same saucepan. This affects the proper evaporation of moisture during the cooking process, and the texture and consistency of your fudge will suffer. Instead make each batch of fudge separately.

Here are some of our favorite traditional fudge recipes and easy fudge recipes:

Double-Decker Layered Fudge 

Candied-Cherry Opera Fudge

Easy Chocolate Fudge

Peanut Butter Fudge

Pumpkin Fudge

Nougat, Divinity, and Marshmallows

While the consistency and shape of nougat, divinity, and marshmallows are quite different, they are all based on a hot syrup mixture that is beaten into egg whites. Here are the basics on how each is made:

 Nougat

  • To make nougat, boil a mixture of water, corn syrup, and sugar until it reaches a temperature of 295 degrees F (hard-crack stage). (To prevent crystallization from occurring, do not stir the mixture during this boiling stage.) Beat egg whites in a large bowl until stiff peaks form. Drizzle the hot syrup mixture into the beaten egg whites while beating on medium to high speed until mixture becomes thick and less glossy. Then spoon the mixture into a pan lined with greased foil to firm before cutting it into pieces.
Enlarge Image Beat the divinity mixture until it is thick and begins to lose its glossiness.

Divinity

  • Divinity is a classic candy prepared in much the same way as nougat, except the mixture of water, corn syrup, and sugar is boiled to a temperature of 260 degrees F (hard-ball stage) before it is slowly beaten into the egg whites.

 

Enlarge Image Use two spoons to scoop mixture onto the waxed paper.
  • Chopped dried fruit or nuts can be stirred into the divinity mixture before it is dropped by spoonfuls onto waxed paper. (If the first spoonful of mixture flattens when placed on waxed paper, continue beating for about 1 minute more before trying to scoop again. If mixture becomes too thick, beat in a few drops of hot water until a softer consistency is reached.)
  • NOTE: Avoid making divinity on days where the humidity is higher than 60 percent, or the divinity will not dry and set up as desired.

Get our Divinity recipe

Marshmallows

  • Homemade marshmallows have become popular in recent years. This candy is made by stirring a hot syrupy mixture of water, corn syrup, and sugar (cooked to 260 degrees F, hard-ball stage) into a mixture of gelatin and water. Then beat the gelatin-syrup mixture into an egg white-sugar mixture until a thick, batterlike consistency is reached. Pour the mixture into a pan lined with plastic wrap, and chill it until firm. Cut the set mixture into 1-inch marshmallow-size squares, and toss them in powdered sugar.

 

Enlarge Image Cut the marshmallow slab into 1-inch-wide strips. Cut each strip into 1-inch squares.
Enlarge Image Place marshmallows in a bag of powdered sugar. Toss to coat marshmallows on all sides.

  • NOTE: For this recipe, it is important to use refrigerated egg white product or pasteurized egg whites, because the syrup-gelatin mixture isn't hot enough to cook the egg whites in the same way that the hot syrup does for divinity and nougat. Using refrigerated egg white product eliminates the risk of foodborne illness that can occur from consuming raw or undercooked eggs.

How to Make Hard Candy

The category of hard candy includes favorites such as peanut brittle and lollipops. For these and some other hard candy recipes, a syrup mixture is boiled until it reaches a specific temperature. (To determine temperature without using a thermometer, see photos and descriptions below for various stages). Here are some tips to keep in mind when learning how to make hard candy.

  • Candy mixtures should boil at a moderate, steady rate over the entire surface. To guide you, our recipes suggest range-top temperatures. However, you may need to adjust the temperature of the range to maintain the best rate of cooking, which ensures that the candy will cook within the recommended time. Cooking too fast or too slow makes candy too hard or soft. When stirring a hot candy mixture, use a wooden spoon.
  • The most accurate way to test the stage of the hot mixture is to use a candy thermometer. Be sure to check the accuracy of your thermometer before you use it every time. To test it, place the thermometer in a saucepan of boiling water for a few minutes, then read the temperature. If the thermometer reads above or below 212 degrees F, add or subtract the same number of degrees from the temperature specified in the recipe and cook to that temperature. And don't forget to add or subtract that same number of degrees from the cooling temperature in recipes where candy mixtures need to cool.
  • If a candy thermometer is not available, use the corresponding cold-water test described below. Start testing the candy shortly before it reaches the minimum cooking time.
Cold-Water Test
Enlarge Image Thread stage

For the cold-water test, spoon a few drops of the hot candy mixture into a cup of very cold (but not icy) water. Using your fingers, form the drops into a ball. Remove the ball from the water; the firmness will indicate the temperature of the candy mixture. If the mixture has not reached the correct stage, continue cooking and re-testing, using fresh water and a clean spoon each time.

  • Thread Stage (230-233 degrees F): When a teaspoon is dipped into the hot mixture, then removed, the candy falls off the spoon in a 2-inch-long, fine, thin thread.
Enlarge Image Soft-Ball Stage
  • Soft-Ball Stage (234-240 degrees F): When the ball of candy is removed from the cold water, the candy instantly flattens and runs over your finger.
Enlarge Image Firm-Ball Stage
  • Firm-Ball Stage (244-248 degrees F): When the ball of candy is removed from the cold water, it is firm enough to hold its shape but flattens quickly.

 

Enlarge Image Hard-Ball Stage
  • Hard-Ball Stage (250-266 degrees F): When the ball of candy is removed from the cold water, it can be deformed by pressure, but it doesn't flatten until pressed.
Enlarge Image Soft-Crack Stage
  • Soft-Crack Stage (270-290 degrees F): When dropped into the cold water, the candy separates into hard, but pliable and elastic, threads.
Enlarge Image Hard-Crack Stage
  • Hard-Crack Stage (295-310 degrees F): When dropped into the cold water, the candy separates into hard, brittle threads that snap easily.
Hard Candy Recipes

Get our lollipop recipe.


How to Make Chocolate Ganache

How to Make Easy Cookie Truffles

How to Make Fudge
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