Getting Handy With Candy Corn
Many of you may know that one of my secret guilty pleasures is making candy, particularly if it's the home-spun version of something typically found in the supermarket candy aisle. To that end, I've taken on marshmallows, lollipops, caramel apples, pumpkin seed brittle and chocolate truffles.
Imagine my delight when I learned that I could make my own candy corns, one of my all-time Halloween favorites, even with its high fructose corn syrup content. All I need is a handful to take care of my annual fix, so I make an exception and bite off those little white waxy tips (not a perception but a reality -- candy corns do contain carnauba wax, the same ingredient used in mascara and shoe polish).
Thanks to the folks at Bon Appetit, the DYI candy corn party got started when they tinkered with the stuff this time last year, chronicling their adventures in their blog space on epicurious.com. Further research brought me to "Melisser," a San Francisco-based blogger who writes The Urban Housewife, a lively cooking blog with a vegan focus.
The spunky Urban Housewife tweaks the Bon Appetit recipe and makes a vegan version, using powdered soy milk and vegan shortening instead. Her stellar photos and helpful hints made the vegan version seem just as easy, but I ran into trouble when I couldn't find the powdered soy milk. With more time, I would have gone beyond Whole Foods and My Organic Market, where my efforts proved fruitless.
I agree with Housewife's recommendation of sleuthing out organic corn syrup, which is made with glucose rather than fructose, as in high fructose corn syrup. Again, I struck out in this department, but I have since learned that Wholesome Sweeteners is the only commercial brand on the market.
Wholesome Sweeteners also makes organic confectioners' sugar (with organic corn starch), as do two other brands - Florida Crystals and Hain.
In the recipe below, I offer detailed notes about what happens when you make candy corns in your own kitchen. It's a mess, and your kitchen will be a disaster, but it's a lot of fun. Next time, I'd like to recruit a candy corn partner, to help distribute the labor and speed up the process.
And yes, they do taste like the real thing - but without the wax.
Enjoy the weekend!
Adapted from Bon Appetit Editor's Blog/epicurious.com, with vegan inspiration from the blog, "The Urban Housewife"
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup non-fat milk powder (or equal amounts soy milk powder)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
5 tablespoons unsalted butter (or equal amounts Earth Balance vegan shortening, which works seamlessly)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Red and yellow food coloring
Sift powdered sugar, milk powder and salt and reserve in a medium mixing bowl.
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan (wide and shallow is preferable, as is nonstick or enamel coated), bring granulated sugar, corn syrup, fat and vanilla up to a boil over high heat. When you begin to see bubbles, reduce heat to medium-high and cook for five minutes, stirring frequently with a heat-proof silicon or rubber spatula. A candy thermometer will read 225-230 degrees, just before thread stage. You want to set a timer or use the thermometer - this is very important.
Remove pan from heat, and gradually add powdered sugar mixture to pan, incorporating with spatula. Make sure that mixture is completely integrated. Let mixture cool until slighty warm to the touch, about 20 minutes (again, a timer is helpful here).
With a knife or pastry cutter, cut dough into three equal pieces, placing each in a small bowl. Now here's where it gets interesting (and messy): Put on an apron or shirt that you don't mind getting stained.
Add three drops of yellow food coloring to one piece of dough and begin kneading until smooth and color is evenly distributed. You can this a few different ways: Wearing rubber gloves (however, latex was a disaster), covering your hands with plastic wrap or placing dough and coloring in a Ziploc-style bag and knead the bag. Set on parchment or wax paper or on a silicone baking mat.
For the second piece, use a combination of red and yellow coloring to make orange, using the same procedure. Knead the third piece until smooth but keep uncolored.
Clear a large work space to roll out each piece of dough, which, when rolled into a thin rope, can get quite long. If rope gets too long, trim with a paring knife or pastry cutter.
Push three ropes together to form a long rectangle. Use sharp knife to trim ends and sides to make a straight angle. Starting at one end of the rope rectangle, cut small triangle shapes. Place each candy on parchment or wax paper to keep from sticking to your work surface.
Store at room temperature in airtight container, separating layers with parchment or waxed paper.
Makes about 100 pieces.
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