How to Make Homemade Candy Canes
Roughly 350 years ago, in the Cologne Cathedral in Germany, a choirmaster made candy cane sticks to pass out to children. These sticks were traditionally all white and straight, but this choirmaster decided to bend the stick to represent a shepherd's hook. Thus, the iconic shape was born. It wasn't until the turn of the 19th century that candy canes got their red stripe, and when they were flavored with peppermint. Today, candy canes come in a variety of colors, and a variety of flavors, but the peppermint flavored red and white striped candy canes will always be a classic.
Making candy canes can take some time and energy, but there's something satisfying about pulling the candy, creating the shepherd's hook, and making them all on your own. It can be fun for the family, too, so follow the steps below to make your own!
- 3 cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 cup/2 ounces water
- 1 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
- Red food coloring (gel coloring recommended)
- Optional: White food coloring (gel coloring recommended)
- Spray two rimmed baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray and set aside for now. Preheat your oven to 200 F/93 C.
- Combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a medium (2- to 3-quart) saucepan, and place the pan over medium-high heat; stir while the sugar dissolves.
- Then, brush down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent sugar crystals from forming. Once the candy comes to a boil, insert a candy thermometer and continue to cook the sugar mixture, without stirring, until the candy reaches 285 F/141 C.
- Once the proper temperature is reached, remove the pan from the heat immediately. Let the bubbles subside in the candy, then stir in the peppermint extract. When the mint flavor is mixed in, pour approximately half of the sugar syrup onto one of the prepared baking sheets and place it in the preheated oven to stay warm.
- Add a few drops of red food coloring to the remaining candy in the pan, and stir it to mix it in. Add more red color if necessary, until you have a vibrant red.
- Pour the candy onto the remaining baking sheet or a marble slab. Allow it to sit briefly just until it forms a “skin.”
- Spray a bench scraper or metal spatula with nonstick cooking spray, and use the tool to begin spreading the candy out and pushing it back together, working it across the board and allowing it to cool.
- As soon as the candy is cool enough to handle, but still quite hot, put on your food-safe plastic gloves. There are specially made heat-safe gloves available that can be purchased online, but if you don't have these, consider wearing several pairs of gloves on top of each other to protect your hands from the heat. Take the candy in both hands and pull the hands in opposite directions, stretching the candy into a long rope.
- Bring the ends of the strands together and twist the candy into a rope, then pull the rope out into a long strand. Continue to twist and pull the candy until it has a satin-like finish, is an opaque red color, and is becoming difficult to pull.
- Once the candy is still pliable, but barely warm, pull it into a strand about 2 inches thick, and place it on the remaining sprayed baking sheet. Put this sheet back into the oven and turn off the heat. The pulled candy will remain pliable in the warm oven while you work the second portion.
- Remove the baking sheet with the other half of the candy syrup. If you have white food coloring, add a few drops on top of the second portion. The white color isn't necessary, it just makes the white of the candy canes "pop" a bit more.
- Knead the white into the candy, then repeat the pulling procedure. By the end, the candy should be a pearly white color. Form it into a log 2-inch in diameter, just like the red candy.
- Remove the red candy from the oven. Cut a 2-inch segment from the white and the red log, and put the rest of the candy back in the oven to stay warm. Place them next to each other and press them together so they are one log.
- Begin to twist the candies together, pulling and twisting gradually to form the familiar candy stripes. Once the twisted candy is the thickness you want, use oiled kitchen shears to cut them into smaller lengths. Immediately form the hook at the top of the cane, and place it on a baking sheet to firm up at room temperature. Repeat the twisting with the remaining candy.
- If the candy gets too hard to pull, place it in the warm oven for a few minutes to soften, but don’t let it sit too long and melt. They should be as hard as regular candy canes at room temperature, but just like regular candy canes, they will get sticky if left out for long periods of time.
- Be sure to wrap them in cling wrap or cellophane once they are set to preserve their shelf life.
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