Have you ever tried pulling sugar? I don't mean taffy, but real hard sugar candy. I did over the holidays and it was quite the experience.
My Grandfather loves ribbon candy. It is a Christmas tradition he grew up with, and today that tradition seems to be disapearing and the candy is becoming harder to come by. This year I decided that I would make some for him as a Christmas gift (he is quite hard to find gifts for). I followed the instructions from this site: http://candy.about.com/od/hardcandyrecipes/r/ribbon_candy.htm and went to work.
(If your going to try this, definitely look at the site, they have step by step sugar pulling instructions with pictures.)
I practiced in the days prior with itty bitty batches (1tbs in place of 1 cup proportions unflavored) I would recommend trying this with maybe a bit more (2 tbs/cup or something) because it is quite helpful to practice the twist and pull, but my itty batch made a tad to little and the candy would cool and behave naughty. It is good to know that more is easier to work with, so don't be discouraged.
I ended up making 3 different colored solid ribbon candies instead of a striped one after I realized I was still in the learning phase and wanted to make pretty candy. For a first try you may want to do the same. The advantage is when you mess up/have too little to make another ribbon you can add it to a clump of the same color and put it to warm in the oven. Redos! :)
-3 cup sugar
-1 cup corn syrup
-1/4 cup water
-1/2 or 1 tsp peppermint extract (depend on taste)
-food coloring red and green
-PLASTIC GLOVES (impt!)
-a loving friend to help shape
Preheat oven to 200. Lightly grease 3 (4 ideal, but who has 4?) cookie sheets.
Mix all ingredients except coloring in 2qt pot and stir until steady boil over med heat. Stick in thermometer and don't stir. Let boil and heat until reach soft-crack at 285.
Pour 1/3 mix on a cookie sheet and stick in oven
Pour next 1/3 on another sheet, add sprinkle few drops green food coloring on top, and stick in oven
Pour final 1/3 on granite slab if have (or cookie sheet) and let sit momentarily till form very thin skin (happens fast). Use bench scraper or a butter knife to "work" and cool sugar (see website for instructions)
Once cool enough to handle (still hot) use gloves lightly greased with cooking spray to pull and twist candy (PLEASE SEE WEBSITE, PICTURES SUUUUPER HELPFUL!)
|How start pull|
Here is where I stray from instructions a bit:
Once repeat with all colors, you will have 3 big logs and some will probably be all melty and you may need to re-work them. Since I did single colors, here's how it went:
-take greased cooking scissors and cut of chunk (2-3 in long) and begin to press/pull out flatter into ribbon, be consistent with pressure and slip to end when pulling. Hold with one hand, pull with other (Like 1st picture)
*remember that as the ribbon gets longer it will thin in width. If you don't monitor it, you will get 1/2 in wide ribbons ans need to redo by reheating.*
Continue pulling out over "working tray" until long, THIN, and ribbon-like. Your loving friend (thank you Mom) will snip a length (~10-12 inches is good) and shape it. Here is a good video with a slow how-to shape toward the end (don't worry you have more than the quoted 8 sec to shape xD )
|Good mid-pull shot (sorry it's blurry)|
Work through all your candy. You will get better and the last ones will be BEAUTIFUL!
-When you have a baby chunk in hand from pulling, you can reheat it with another clump and pull later (don't stress over pulling itty clumps)
-As you get better try pulling with more candy. It moves faster but is overwhelming at first
-Be sure you work/pull/twist well in the beginning. In my green batch I had a much easier time because it was worked the best. It pulls easier and moves easier.
-If you have ever pulled a ceramic handle, this is exactly the same except keep your fingers pressed so it stays flat
(you could probably learn pulling from ceramic videos if you get stuck now that I think of it, there will be more out there)
Good luck to you all!
Homemade ribbon candy IS possible for even beginners despite what some sites claim (if a 17 year-old did it, can't you?)