How to Make Candy (Fudge and Brittle)
Making your own fudge and brittle is easy to learn, and the taste is so rewarding! Yes, you can buy fudge in specialty fudge shops. But wow, it’s really expensive! If you have a solid, heavy pot, and some time and patience, you can learn to make your own fudge that is so much better than what you buy. And how about Bacon Pecan Brittle? That recipe alone should be enough to make you want to learn how to make it!
Most candy recipes will tell you to boil your sugar mixture until it reaches one of the stages below. For the best results and best accuracy, you should use both a candy thermometer and the cold water test. However, I have made fudge for years just using the cold water test. You can’t go wrong with that, and it doesn’t change at different altitudes. If you want to watch a quick video of the cold water test for the soft ball stage (which you use for fudge), you can go to noreenlou’s YouTube video here:
If you are using a thermometer to judge your candy’s temperature, you will need to Google the altitude (or elevation) of your city, and adjust the temperature for your altitude. The temperatures specified in all of the charts are for sea level. At higher altitudes, subtract 1° F from every listed temperature for each 500 feet above sea level. So, for example, I Googled “Elevation Regina, SK”:
3,408.26 km2 (1,315.94 sq mi)
According to Wikipedia, the elevation here is 1,893 feet above sea level. I figured that it’s pretty close to 2,000 ft, so I would need to subtract almost 4 degrees from the expected temperature. For me, soft ball stage should occur at about 231 degrees, instead of the 235 degrees expected at sea level. Who knew? I didn’t know that until I just recently had a fudgey disaster. The first time I made fudge after I got my thermometer, I didn’t bother using the cold water test, and just trusted my handy-dandy thermometer. I let the sugar mixture boil until it reached 235 degrees, which everything I had read told me that was the soft ball stage. Well, the candy was so stiff, I burnt out my handheld mixer trying to beat it. Not to be deterred, I dumped the candy into my Kitchen Aid stand mixer’s bowl, and beat it for about 5 minutes. As soon as I stopped the mixer, I tried to spoon the fudge out into the pan, but it seized up tight. I had to chip it out of the bowl in little pieces.
After some google research, I found out that fudge will be dry and crumbly when it’s overcooked. And further research told me about having to adjust the temperature of fudge for elevation. Here is a good site to explain the science behind making candy: Science of Cooking.
It’s also a good idea to test your thermometer’s accuracy by placing it in plain boiling water. At sea level, it should read 212° F. If it reads above or below this number, make the necessary adjustments when cooking your candy syrup.
Stages of Cooking Candy
Instead of typing all this out, I just took a picture. This is from my old Purity Cook Book, and it’s still one of the best descriptions out there.
Always remove candy from the heat while doing the cold water test to prevent overcooking. When using a candy thermometer, make sure the bulb is completely immersed in the syrup.
Cooked fudges and candy are made up of tiny sugar crystals. The smaller the crystals, the smoother the candy. If the crystals start to form early, they will be large and the candy will be sugary or gritty. Therefore, avoid too much stirring while cooking the candy, and allow it to cool without stirring until it reaches the correct temperature for beating.
In this picture, you can see that I am swabbing the sides of the pot with my silicone brush and cold water. (You can see the measuring cup with cold water in the background). This is done a couple of times while the sugar is boiling. This step is optional, but I do it to make sure my candy doesn’t go grainy. If your cooked candy gets any sugar granules in it, it can all go grainy before it cools. So, keeping a brush in cold water close to your pot, and brushing down the inside with a bit of water while the candy boils will remove any granules from the pot and make sure that your candy doesn’t go grainy.
If you have ever made fudge, you will have no problem making brittle. It just needs to cook a little longer than fudge, and you have to be organized and have everything ready before you start cooking, because it goes quickly, and you can’t just let it sit on the stove while you get the pan ready or chop the pecans. Make sure that you read through all of the instructions before you start, and get your greased pan and greased spatula ready and sitting in a warm oven. Also get your vanilla and baking soda measured out and ready to use once the sugar syrup is cooked.
Most candy that is cooked past the soft ball stage will benefit from the addition of cream of tartar or baking soda. These additions will make the sugar syrup foam up. This foaming is necessary to put little air bubbles into the candy, which makes it easier to bite and chew, and makes brittle so that you can bite it without breaking your teeth.
Remember, boiling sugar is much hotter than boiling water, so you have to be careful not to spill any on your skin, and you have to resist licking the spoon! Now that you have all of the instructions in your head, you are ready to start making candy.