Hey People. This week’s post is…as much as it could be. There are three major things I do nowadays: school, theatre, and food. The two former things had to take precedence this week. That being said, I feel like I learned a lot this week in the world of food. The world of candy making, specifically.
I stared for a long, hard time at some informational websites that told me the different temperature stages of candy making. I was really confused, because I swear that my caramel was near burnt before it was close to reaching the “Caramelization Temperature” listed on those sites when I was doing my popcorn balls.
HOWEVER, I am not in possession of a candy thermometer (told Mother to put that on the Christmas list today!), which is an integral part to making candy, go figure. I have a lovely meat thermometer. The meat thermometer surprisingly gets up to a high enough temperature! …But it also thinks that water boils at 204.5 degrees.
(Water should boil at 212 degrees Fahrenheit, to my less-science-inclined friends, including myself who had to look that up before testing my thermometer.)
So, there was problem number one. “Problem” number two isn’t a problem so much as an observation–sugar water takes FOREVER to reach 200 degrees…but once it gets past that, the temperature skyrockets so quickly that between dipping one apple to grabbing another, it went up more than 50 degrees, even on my slow-moving meat thermometer!
This brings me to the point of this little post, then: I wanted to test the candy apple process. Everyone says “cook sugar until it reaches the hard-crack stage”. I said, “But why?”
So I took six granny smith apples, a pot of sugar, water, and a cinnamon stick, and dipped an apple each time it reached a certain “stage”, adjusting for the stupidity (ahem: inaccuracy) of my thermometer. I intended there to be six apples, but with the skyrocketing of the temperatures, the Soft Crack stage got skipped. So we have FIVE apples instead. Therefore, this post will amount to me discussing my findings. Shall we begin…
Stage 1, Soft Ball (235-240 degrees F): Sticky to the touch. Sugar crystals formed underneath the apple and have broken off from the rest. The layer of sugar on the apple is extra thin, easy to bite. It does not crackle. It tastes like sugar with little cinnamon flavor.
Stage 2, Firm Ball (245-249 degrees F): Sweet. Tacky to the touch, thin layer that crackles before PERMANENTLY ATTACHING TO YOUR TEETH. Until it slowly melts away, that is. I would not recommend eating plain sugar from this stage.
Stage 3, Hard Ball (250-265 degrees F): Stronger cinnamon flavor up front. Smooth surface cracks like a crystal ball. Very sweet. Doesn’t stick badly to teeth.
Stage 4, Soft Crack (270-290 degrees F): Missed this one on account of inattentiveness.
Stage 5, Hard Crack (300-310 degrees F): Light caramelization, spicier flavor. Caramelization covers up the fact that I don’t really care for the type of cinnamon I used in this recipe. Rounds out the flavor so the cinnamon is the star without bragging about it.
Stage 6, Caramelized (338 degrees F): Strongest cinnamon flavor. Enters into the perfume zone. Finishes nicely, but up front is reminiscent of potpourri.
As you may be able to tell, I liked the one from the Hard Crack stage the most. I guess there actually IS a reason why people make candy apples in that sugar stage. My second-favorite was the Hard Ball stage, and this was the favorite among my housemates who volunteered to taste my stuff. One found the Hard Crack stage to taste almost burnt, one liked the un-crackled nature of the Soft Ball, one found the Hard Crack cinnamon-to-apple ratio odd, one had the Caramelized apple as the runner-up.
What’s more is that these apples may not have even been in the precise stages, since my thermometer is whack. So, take from this what you will, friends. What will I be taking from this? Candy stages themselves may be narrow frames requiring accurate equipment, but candy apples are not. As long as your molten sugar is somewhere between 250 and 338 degrees Fahrenheit, you’re sure to please someone in your group.
Next week I hope to have a completed batch up here for you!