Do you get cookie overload around Christmas, when everyone’s exchanging or gifting them plus you’re making dozens of your own? That’s why I started making this easy Christmas Hard Candy Recipe—to add something different.
And when I say it’s easy, I mean it: if you can boil water and read a thermometer you can make these simple sweets! Plus, you can make it in a silicone candy mold or a foil-lined pan, and I provide steps for both.
Hard Candy Making Tips
Candy-making can be an adventure, but it doesn’t have to leave a horrible mess. Here are some tips I’ve picked up over the years:
- Use flavoring oils, not extracts. A food-grade essential oil or oil-based flavoring works. Food extracts contain alcohols that can interfere with the recipe.
- Light not “lite” corn syrup. The “lite” corn syrup made using Splenda doesn’t work properly.
- Use non-porous containers. Liquid food coloring stains porous things like plastic, wood, even enamel-covered pains.
- Soak in hot water. Liquid sugar hardens on anything it touches. Soaking your utensils and pans in hot water makes clean-up a breeze.
How to Make Hard Candy
Before you print the recipe below, here’s a visual walkthrough using a foil-lined pan so you can see how simple it is. (Sorry for the old pics. One of these days I’ll update them!)
Step 1: Add Ingredients to the Sauce Pan.
Stir together the sugar, corn syrup and water in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until the sugar dissolves and the liquid turns clear. Then, do not stir again. If you need to, you can wash any sugar crystals down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush.
Step 2: Start Monitoring the Temperature.
When the mixture starts boiling, clip a thermometer to the side of the pan. Don’t let the thermometer touch the bottom of the pan, or you won’t get an accurate reading. Continue cooking until the temperature reaches the hard-crack stage.
The “hard-crack stage” of candy making is when sugar syrup reaches 300°F, a temperature at which most of the water has evaporated so it will harden when it cools. To test it, just drop a bit into cold water and fish it out. If it crunches when you bite it, it’s perfect!
Step 3: Stir in Color and Flavor.
Add the food coloring and flavoring, stirring only once or twice, and take the pan off heat. When the bubbling stops, pour the mixture into your mold.
Step 4: Use a Candy Mold or Lined Pan.
If you don’t have a silicone mold, you can make hard candy in a foil-lined pan. Wait a minute after pouring it in then score it into squares with a butterknife. If the syrup oozes back into the line, wait a couple more minutes and try again.
Step 5: Separate Into Pieces
It takes about 20 minutes to completely cool. If you’re using a silicone mold, push the pieces out from behind. Or, if you’re making hard candy without a mold, lift the foil of the pan by the edges and snap the pieces into individual squares.
If your saucepan is still a mess after soaking in hot water, try boiling an inch or two of white vinegar in it to remove the burnt sugar mess.
- Candy thermometer
- Candy mold or 8×8 pan
- Foil - if using pan
- Butter or vegetable oil - to prepare pan (optional if using a silicone candy mold)
- 2 cups granulated white sugar
- 2/3 cup light corn syrup
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tsp. food-grade essential oil
- liquid food coloring as desired
- Prepare the Candy Mold or Pan
- Oil a piece of foil and line an 8×8-inch pan. Silicone molds are non-stick but if the design is intricate you may want to lightly oil it.
- Make the Hard Candy
- Combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to boil, but do not stir.
- Clip a candy thermometer onto the edge of the pan, taking care the bulb doesn't touch the bottom of the pan. Continue to boil without stirring, until the mixture reaches 300°F/150°C (hard crack stage).
- Take the pan off heat immediately and remove the thermometer. Add the food coloring and flavor oils and stir once or twice. (Keep your face away from the steam.)
- When the bubbling stops, pour the sugar syrup into the prepared candy mold or lined pan.
- If using a foil-lined pan, score the candy into 1/2-inch squares using a butterknife. If the lines don't hold shape, wait 2 minutes then try again.
- Let the candy harden and fully cool (about 20 minutes). Push the individual pieces out of the silicone mold or lift the foil out of the pan and snap it at the scored lines to make individual pieces of hard candy.