We’re used to buying cardboard boxloads of factory drone candy canes that are uniform, neatly wrapped, shapely, laden with high fructose corn syrup, and positively soulless. But me -- I’m the gal who likes my candy lumpy. If there were an Island of Misfit Toys for food, these “special” little guys would surely be inhabitants (along with Dingle Berries Candy and Hot Pockets, most likely).
Making candy canes is a lot of fun, and the sweat equity can’t be beat. The flavor is clean and super minty (with a little creaminess to it, thanks to the vanilla extract), and the yield is ample enough to allow me to hand them out generously. And despite the number of words in the recipe below, the whole thing took under an hour. There is a knack to it, however, as pulling hard candy can be a tricky mistress. A couple of things to keep in mind, particularly if you’ve never made candy before:
- A candy thermometer is a very, very, very good idea. No reason not to have one, as they are about $15 and they can be used for frying as well. You can buy a cheaper one made of glass, but they’re pretty breakable. I recommend one like this made of metal, with a sturdy clip, and a protector on the bottom to keep the thermometer off the bottom of the pot.
- Heat-retardant gloves. These are great to use as oven mitts as well. But if you’re just dabbling and you don’t wish to invest, you can get by with snug mittens covered by disposable gloves (I always have a couple on-hand for kitchen use and home hair dying stolen from my gynecologist’s office), but you will indeed have to endure a little heat.
- Be generous with the oil. A light sheen on the pans and on the bench scraper ain’t gonna cut it. Don’t be shy. Speaking of which...
- A bench scraper. This is a small wonder in the kitchen, and an inexpensive and easy-to-store must for baking, candy making, pasta making, etc. Two is better, but you can certainly get by with one.
One other thing: despite the candy appeal, I’m sorry to say that this is not a good project for kids. Scalding fluid and fairly quick work don’t mix well with young’uns.
This recipe took a lot of inspiration from this recipe.