First, Get the Right Tools
December 13, 2006
Candy making doesn’t require a whole battery of arcane equipment, but a few well-chosen tools can make the difference between success and failure.
First and foremost, says candy-making teacher Christine Bisbee, is a heavy-duty standing mixer. Since many recipes require mixtures to be beaten for as long as 10 minutes, “if you are serious about candy, a handheld mixer isn’t going to cut it.” Also heavy-duty is Bisbee’s thick-bottomed saucepan.
Silpats are reusable silicone mats that make any baking sheet nonstick. “Silpats have made candy making so much easier for home cooks,” Bisbee says. “Before them, I greased a lot of pans and used a lot of parchment paper.”
Most candy recipes require a candy thermometer because the properties of melted sugar change dramatically the hotter it gets. To check if your thermometer is correctly calibrated, stick it in a pot of boiling water; it should register 212 degrees.
When cooking sugar, it’s important that it not crystallize on the sides of the pan; to prevent this, Bisbee periodically uses a pastry brush dipped in water.
A metal offset spatula is particularly good at quickly smoothing out caramel. Bisbee also uses the straight side of a plastic bowl scraper to even out soft surfaces; the curved side gets every last bit of batter or dough out of mixing bowls. This is particularly important in candy-making because melted chocolate and sugar syrup that go down the drain can harden and cause clogs.
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Dedicated cookware stores and the kitchen departments of Bed Bath & Beyond and Fortunoff carry wide assortments of candy-making tools and supplies. Two excellent online sources are kitchenkrafts.com and bakerscatalog.com.
Distributed by the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service