For an old-fashioned, classic wedding favor, treat your guests to the sweet taste of homemade hard candy. Brightly-colored and visually appealing, these tasty treats are easy to make and can be flavored any way you like. You can customize shapes and colors to the theme of your wedding celebration.
Choosing Your Molds
The shape of the mold you use will determine the shape of the hard candy. Do you want hearts? Stars? Sparkling jewels and gemstones? You can even make your candies take the shape of the first letters of each of your names. If you just want classic hard candies that look like they came out of a barrel in Pop’s Candy Shop, you can’t go wrong with a basic round mold.
Hard candies can be wrapped in cellophane so they don’t stick to each other and served on their own. If you want to get fancier, however, you can mount them on sticks to make custom lollipops.
Gathering Your Supplies
You will need: shaped molds, a candy thermometer, and a candy funnel with a control rod (this blocks the opening until you’re ready to pour). If you don’t want to worry about managing a rod and funnel, you can use a Pyrex measuring cup (or any heat-safe cup with a spout) to pour the molten candy.
Cooking the Syrup
First, you’ll make sugar syrup. This will be the base for your candy. Two cups of sugar, 2/3 cup of corn syrup and ¾ cup water will make about three cups of syrup. This amount is enough to make about a seven-by-seven inch, flat square of candy if you left it solid, but the number of candies you’re able to make from the syrup will depend on each candy’s size.
Mix the corn syrup, sugar, and water in a saucepan over medium heat for about five minutes. Stir it with a long-handled spoon until the sugar crystals have dissolved. Then, let the saucepan heat until boiling. You will not need to stir the mixture again once you’ve reached this step.
At this point, you can add whatever colors of liquid food coloring you like. Simply drop it into the saucepan; the boiling syrup will mix the colors for you. You will need to make different batches of syrup for each color of candy.
Using the candy thermometer, periodically test the temperature of the syrup as it boils. If you’re using a straight-edged pan, you can simply hang the thermometer into the liquid. When it reaches 300 degrees Fahrenheit, or the “hard crack” stage, it is time to promptly remove the pan from the heat.
Add any flavoring you desire at this stage. (You can find candy flavoring oils in any flavor for just a few dollars per bottle. From classic cherry to sour watermelon, nearly every taste you can imagine is available online.) Stir very gently–any air bubbles you create will end up as empty spots in the candy later.
Pouring the Candy
This stage will need to be done quickly. Every second you wait, the syrup will harden just a bit more. To speed things along, pre-coat your candy molds and funnel with a light nonstick spray.
Keeping the funnel upright with the control rod completely covering the hole in the bottom, pour some of your hot syrup from the pan into the funnel. (You may be using your Pyrex measuring cup as an alternative to the funnel, in which case you will pour the syrup directly into the molds.)
Hold the funnel over your first mold, lift the rod until the syrup pours through the funnel hole, and fill the mold before replacing the rod. You’ve just made your first piece of candy! The fewer drips and trails you leave as you pour, the more perfect your candy will look. Don’t stop for congratulations now, though. You’ve got to fill the rest of the molds before the syrup hardens.
If you want more old-fashioned dollops of hard candy, skip the molds and pour the syrup directly into small, round puddles on parchment paper, aluminum foil, or an oiled cookie sheet. You may also want to add lollipop sticks at this stage. Sprinkle the paper and candies with powdered sugar to create a sweet, non-stick surface.
If you have leftover syrup, pour it onto parchment paper. You can crackle it later to make candy crumbles that are perfect for ice cream toppings.
Finishing the Candy
The candy will take about an hour to cool. Make sure it has completely cooled to room temperature before you flip the molds over and gently tap the candy out. Break off any hard “strings” of candy that are left over from trails made while pouring.
Store the finished candies in airtight containers. They will keep for months, so there’s no need to hurry. Give yourself plenty of time to make the candy in small batches before the wedding; that way, the process will stay manageable.
You may want to dust the candy with confectioner’s sugar to keep it from sticking to itself. This will take away some of the need for wrapping each candy individually, but it will also mean your candies won’t have a glossy shine. Take whatever approach you prefer.
If you’re wrapping your candies individually, use small squares of cellophane and twist to seal the ends. If you’re presenting them sugared and in bowls, you won’t need any additional wrapping except a ribbon or two as a garnish.
After all the hard work you put in, don’t forget to present your candies in an attractive way. You can tie loose, sugared candies in cloth satchels that have been printed with your names and wedding date. You can also present loose candies in clear boxes that show off their colors with a bit of matching ribbon.
If you’ve made lollipops, you can present them in “lollipop trees” or stands so guests can take one as the leave. You may also want to scatter your wrapped candies around the dessert table or the table centerpiece to make an attractive addition to your other edible offerings. Hard candies are especially popular as after-dinner treats, if you’re serving a tea or coffee course.
The perfect choice for DIY favors, hard candies are a treat that guests of all ages will love. The small candies satisfy a sweet tooth without piling on the calories of a rich dessert, and the shapes and bright colors are visually appealing. Instead of investing hundreds of dollars in throwaway favors that guests are unlikely to use, give them a sweet memory of your event with a baggie of homemade sweets.
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