Homemade hard candy isn’t hard to make! Follow this easy hard candy recipe and the step-by-step instructions. Changing the flavor is simple and delicious!
Making this homemade hard candy recipe may seem intimidating, but it really isn’t difficult! My dad makes a version of this hard candy recipe every year for Christmas, but I thought it would be fun to do a cute Valentine’s Day version. I’ll outline exactly how I do it so there is no guesswork for you. And you don’t even need candy molds! I snagged these heart molds on sale, but I’ll show you how to make it without molds as well.
First, let’s talk a little bit about the science behind candy making. Don’t leave! It’s cool, I promise. When you make this hard candy recipe, you mix up sugar and water. In the case of this recipe, it’s water, sugar, and corn syrup.
At room temperature, there is only a certain amount of sugar that water can dissolve. That’s why we have to heat the sugar and water when we make this hard candy recipe. Basically, we are forcing more sugar to dissolve in the water, creating what is called a “supersaturated solution.” This happens at a certain temperature, which is why candy recipes usually specify the temperature you need to boil the sugar mixture at. You will need a thermometer for this recipe, I recommend this one!
When this supersaturated solution cools, the magic starts to happen. Because we packed a whole bunch of sugar molecules into the water, when they cool down they will need to do so in a super orderly manner. Super orderly = crystallization!
The size of the crystals is determined by how much agitation the solution encounters, in other words, how much you stir the candy. Stirring frequently yields small crystals, desirable in smooth candies like fudge. Not stirring yields large crystals, which is what we are going for when we make hard candy. Also why following the instructions precisely is important!
In this hard candy recipe, the only stirring happens before the sugar is dissolved and then after the mixture is taken off the heat if you are adding flavoring. Otherwise, you just let the color incorporate via the boiling action of the mixture. If you’re geeky like me, you can read more about the science behind candy making here.
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If you do want to flavor your candy, I recommend using flavoring oils. They are much more potent than extracts. I have tried both and the extract flavor is very mild, even when a lot is used. Just be sure you are not leaning over the pot when you add them! They will make the mixture steam vigorously and that can burn easily.
I don’t usually use candy molds either. If you don’t have candy molds, you have a few options. The simplest method is to just pour your hard candy into a quarter or half sheet baking tray that has been sprayed with oil. Spread it out, if needed, and then when it’s hard, break it up and toss it with powdered sugar.
Option two is to free-form candies or suckers. This is most easily done when the mixture has cooled for just 1-2 minutes and is slightly thicker than it is just off the heat. Pour dollops of the mix onto parchment and let it harden.
And, of course, you can use molds. Just be sure they are for candy. Molds that are only for chocolate will melt when this mixture is poured into them.
Don’t be afraid anymore to make your own candy! Give it a try today.
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Homemade Hard Candy Recipe
- 2 cups sugar
- 2/3 cup corn syrup
- 3/4 cup water
- food coloring if desired
- 1 teaspoon flavoring oil if desired, I use cinnamon
- 1/4 cup powdered sugar
- In a 3 quart saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, and water.
- Over medium heat, stir just until the sugar is dissolved. Do not stir again.
- Heat until the mixture reaches 260 degrees F.
- Add food coloring, if desired.
- Continue to boil until the mixture reaches 300 degrees F.
- Remove from heat and add flavoring oil, if desired. Do not lean over the pot when you add the oil!! The steam can burn.
- Stir until combined.
- Pour into a quarter baking sheet and allow to harden. Brake into bitesized pieces and toss with powdered sugar.
- OR pour into candy molds and allow to harden.
- OR pour free-form candies onto parchment paper. I find this is easier after the mixture has cooled just slightly, about 1 minute.