Can I softball my hard crack?
November 27, 2017 1:45 AM   Subscribe

Once sugar has reached the hard crack stage, can it go "backwards" to an earlier, softer state?

I want to do a variety of amazing things to candy canes--whip them into mousse, fold them into chocolate sauce. mix into marscapone for crepes. However candy cane shards are the most delicious horrifically dangerous thing you could possibly eat. Do I just add peppermint oil to these festive treats...or can the internet teach me to do weird science to candy canes and make them squish(ier) again?
posted by zinful to Food & Drink (11 answers total)
Candy canes melt. You can do it on the stovetop in whatever liquid you are planning to use in your final recipe, or in the oven if you don't want to add additional liquid.
posted by jacquilynne at 3:42 AM on November 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

I want them to stay mooshy forever though, not go all the way back to crunchy ... firm but not hardcrack
posted by zinful at 4:07 AM on November 27, 2017

You could try re-dissolving the candy canes in water and re-cooking to soft ball stage. From what I can find, the candy stages are mostly about concentrating the sugar solution. It doesn’t seem that there is an irreversible chemical reaction.

You can also crush candy canes finely enough that the bits are not sharp shards anymore. A food processor can do this, or just a rolling pin or mallet with the candy in a zip top bag. That may be simpler for your purposes. I have definitely eaten cookies with crushed candy canes in/on them, and the bits were not sharp or dangerous.
posted by snowmentality at 5:18 AM on November 27, 2017 [8 favorites]

If you just want the flavor, I recently added a few capfuls of peppermint bark vodka to homemade whipped cream. It tastes exactly like a whipped cream Candy cane-- far more so, i think, than food grade peppermint oil which is a bit too sharp. It didn't affect the texture of the cream at all. I imagine you could incorporate it into most things without them being overly liquid since you don't need very much!
posted by WidgetAlley at 5:18 AM on November 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

Yet another thing to try would be dumping a whole bunch of crushed candy canes in a blender, running it until you've got a uniform powder, and then using that powder in place of some of the granulated or powdered sugar in a recipe.

I can't 100% for sure say this will work. But something similar is a pretty commonly recommended trick for making "homemade" powdered sugar if all you have is granulated and you don't want to run to the store: just run it in a blender until it has the finer texture you want. Seems like the equivalent with crushed candy canes would be worth a try if you're experimenting.

(That said, my understanding is the same as snowmentality's: redissolving with water should let you get any candymaking stage you want because those stages are mostly about water content.)
posted by nebulawindphone at 6:10 AM on November 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

Candy canes are just big sugar lumps with a bit of flavour and colour. Crush them and you're more or less back to sugar, as others have said.
posted by pipeski at 7:06 AM on November 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you want them mooshy you could make marshmallows and use pulverized candy canes in place of some of the plain sugar.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 7:23 AM on November 27, 2017

You can't go backwards and keep the stripey candycane-ness, if that's what you want to do. Are you sure it's not old-fashioned soft peppermint sticks you want, rather than candy canes?

Crushed candy cane shards will melt a bit if you put them in/on something moist like whipped cream. Have you experimented with this at all? I would think it would just turn everything pink.
posted by zennie at 7:31 AM on November 27, 2017

You can just melt them gently in a little water in a pot on the stove. You will wind up with a sweet pink minty syrup. I don't think it's going to be worth the trouble - you'll do better to find an appropriate flavoring oil rather than trying to modify all your recipes to accommodate the extra liquid of the syrup - but it'll be dissolved.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:08 AM on November 27, 2017

If you keep a box of candy canes in a humid environment (eg Atlanta) for several months and then attempt to eat them the following autumn, they will be bendable peppermint rods that are almost too sticky to separate from their wrappers.
I would try 2c broken candy canes and 1/2c water, boil it up, stir frequently on med heat until the sugar melts and you're lump-free. Then test the temperature and see what candy stage it's at. One possible issue is that the volatile parts of the peppermint oil could be affected by long boiling, i.e. it might not taste as minty afterwards, so you might want to add some fresh peppermint oil.

Brach's peppermint nougats are a soft candy that tastes a lot like candy canes to me; if you mashed them down straight the green tree would turn the mash brown, but you could easily cut the tree parts out and just mix the red and white parts into a dark pink.

I'm not entirely convinced that there's anything in candy canes aside from sugar, peppermint oil, and red food coloring, (recipe), so I'm not entirely sure if the end result would be distinguishable between melting down and re-using candy canes, or powdering up candy canes to use as your sugar which then is dissolved in the recipe, vs just using regular sugar and adding peppermint oil.
posted by aimedwander at 9:14 AM on November 27, 2017

Awesome! It was really sneakily a 2 parter question, about candy in general and candy cane essence itself, and y'all gave me delicious ideas and brought the food science. Thank you and joyful holiday baking to everyone <3
posted by zinful at 6:11 PM on November 27, 2017

« Older Can I use this Half-and-Half?   |   Pornhub but... nicer? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.