Most of the equipment you’ll need to get started making candy is already in your home. Of course, as you get deeper into this hobby, you’ll want to pick up some specialty equipment to help make things easier. Here are some of the basic items you’ll need:
Always try to use the correct size pot the recipe requires. Too small of a pot and you could have a boil-over which would be quite a mess. It also may require your candy to cook longer than needed, which may ruin your batch. Too big of a pot and you’ve increased the surface area, which may cause your candy to cook too quickly and ruin your batch.
Choose pots with smooth interiors. I made the mistake of buying a pot that had grooves in it. It looked kind of like a bakery cake when they comb the icing. Every time I tried to make fudge in this pot it came out grainy. After the third or fourth time it finally occurred to me that even though I was careful about washing the crystals down the sides, the sugar must be getting trapped in the grooves. Once I switched pots, the problem was gone. So smoothness is important. If your sugar crystals are not dissolved, it will cause your candy to become grainy.
What kind of pot is best? A copper pot works best for distributing heat evenly. Copper pots can be pretty pricey though. Heavy gauge aluminum pots work very well also. They, too, help to distribute the heat evenly and that helps to prevent scorching.
You can use light gauge aluminum pots, but since they are thinner recipes with cream or milk may have the tendency to scorch. So, use those pots for recipes that don’t use cream or milk.
A double boiler is ideal for melting chocolate because it keeps the chocolate away from direct heat. An all clad stainless steel double boiler works particularly well.
There are many types of Thermometers out there today: candy, digital, chocolate, deep fryer, infrared … the list goes on. I’m only going to talk about candy and chocolate thermometers.
Candy Thermometers: You need to buy a good candy thermometer, especially if you’re a beginner. I’m not partial to a particular brand, but one thing you need to make sure of is its accuracy.
You can do this by placing it in a pot of water, then bring the water up to a boil. Never put a cold thermometer into a boiling pot – It may cause the thermometer glass to explode. In a perfect world, the thermometer should read 212º F when the water is boiling. However, we don’t live in a perfect world. But that won’t stop us. If you test your thermometer and it reads 210º F and your recipe tells you to cook your candy to 236º F, you will need to adjust your recipe and cook your candy to 234º F. Also, if your thermometer reads 214º F at boiling stage adjust your recipe to 238º F.
A good candy thermometer should be divided into increments of 2º F and it should clearly identify the soft ball, hard ball, soft crack and hard crack stages.
Chocolate Thermometers: A chocolate thermometer typically ranges from 40º F to 130º F. It is divided into 1º F increments because chocolate must be heated to precise temperatures. Chocolate thermometers are made of glass and must be handled carefully. Do not test a chocolate thermometer in boiling water. It is not made to handle such extreme temperatures.
A good kitchen scale is an important tool for any cook or baker, and it will also come in handy while candy making. Whether you’re using a digital scale or one with a dial, an accurate reading will help you follow your candy recipe.
Three-tiered cooling racks are great because they give you a place to let your candies set without taking up too much counter space. But any cooling rack will do.
All sizes and shapes can be used. I really recommend using wooden spoons because they don’t conduct heat. If you use plastic spoons, make sure they can stand up to the higher temperatures used in candy making.
Jelly roll pans and cookie sheets can be used to pour your candy onto in order to cool it off. Jelly roll pans are also great for putting your chocolates, truffles, and creams to let them set up.
A marble slab can be used for tempering your chocolate and working your fondant. Professionals like to use them because they stay cool.
Pastry brushes can be used for washing down the sides of your pots. Tug on the bristles to make sure that they are intact and don’t pull out easily. You will want to have a few of these in different sizes and with long handles so that you don’t burn yourself with the steam while the candy’s cooking.
There are a couple of different types of cooking spatulas commonly used in candy making – the rubber headed kind and the metal kind. The spatula is a long, limber, steel blade with a wooden or wire handle. It is excellent for lifting fudges and other similar candies from the slab, and it will be found useful in a hundred other ways in the kitchen when making candy or cakes. An eight-inch spatula is the best size for kitchen purposes and can be purchased at any good hardware store for from twenty-five to fifty cents.
The rubber spatulas are great for mixing and folding in. Manufacturers are making them more resistant to heat these days, allowing you to use them for a variety of things. The offset metal spatulas are good for spreading out chocolate, candy coating and different candies.
I recommend a heavy-duty mixer, and the stand-alone mixers work very well. (I use a Kitchenaid Artisan Mixer.) Many recipes require a lot of mixing or stirring but you need to be careful when using a hand mixer. As the candy gets thicker your mixer works harder and the motor will wear out quickly.
I ruined my hand mixer when I tried to use it to stir my fudge. The fudge candied quickly and put my beaters out of alignment. Now I can only use one side of my hand mixer. Stand mixers are more durable and able to handle the harder jobs.
These recipes were compiled with a graduated measuring cup, and since it is very necessary to be accurate in measuring ingredients, the advantages of a graduated measuring cup are apparent. A measuring cup cost but five or ten cents, and for making candies and cakes it is indispensable.
Weighing ingredients is as satisfactory as measuring them, and nearly all confectioners weigh their ingredients; but we realize that but few women have small kitchen scales which weigh accurately, hence we have given the recipes in measurements. Bear in mind that teacups vary greatly in size, and to be accurate a graduated measuring cup must be used. Always use even measurements.
The scraper is indeed handy for working fondants and creams on the marble slab or platter. An ordinary wall-paper scraper is excellent and can be purchased at any good hardware store for from fifteen to thirty-five cents, according to size and quality.