Old Fashioned Candy Secrets and Recipes
Recipes and Secrets for Making Old Fashioned Candy
If you love old fashioned candy, why not try making some yourself. These candymaking secrets, recipes and techniques come straight from the original antique candy cookbooks, back in the days when every neighborhood had its own candy store, and taffy pulls were family recreation.
Making hand-crafted old fashioned candy is an art, but it's very simple to learn. Everything you need to know is included on this page. Make it a holiday family activity and it might become a time-honored tradition.
Vintage Images: Files of Nancy Oram
Candy Secrets Antique Candy Cookbook
This candy cookbook has wonderful tips and recipes, but no pictures. Still worth it.
Basic Candy Making Tools
You may skip or improvise almost all of the tools listed, but a good candy thermometer will save much heartache.
Basic Candy Making Tools and Tips For Using Them
Candymaking Doesn't Require a Lot of Expensive Gadgets
From taffy to the finest chocolates, every kind of candy can be made at home. You'll need a few basic tools. Some of these you'll find you already have and some can be improvised. As you become more skilled at candy making you may want to acquire a few more items. Some candymakers even locate antique implements to make their old fashioned candy truly authentic.
Basic Candy Making Tools:
Marble Slab, 18x18 inches
Kettle, 1 or 2 gallon
Small Double Boiler
Dipping Wire Spoon
Canvas Gloves with Buckskin Palms
Funnel with Handle and Stick
Four Steel Bars
You may skip or improvise almost all of the above, but a good candy thermometer will save much heartache.
In using the marble slab, one side should be kept exclusively for fondant, and the other for taffy. For fondant the surface should be dampened by passing over it a napkin wet with cold water. Butter or grease should never touch this side. The other surface for taffy should never be dampened, but rubbed with butter or grease.
The paddle is for stirring syrups that scorch easily.
The kettle must be large to allow for foaming up.
The double boiler is for melting coating chocolate or for keeping liquid glace syrup.
The spatula is for scraping the inside of utensils, and for lifting wafers, bonbons, glace fruit, etc. from the cooling surface.
The wire spoon is a piece of wire with one end twisted to form a "spoon" in which the chocolate or bonbon rests while being dipped, the extra coating dripping off.
The hook is needed only if very large batches of taffy are to be made and can be purchased at a hardware shop.
The gloves are to protect the hands from blisters while pulling large batches of taffy, and should be lightly dusted each time with cornstarch.
The funnel should have a 5-inch handle like that of a dipper. The funnel's small opening should measure about 1/4 inch across, and the stick, thicker at one end than the other, should exactly fit this opening like a stopper. When cream or syrup is put in the funnel for making wafers or drop candies, the stick should close the opening, then be lifted for just the right amount of cream to pass through, and quickly replaced. Drops and wafers can be dropped from the tip of a spoon by a steady hand, but the funnel makes them of even size and regular shape.
The scraper is such as paperers use for walls and can be bought at the hardward shop. It is used for cleaning slab, and to mix and turn fondant and taffy.
The steel bars are about 1/2 inch thick. Two should be 17 inches long, and two should be 16 inches. With these any size frame up to 17 inches can be made for fudge, caramels, brittle, etc.
The cupcake pans are used for molding pralines, nut patties and coconut cakes.
Candy Making Supplies for Your Kitchen - Making Each Step Easier and More Efficient
Improvising works for awhile, but when you're ready to make candy like a pro, choose the very best to last for years. Some carefully chosen candy implements will become family heirlooms. The more you use it, the more valuable it becomes.
Marble Candy Slab
Candy Making "Stages"
The basic candy making temperature stages that are essential to know.
Candy Making "Stages" Every Candymaker Must Know
Making Homemade Candy is Simple If You Know the Basic Stages
1. The "Soft Ball" stage, from 236 to 238 degrees Fahrenheit. At this stage a drop, put in cold water, will form a soft ball when rolled between the fingers.
2. The "Hard Ball" stage, from 246 to 248 degrees Fahrenheit. At this stage a drop, put in cold water, will form a hard ball when rolled between the fingers.
3. The "Crumble" stage, at 290 degrees Fahrenheit. At this stage a drop, put in cold water will crumble in the fingers.
4. The "Brittle" stage, from 290 to 310 degrees Fahrenheit. At this stage a drop, put in cold water, will form hard and break with a cracking sound.
5. The "Danger Point" stage, from 345 to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. It is best to determine this stage with a candy thermometer. Candy will burn very shortly after the danger point is passed.
Immediately upon removal from the heat, the pan containing the hot candy should be set for a few seconds in a larger pan of cold water. This will arrest the cooking immediately and prevent the candy from passing the desired stage.
If the candy passes the stage specified, do not throw it away, but add a spoonful of water and boil again to the desired stage.
Candy should not be cooked too fast, and it is better to cook candies, and especially those which require boiling, to the "Brittle" stage and on a dry day, as moisture in the air tends to make the randy rough or grained.
Here are some alternate or more modern terms for the various "Stages".
Pearl, 220 degrees
Small Thread, 228 degrees
Large Thread, 236 degrees
Blow, 240 degrees
Feather, 242 degrees
Small or Soft Ball, 244 degrees
Large, Hard or Firm Ball, 250 degrees
Light Crack or Brittle, 254 degrees
Hard Crack or Snap, 284 degrees
Starting with the basic need-to-know candy recipes, followed by some old-fashioned vintage and antique oldies.
Base Recipes and More Tips For Candymaking
These are basic recipes that are used to make other specific recipes.
Fondant, the base of most creams and bonbons, can be cooked or uncooked. The cooked will keep for months and can be made several weeks in advance for the holidays and other occasions.
Put in a large kettle 5 lbs granulated sugar, 1 1/2 pints cold water. Set over hot burner and stir until sugar dissolves. As soon as boiling begins, stop stirring and add 2 tablespoons vinegar. Just before boiling begins wipe sugar crystals from sides of kettle with a wet cloth wound around a fork, but after boiling begins do not even jar or move the kettle. Put on lid after adding vinegar, and keep covered until steam forces itself from under lid. Then take off lid, test with thermometer, and when it registeres 240 degrees remove kettle from heat without jarring. Turn out syrup on moistened slab or platters. Do not scrape kettle or drip last of contents over syrup on slab or it may granulate and spoil the whole batch. Any leftover may be used for other kinds of candy. Do not jar or move table while syrup is cooling, and when it feels cold to the back of the hand, which is the professional way to test, begin to turn edges inward with the scraper. Keep on turning and working until the mass is velvety and firm, form into ball, tuck it around with a napkin wrung out in cold water and let stand to mellow for 30 minutes. Then cut in large pieces, pack in crock, cover with a damp napkin and stand in a cool place, deampening the cloth when it dries out until you are ready to make the bonbons or chocolates, then knead like dough, kneading flavoring, coloring, nuts, etc., into the mass.
This is easy and fine for small batches of bonbons. Put white of egg in glass. In second glass put rich cream to the exact level of egg white. Then mix the two and beat well. Work in gradually, first with fork then with the fingers, confectioners' sugar. It will require a pound or over, until mass is like firm dough, free from stickiness. Put in crock, cover with damp napkin and stand in refrigerator overnight, then proceed as with cooked fondant.
Half a pound of dipping chocolate or coating chocolate will coat quite a number of candy or other "centers. If the chocolate is the proper temperature when the centers are dipped into it, it will give a rich, glossy coating free from spots, and the candies will not have a spreading base. After a few centers have been dipped, set them in a cool place to harden. The necessary utensils are a wire fork and a very small double boiler. The inner dish of the boiler should be of such size that the melted chocolate will come nearly to the top of it. Break the chocolate in small pieces and surround with warm water. Stir occasionally while melting. When the melted chocolate has colled to about 80 degrees F, it is ready to use. Drop whatever is to be coated into the chocolate, with the fork push it below the chocolate, lift out, draw across the edge of the dish and drop onto a piece of waxed paper.
For coloring candies use the harmless vegetable dyes, and for flavoring use the best extracts, only a few drops being required. For coating, use the chocolate which comes expressly for the purpose, melting it over the double boiler.
Never try to coat bonbons with chocolate or bonbon cream on a damp day, nor in a room where the temperature is lower than 75 degrees. Any kind of coating has a usefulness quite apart from flavor or appearance. It seals the center it covers, and keeps it moist and delicious.
If there is no dipping spoon on hand, coating may be done with a common table fork. Be sure to put the fork and bonbon well under the chocolate or cream, then scrape fork across edge of saucepan, and quickly drop coated bonbon on waxed paper, giving the fork a twist to make a little ornament on top; the bottom of the bonbon now becoming the top. If two persons are working, one can drop a bit of crystallized fruit or nut meat on top of each bonbon as it is dropped from fork.
Cook candy syrup quickly, otherwise the product will be tough and sometimes sticky. After removing thermometer from syrup, always have ready a pan of warm water in which to put it, then it will never be smeary and will not crack.
Many candies can be formed with candy molds. You can buy commercial molds, or you can easily make your own by filling a low pan with cornstarch, making it smooth on the top. Use anything you want to make impressions in the cornstarch, such as bottle caps, thimbles, candy kisses, toys, jellybeans, the end of a wooden spoon for gum drops, etc.
An Endless Variety of Fancy Candy Molds - The new commercial candy molds are fun and inexpensive.
From seashells to high heels. There are hundreds of molds to choose from for any theme or occasion. This is just a random sampling of what's available. Be sure to browse for similar items to see all the molds available, or do a specific search for the design you're looking for.
Recipes for Chocolate Covered Almond Sticks and Balls
Old Fashioned Almond Fondant Specialties Dipped in Chocolate
Almond Fondant Sticks
2 1/2 C granulated sugar
1/4 C glucose
1/2 C water
1/4 pound almond paste
1/4 pound premium baking chocolate
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 pound dipping chocolate
Put the sugar, glucose and water over the fire. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Wash down the sides of the kettle as in making fondant. Let boil to the soft ball degree or to 238 degrees F. Add the almond paste, cut into small thin pieces, let boil up vigorously, then turn onto a damp marble. When nearly cold turn to a cream with a wooden spatula. It will take considerable time to turn this mixture to fondant. Cover and let stand half an hour. Add the premium chocolate, melted over hot water, and knead it in thoroughly. Add at the same time the vanilla. The chocolate must be added warm. At once cut off a portion of the fondant and knead it into a round ball; then roll it lightly under the fingers into a long strip the shape and size of a pencil. Form as many of these strips as desired. Cut the strips into two-inch lengths and let stand to become firm. Have ready the dipping chocolate melted over hot water and coat the prepared sticks.
Almond Fondant Balls:
Roll part of the almond fondant into small balls. Some of the dipping chocolate will be left after dipping the almond chocolate sticks. Remelt this over hot water, and use it to coat the balls lightly. As each ball is coated with the chocolate, drop it onto a plate of chopped pistachio nut meats or of chopped coconut. With a spoon sprinkle the chopped material over the balls.
Recipes for Peppermints and Chocolate Mints
Mint Fondant Recipe Using Uncooked Fondant
Peppermints and Chocolate Mints
White of 1 egg
2 T cold water
Sifted confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp. essence of peppermint or a few drops of oil of peppermint
1 or 2 squares premium chocolate
Green color paste
Pink color paste
Beat the egg on a plate, add the cold water and gradually work in sugar enough to make a firm paste. Divide the sugar paste into three parts. To one part add the peppermint and a very little of the green color paste. Take the paste from the jar with a wooden toothpick; add but a little. Work and knead the mixture until the paste is evenly distributed throughout. Roll the candy into a sheet one-fourth of an inch thick, then cut out into small rounds or any other desired shapes. Color the second part a very delicate pink, flavor with rose extract and cut out in the same manner as the first. To the last part add one or two squares of premium chocolate melted over hot water and flavor with peppermint. Add also a little water, as the chocolate will make the mixture thick and crumbly. Begin by adding a tablespoonful of water, then add more if necessary. Knead and cut these as the others.
Chocolate Covered Peppermints:
Melt a little fondant and flavor it to taste with essence of peppermint. Leave the mixture white or tint very delicately with green or pink color paste. With a teaspoon drop the mixture onto waxed paper to make rounds of the same size, about one inch and a quarter in diameter. Let these stand in a cool place about one hour. Put about a cup of fondant in a double boiler, add two ounces of chocolate and a teaspoonful of boiling water, then stir over hot water until the fondant and the chocolate are melted and evenly mixed together. Then drop the peppermints one by one into the chocolate mixture and remove them with a fork to a piece of waxed paper. Let stand until the chocolate is set.
Baker's Chocolate Antique Candy Cookbook
Many of the tips, recipes and images were taken from this original candy cookbook (from my collection).
Recipe for Chocolate Flavored Turkish Delight
Wonderful Old-Fashioned Recipe for the Best of Both Worlds: Fruit and Chocolate
Chocolate Flavored Turkish Delight
3 Level tablespoonfuls of granulated gelatine
1/2 C cold water
2 C sugar
2/3 cup of cold water
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 squares premium chocolate
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 C French candied fruit, cherries, angelica, citron, etc. chopped fine
Let the gelatin stand in the half cup of cold water until it has taken up all of the water. Stir the sugar and the 2/3 C of cold water over the fire until the sugar is dissolved and the syrup is boiling, then add the gelatin and let cook twenty minutes. Add the cinnamon, the chocolate, melted over hot water, and beat all together. Then add the vanilla and the fruit. Let stand in a cool place for a time, then when it thickens a little turn into an unbuttered bread pan and set aside until the next day. To unmold, separate the paste from the pan at the edge with a sharp pointed knife. Sift confectioner's sugar over the top, then with the tips of the fingers gently pull the paste from the pan to a board dredged with confectioner's sugar. Cut into strips, then into small squares. Roll each square in confectioner's sugar. In cutting keep sugar between the knife and the paste.
Recipes for Gum Drops and Lemon Drops
Sparkling, Flavorful and Colorful Candy Classics
Frosted Gum Drops
4 level Tablespoons unflavored gelatin
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 cup cold water
4 cups granulated sugar
Soak gelatin in the cold water for five minutes, then stir in the boiling water until perfectly dissolved. Add sugar and boil 25 minutes, counting from time boiling begins, and stirring constantly or it will stick and burn. Turn syrup into four containers. When cool, flavor one with lemon and do not color. Color one with green and flavor with mint or wintergreen. Color one red and flavor with clove or cherry or raspberry. Color one with pink and flavor with rose (or other desired colors and flavors). Pour each in a small pan or candy molds which have been dipped in cold water and let stand overnight in a cold place. Cut in cubes with a knife dipped in boiling water, or unmold. Roll each gum drop in granulated sugar until well coated. Set aside for two days to crystallize.
Into one cup of powdered sugar stir just enough strained lemon juice to dissolve the sugar. Cook without stirring to the brittle stage. Drop from spoon tip on sugared (with granulated sugar) platter, sprinkling the tops as well, and set away to cool and harden.
Recipe for Almond Chocolate BonBon Creams
Classic Bon Bon Recipe For Chocolate Almond Lovers
Almond Chocolate BonBon Creams
1/4 C blanched almonds, chopped fine
1/2 C fondant
1/4 tsp. vanilla
Confectioner's sugar for kneading and shaping
About 1 C fondant
2 squares premium chocolate
1 tsp. vanilla
Few drops of water as needed
Halves of blanched almonds
Mix the chopped almonds with the fondant and vanilla. Add confectioner's sugar, a little at a time, and knead the mass thoroughly on a marble or large platter. Shape into a long roll, then cut into small pieces of the same size. Shape these into balls a generous half inch in diameter and leave them about an hour to harden on the outside. Put the fondant for the coating and the chocolate (shaved or broken in pieces) in a double boiler with hot water in the lower receptacle. Add the vanilla and the water, and heat until melted. Take out the spoon and put in a dipping fork. Beat the fondant to keep it from crusting, and drop in a "center." With the fork, cover it with fondant. Put the fork under it and lift it out, scrape the fork lightly on the edge of the dish to remove superfluous candy, turn the fork over and drop the bonbon onto waxed paper. Make a design with the fork in taking it from the candy. At once press half of a blanched almond on the top of the candy, or the design made with the fork will suffice. If at any time the coating is too thick, add a few drops of water. If there is any leftover coating, use it to coat whole nuts or cherries.
Recipe for Chocolate Dipped Parisian Sweets
A Very Special Victorian Christmas Delight
Plain and Chocolate Dipped Parisian Sweets
1/2 C raisins
1 C dates
2 ounces citron
2/3 C nut meats (almonds, filberts, pecans, walnuts)
1 1/2 ounces premium chocolate
1/3 C confectioner's sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
chocolate fondant or dipping chocolate
Pour boiling water over the figs and dates, let boil up once, then drain as dry as possible. Remove stones from the dates, the stem ends from the figs. Chop the fruit and nut meats (almonds should be blanched), add the salt and the sugar and work the whole to a smooth paste. Add the chocolate, melted, and work it evenly through the mass. Add more sugar if it is needed and roll the mixture into a sheet one-fourth of an inch thick. Cut into strips an inch wide. Cut the strips into diamond-shaped pieces (or squares). Roll these in confectioner's sugar or dip them in chocolate fondant or dipping chocolate. Sprinkle a little fine-chopped pistachio nut meats on the top of the dipped pieces. When rolling the mixture use confectioner's sugar on board and rolling pin.
Recipe for Salt Water Taffy
Salt Water Taffy, the Poster Child for Old Fashioned Candy
Salt Water Taffy
1 1/4 lbs. granulated sugar
1 1/4 lbs. white syrup
Level tablespoon butter
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 pint water
Flavoring and coloring
Put sugar, syrup and water in saucepan and stir until boiling begins. Wash down sides of saucepan with damp cloth and continue boiling without stirring to the brittle stage. Take from fire, add butter and salt, turn out on greased marble slab or buttered platters. When cool enough to handle, two people can pull it, or one person using a candy hook. Work in coloring and flavoring while pulling. You can make chocolate taffy by sprinkling grated chocolate on some of the syrup while it is cooling. Cut into kisses and wrap each in waxed paper.
Recipe for Double Layer Fudge
When One Flavor of Fudge Just Isn't Enough!
2 C granulated sugar
2 squares of premium chocolate
1/2 C cream
1 T butter
Boil seven minutes; then beat and spread in buttered tin to cool.
2 C brown sugar
1/2 C cream
1 tsp. vanilla
1 C walnut meats chopped fine
Butter the size of a walnut
Boil ten minutes, then beat and pour on top of fudge already in pan. When cool, cut in squares.
Recipes for Victorian Candied Flowers and Leaves
A Gracious and Elegant Addition To Special Occasions
Sugared Rose Petals, Violets, etc.
Boil 1/2 lb. sugar, 1/2 cup water, and 4 drops lemon juice to the brittle stage. Stir until cool, but still liquid. Then dip rose leaves in this syrup, stirring them well. Take out the leaves and lay on waxed paper to dry.
Violets and other edible flowers may also be candied in this manner.
Candied Mint Leaves
Cut a quantity of fresh mint leaves from the stems and clean thoroughly. Then beat the white of an egg until stiff, and brush over each leaf. Then take a cup of granulated sugar, flavored with 15 drops oil of spearmint, and dip the egg-coated mint leaves in the sugar. Place them on waxed paper and dry in a slow oven.
Candy Making Demonstration
Tour of a candy factory in Maine
Demonstration of Candy Making Techniques - Watch One Family's Candy Tradition For Almost 100 Years
This family-owned candy company shares their techniques so you can make old-fashioned candy yourself at home. Even though they deal in bulk batches, each candy is handcrafted individually, and you'll see how the candymaking tools and techniques are implemented.
Watch closely and you'll see how the funnel and stick are used, starch molds, spreading on slabs, the use of gloves, marking the tops, and the textures of the different stages of the candy--from soft fondant to crack ball stage hard candy. A huge machine pulls their taffy, but the result is the same as hand pulling, as the taffy becomes first pure white, and then a rainbow of different colors and flavors as extracts are kneaded in.
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The Best Online Candy Making Sites
These online sites are great. I hope you enjoy them.
Only the Very Best Online Candy Making Resources - I promise, these sites are worth the click!
Image and great ideas: Disney's Family Magazine.
Information found at these sites is the stuff I couldn't do better myself. Fun and educational, I know what you find here will enhance your understanding of the candymaking process.
- Exploratorium Visual on Candy Stages
This was made for children, but it's a great teaching visual to see the various temperature stages and the kinds of candy made at each stage.
- Homemade Halloween Fun
Candy "eyeballs," "brains," "worms" and "mice." Yum!
- Homemade Christmas Candy Recipes
Several traditional holiday recipes presented in a clear and attractive format without advertising interruptions.
- Homemade Valentine Sweet Treats
Another well-done site with unique Valentine ideas sure to please.
Top Selling Books on Chocolate
Tell us what you think: Homemade or Store-bought? - At the Holidays Do You Make or Buy Your Candy?
For some See's is a tradition, for others it just wouldn't be Christmas without homemade candy. Let us know how it works at your house.
Is Your Holiday Candy Usually Homemade or Store-Bought?
Photos used with permission are credited in individual modules. Every other photo on this lens resides in original form in my personal collection.
Do you have a candymaking tip?