Monday, December 7, 2009

Candy Making & Holiday Baking

My absolute favorite thing about December is holiday baking.  My mom used to bake 10+ different cookies throughout the month, stash them in the freezer, then dole them out to friends and neighbors right before Christmas.  The gene definitely got passed down to me, although lately I've been partial to making candy.  Over the years I've done caramels, toffee, honeycomb, and hot fudge sauce.  This year I wanted to try something different and ventured into the world of homemade lollipops.  I was inspired by a recipe in the December issue of Martha Stewart Living.  I don't have too many "Martha moments" but seeing her perfectly shaped disks of citrus flecked candy I thought "that doesn't look so hard".

In truth, it wasn't that hard but my execution was not quite as perfect as Ms. Stewart's (then again, who's is?).  I found myself at two cake supply stores.  The first molds I bought turned out to be for chocolate pops, not 300-degree molten sugar syrup so they immediately melted when I used them once.   The second set of molds were the right material (look for "hard candy molds") but no disks, just half-spheres (that some really crazy person probably figures out how to put together to make an actual sphere...I am not that person).  Had I taken the time to plan ahead, I would have ordered my supplies on this site and been a lot a lot better prepared. 

Martha's recipe needed a bit of tweaking.  Like when I poured the hot syrup into a glass measuring cup to get it into the molds...the leftover immediately hardened onto the Pyrex cup, leaving me to chisel off every last bit (next time, non stick cooking spray came to the rescue).  She has you add 2 tablespoons of citrus juice but, if you do this once the mixture reaches the "hard crack" stage, it immediately cools down and never sets back up.  After a lot of trial and error, I finally got it right (and probably gave my son his first cavity after all the taste testing).

Mine are pomegranate, caramelized orange, lemon/lime, green apple, and (my fave) grapefruit-all made with natural fruit extracts/oil except the apple (which has a nice Jolly Rancher flavor to it).  After the two cake supply shops, I also hit Michael's for sticks, little cellophane bags, and just the right ribbon (that place makes anyone want to be crafty, beware).   The final result is above...not to shabby, eh?

Homemade Lollipops

1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup or glucose (from the cake supply shop)
1/4 cup water
1/4-1/2 tsp fruit extract or natural fruit oils (some of these are very strong, some less so, so the amount varies)
1 drop gel based food coloring

Before cooking, spray a two cup glass measuring cup with nonstick cooking spray. Also lightly spray your lollipop molds and insert the sticks.

In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water.  Stir to combine, using a wet pastry brush to brush down any sugar crystals from the sides of the pan.  Place the pan over medium high heat and clip a candy thermometer onto the side.  Cook, without stirring, until the mixture reaches the "hard crack" stage, 300 degrees, and immediately remove it from the stove.  Add the extract and food coloring and stir with a heat-proof rubber spatula.  CAREFULLY pour the mixture into the prepared glass measuring cup, tap it lightly on the counter to pop the bubbles, and pour it into the molds.  Work carefully but quickly as the mixture starts to set up very fast.  Let lollipops rest for 30 minutes, remove from the molds, and package as desired.

Makes 20-24 small pops

PS...if you're more of a cookie person, you must see what my friend Mindy did, below.  She baked all these gorgeous cookies plus my honeycomb recipe and packaged them in a very "Martha' way...nice going Mindy! 

What are you baking for the holidays this year?


Amelia PS said...

how lovely!!!
I KNOW my kids will love these "lollies". Can't wait to try them :)

Angie said...

These are so pretty and festive...and different for the holidays! You are always an adventurer, Jodi. I would love to try those grapefruit lollies. Not to push the envelop but I bet some liquor flavored pops would be yummy for grown-ups;-)

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