Homemade Candy Corn
Happiest almost Halloween! Yesterday I was cooped up inside all day with a cold. It was about a trillion degrees in here with the heat going, the tea kettle simmering, and the biggest pot I own filled with water and eucalyptus oil boiling away on the back burner. It was borderline Amazonian jungle status. Not exactly the most hospitable environment for candy making but these little guys are pretty forgiving. In a few short days I'll be ditching this faux tropical environment for the real deal. One full week in Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii with one of my best friends. I can't wait. Until then, the surprisingly simple confectionary feat of homemade candy corn!!
Halloween was my mom's least favorite holiday. She didn't fawn all over our Halloween costumes for months leading up to the event the way I've noticed that California parents do. We had three witches hats and three brooms (because if all three girls were the same thing, nobody got mad about somebody else's costume.) If you were feeling like breaking the mold one year, you traded your hat for a bandana and you were a gypsy. Once you were all finished getting dressed up you'd put on a giant coat and boots and you wouldn't look much different than you did heading to school on any given Tuesday. Before global warming really took hold (and when trick-or-treating was still a safe and wholesome thing) , it would snow every single year on October 31st in Sandpoint. Every year. And every year my sisters and I would come down with big fat colds as a result of going door to door for hours in the freezing cold rain/snow mess. I don't remember the colds but my mom assures me that a house full of three sniffling, sugar-crashing kids was the worst.
Classic candy corns were always my secret favorite, second only to candy corn pumpkins cause they were a little bigger and you got more candy corn bang for your buck. I say secret because for whatever reason it wasn't exactly "cool" to love them. Few people are indifferent to candy corn. You either love or hate them. I love them. I'm also the person that loves the pliable sugar fondant wrapped around wedding cakes that most people tend to peel (yes, peel) off. It's essentially candy corn frosting. Problem is, candy corns always only ever came in bags big enough to fill a candy dish. The little individual-sized pouches were a rarity and I'm sure it was for sanitary purposes that no one ever dropped a fistful of loose candy corns into my pillow case upon ringing their doorbell (although I'd've taken them that way.) Now thanks to this recipe I can just knock on my own damn door for all the candy corn I can handle any time of year. And because I'm making them myself, I know that there's no super scary ingredients in them.
Things that you thought only existed on grocery store shelves, right? If you aren't familiar with Alton Brown, he's like a walking culinary textbook. Or a one-man Cooks Illustrated (if you're not familiar with Cooks Illustrated go check it out. Turns out you don't have to go to culinary school after all. All you need is Cooks Illustrated. And Alton.) He's got this crazy food science/chemistry background and a gift for teaching. In any cooking endeavor it's good to know why you're doing what you're doing. This is particularly true in baking and especially true in something like candy making. Sugar work (basically anything that falls in the caramel or candy making category) can be finicky, subject to everything from temperature to humidity levels outside to bad moods. Like babies and horses, sugar work also conveniently has a sixth sense for fear. But knowledge dismantles the intimidation. You can totally do this. Trust me. Besides, you've likely already DIY'd your costume. Why not DIY your candy too?
They take hardly any time at all to make but a few pieces of equipment will further simplify the process and make your life a lot easier: a kitchen scale, a candy thermometer (required), a pizza cutter, and a bench scraper (that silver thing in the pictures). Before you begin rolling, dust the surface lightly with the powdered sugar. It will prevent any sticking. They'll be "organic" in their shape but that's part of their charm. You're (wo)man, not machine so don't worry if they don't all come out looking exactly the same. Perfect is boring anyway. Happy Halloween :)
Homemade Candy Corn
This recipe is straight away from Alton Brown for Food Network Magazine. Link to the original right here. Whenever you're making something as "scientific" as candy, it's best to go by weights if you can. If you don't own a scale you'll still be fine. Just be precise in your measurements. The dough will set up once you start rolling so make sure you've made enough space to work (the ropes roll to be quite long) and work quickly.
Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat. Pulse the powdered sugar, dry milk, and kosher salt in a food processor until well combined, 4-5 times.
Combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a pot. Cover and set over medium heat. Cook for four minutes. Remove the lid, add the butter, and attach a candy thermometer. Bring the syrup to 230 degrees. Remove from the heat and add the powdered sugar mixture. Stir until completely combined. Pour onto the lined baking sheet and cool for 10 minutes.
Divide the dough into slightly uneven thirds. Work 2-3 drops of orange food coloring into the largest piece and 2-3 drops of yellow into the medium-sized piece, leaving the white for the top of the corn. Now divide each piece in half - it's too much to work with at one time - covering the second batch with plastic wrap until you're ready to use. Roll each piece into a long thin rope just over 1 cm thick beginning with the white and ending with the orange. Gently push the three ropes together pushing the white end into a point against the cutting board to make a triangle shape. Repeat with the second batch. Use a sharp knife or a pizza cutter to slice the long rope into individual pieces.
Keeps for two weeks covered.
1 1/4 (4.5 oz) cups powdered sugar
3 teaspoons (1/2 oz) nonfat dry milk powder*
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) granulated sugar
1/3 cup (3 3/4 ounces) clear corn syrup
2 1/2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoon unsalted butter at room temp
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Red, yellow, and orange food coloring (gel colors are ideal but the little squeezy liquid kind will work too.)
*An ingredient you've maybe never heard of and certainly never bought but I assure you it's in your grocery store.