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Caramels and walnuts

5 Tips for Holiday Candy Making Success

Creamy chocolate fudge…soft caramels…and hard brittle toffee all have something in common. They all have to be cooked to the correct temperature to reach the consistency typical of each candy.


blog_image by Land O'Lakes Test Kitchen

blog_image by Land O'Lakes Test Kitchen

Do you want to know thhe most important secret to making delicious candy? Follow the recipe and accurately measure the ingredients and temperatures during the cooking process.

5 Tips for Successful Candy Making

  1. Measure all the candy recipe ingredients accurately. Use a kitchen scale if you have one to ensure exact amounts.

  2. If you use a candy thermometer, either clamp the candy thermometer to the side of the pan or periodically place it into the syrup to measure the temperature. The bulb at the bottom of the thermometer should not touch the side or bottom of the pan. If it does, temperatures will be inaccurate. Read the temperature on the thermometer at eye level. Try not to tip the pan to get a readingt–this will lead to cooler than actual temperatures.

  3. Cook the candy precisely to the temperature or "stage" listed in the recipe. For example, when making Aunt Emily's Soft Caramels the recipe directs to cook the candy mixture to 244°F, or firm ball stage on a candy thermometer. When the candy has reached the correct temperature, remove the thermometer and cool it before washing; otherwise it may break.

  4. If you do not have a candy thermometer use the cold water test to determine if the candy mixture has reached the proper consistency for doneness. Here are the steps to tell the temperature without a candy thermometer:

    • Drop a small amount of the candy mixture with a teaspoon into a small bowl of cold water. Each time you test the candy use a fresh bowl of cold water.

    • If the candy forms a thin thread and does not "ball up", it is in the thread stage or 230°—235°F. This stage is similar to sugar syrup rather than candy.

    • If the candy forms a soft pliable ball, it is in the softball stage, about 235°— 240°F. This is the stage you would cook to if you are making fudge.

    • If the candy forms a firm but not hard ball, it is in the firm ball stage. The temperature of this stage is between 242—248°F. Caramels are cooked to the firm ball stage.

    • If the candy forms thick threads when it drips from the spoon, it is in the hard ball stage or 250°—265°F. If you gather the candy mixture into a ball it will be a hard ball. Divinity or rock candy is typically cooked to this stage.

    • If the candy forms flexible, but not brittle threads after dropping a small amount into cold water, the candy is at the soft crack stage or 270°—290°F. Cook candies such as butterscotch to this temperature.

    • Finally, if the candy forms hard, brittle strands that easily break, the candy is at the hard crack stage, between 300°—310°F. Butter toffee and peanut brittle are examples of candies cooked to this temperature.

  5. Before making your candy, test the thermometer’s accuracy by testing it in a pan of boiling water. At sea level the thermometer should read 212°F. If the thermometer reads above or below this number you will need to make the necessary adjustments when making your candy.

Check out our holiday candy collection for great gift ideas. The variety of candy recipes is endless, but this is a great place to start for finding new treats to make. You'll have success making candy from fudge to toffee if you follow our tips! 

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Ready to make the recipe? Let’s get started making Aunt Emily's Soft Caramels!

Aunt Emily's Soft Caramels
Aunt Emily's Soft Caramels