Candy making is one of the trickier forms of cooking, but using the right equipment can eliminate guesswork and reduce the chances of a failed batch. Most candy-making supplies are easily obtained from discount and department stores and you may already have most of what you'll need. Still, it's worthwhile to check if your kitchen equipment is suitable for candy making and to replace any items that aren't.
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You'll need at least one heavy, flat-bottomed saucepan to cook candy in. Because boiling sugar syrups rise a lot and can easily overflow, your saucepan should be large enough to hold about four times the volume of the candy. A 2-to 3-qt. saucepan is sufficient for most recipes. Good Housekeeping magazine recommends aluminium saucepans for even heating, but stainless steel, cast iron or copper are acceptable alternatives. If you plan to make chocolate candy, you'll also need a double boiler or a large microwave-safe bowl.
A sturdy wooden spoon is adequate for mixing most candy with, but the stiffness of some candies, such as fudge and divinity, will quickly tire your arms. For these, a heavy-duty freestanding electric mixer is a better choice. Handheld mixers have weaker motors and may break down if used for this purpose. Don't use plastic implements to stir molten sugar; they will melt.
Measuring temperature is most accurate when done with a candy thermometer. Look for a thermometer with easy-to-read numbers and a clip to attach it to the side of the pan. Alternately, you can measure your candy's temperature the old-fashioned way, by dropping small quantities into cold water and manipulating it with your fingers. For this method, you'll need at least three or four clear glass cups; candy cooks rapidly and you may not have time to wash a cup between temperature tests.
Once you've finished cooking the candy, you'll need a container or surface for it to cool in. Which items you need for this step depends on what kinds of candy you plan to make. For fudge, a baking tray, cake pan or glass pan will suffice. For lollipops and most hard candies, you'll need candy moulds. Paper or aluminium foil candy cups are a good choice for chocolates. If you plan to make taffy or fondant, you'll need a marble slab or silicone mat to work the hot candy on.
Other common, but essential, supplies for candy making include measuring cups and spoons, a timer and a pair of oven gloves. Kitchen shears are a must-have for cutting pulled candies. A dipping spoon or a pair of tongs will make chocolate coatings easier to apply. Aluminium foil and non-stick cooking spray are helpful for reducing cleanup time.
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