I'm going nuts trying to figure out this homemade date candy recipe, hope me?
November 13, 2012 10:38 AM   Subscribe

Candy-making wizards, help me save this date candy recipe that didn't set properly (or tell me I'm screwed and should start over from scratch).

I made this recipe for date loaf candy on Sunday, and while the result tastes delicious, the humidity that day + non-digital candy thermometer = the mixture didn't harden/set properly, and now it's just a gooey, sticky mess rolled up in waxed paper.

Since I'm making this for a dessert contest at work, I need to have a solution by Thursday morning (that's two days from now).

I believe I have three options:

Option 1: Reheat the mixture to the proper temp and try again. My candy thermometer read 230 degrees F when I pulled it out, but the recipe calls for 234F; it was starting to roll/boil, and I was paranoid about scorching it so I probably pulled it off the burner too early. Is this feasible to try, or a Bad Idea?

Option 2: Try to salvage this tasty goo in another format. My gut says that reheating may ruin the taste/texture, so what if I instead stored it in the freezer until it was a bit more solid, then rolled it into small balls, which I could then coat with a layer of crushed walnuts, and then top each one off with a coating of semi-sweet chocolate? I have no idea if this will work, but it sounds reasonable.

Option 3: Give up and start a new batch from scratch using the remaining raw ingredients I have left over. I'm OK with this, but worried I'll end up with two giant tubes of goo and nothing to show for it in time for the contest.

I've made hard candy before successfully, but nothing like this; if you have other suggestions that aren't listed here, I'm all ears. Thanks, y'all!
posted by Unicorn on the cob to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think option 2 is likely to succeed and be delicious -- but if you'd feel better about a more authentic presentation you could try reheating just a little of it to see if it behaves. If it firms up the way you want, you can reheat the rest with confidence.
posted by cranberry_nut at 10:55 AM on November 13, 2012

Best answer: I've made a lot of candy. My grandmother made a lot of candy (including date-nut loaf, a classic!) and taught me. And usually the deal with candy is that you just get one shot. If you miss the temperature and don't get the right kinds of crystals, or conditions interfere with texture before it sets, you're done.

Then it becomes what you might call "ice cream topping," or your #2 is worth a shot although it may be super extremely chewy. If you want the final product as adertised on the recipe, start over from scratch.

In this kind of recipe, same as for pralines, the beating stage is extremely important too - constant rapid beating as the mixture cools. Really vigorous - check YouTube for examples.

Weather does make a big difference in candy-making, too, so maybe look at the forecast first.
posted by Miko at 11:16 AM on November 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Option 1 is a bad thing: you can't re-heat the mixture as it now contains dates and pecans that will burn in the next heat.
Option 2 will need to provide some kind of containment for the sticky, tasty goo. A thick, structural shell of chocolate and nuts, like you describe, might do it.
Option 3 will work if you calibrate your thermometer, and perhaps perform the traditional candy tests (soft ball, hard ball, etc) in parallel.
posted by the Real Dan at 11:20 AM on November 13, 2012

I think you're best off with #2, but if it's super sticky now, it might roll into balls better now rather than after a chilling. Try balling it now and putting the balls in the fridge to harden up a bit, then re-roll the pre-shaped balls when they're chilled and slightly harder. Rolling in powdered sugar will probably take some of the stickiness out better than chopped walnuts as the powder will absorb some of the moisture.

If your mixture is really gooey, though, like a spread, you can make a jelly-roll hybrid by rolling it flat, putting a layer of cookie dough on top, rolling them up, and slicing with a sharp knife before baking. It may melt everywhere but it may hold up if the cookie dough has a lot of structural integrity. Alternately, making thumbprint cookies and filling them with your candy filling could work, or rugelach using your candy as the filling.
posted by juniperesque at 11:26 AM on November 13, 2012

Best answer: 234 is the soft-ball stage, and at the bottom of it, for that matter-- anywhere between 234 and 240 is soft-ball. I think you pulled it early, but I understand the tension caused by rapidly bubbling sugar, so I can't fault you either. Shoot for 238ish-- if it overshoots 240, it becomes "firm ball," and that's hardly a problem since you're still under the Those temps are for pure sugar, though-- I'm not sure how all those milk/butter solids change the game.

I would start by trying #1 with a small portion, as suggested above, and then I would try #3. You don't need a digital thermometer, though it helps to have a known-good thermometer -- see how it reads in boiling water.

#2 sounds yummy, though. I think you've got 3 good plans.
posted by Sunburnt at 11:49 AM on November 13, 2012

I think if you re-heat this, you're going to get a crystallized mess. Your option #2 sounds like a good (if tooth-pullingly-sticky) option.
posted by xingcat at 12:09 PM on November 13, 2012

Response by poster: yikes; after two days in the fridge, it's still roughly the consistency of toothpaste.

Recalibrating candy thermometer and going for #3 approach - the failed first batch may very well become thumbprint filling and/or ice cream topping, but heck, I've got so much of it (maybe a pound or two?) here that there's plenty to experiment with; even if I throw it away, it's no big loss.

Thanks for all the ideas, and I'm busting open the powdered sugar before starting the next batch in case of emergency!
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 6:46 PM on November 13, 2012

Response by poster: Guys, I just unrolled the first chilled log of Batch #2 to slice and it is FREAKING AMAZING.

I debated trying coating one side with semi-sweet chocolate, but the flavor's so good by itself I think I'll save that to try on the second piece that's still wrapped up after this one runs out.

Marking more than one best answer, because this success is due to calibrating the thermometer first and then doing traditional soft ball tests (thanks, the Real Dan!), aiming for 238 rather than 234 (thanks, Sunburnt!), and checking the day's forecast / beating the sh!t out of the mixture once removed from heat thanks to Miko's excellent YouTube video tutorial suggestion.

I'm not a praline person, but holy crap these are DELISH. As usual, AskMe saves the day. Thanks so much, everyone!
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 6:42 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

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