Nine Tips for Perfect Candy

Tasty holiday candy isn’t the result of good luck. Candy recipes are chemical formulas with specific proportions and all the rules must be followed for the desired result. These tips can help guarantee success.

1. Use heavy aluminum or cast iron pans. Candy scorches easily in stainless steel pans.

2. Use a candy thermometer to insure the proper cooking temperature. Before using it, test it in boiling water for accuracy. If it reads above or below 212º F (100º C) add or subtract the same number of degrees from the temperature in the recipe. Look straight at the thermometer when reading it.

3. Wash down the sides of the pan to eliminate crystals: Mix the sugar, liquid, and corn syrup and bring to a boil. Then wash down the inside walls of the pan with a sopping wet pastry brush. The extra water will cook out.

4. Stir the candy well while cooking. Recipes with cream, butter, or nuts must be stirred constantly. Syrup for divinity or hard candies doesn’t need to be stirred after the ingredients are well mixed.

5. Turn the heat down to medium when the syrup nears the final cooking temperature. If it goes even two degrees over, some candies will be overcooked.

6. Let the candy cool to at least 100° F before creaming.

7. Do not agitate the syrup during cooling.

8. If you cool the candy on a slab, dampen the slab first.

9. When making fondants or divinity, do not scrape the pan when pouring hot syrup onto a slab.

Try out these ideas on your own favorite recipes or on the following recipes for a great holiday treat.


2 cups (400 grams) sugar

1 cup (300 grams) corn syrup

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 pint (1/2 liter) whipping cream

1 small can (6 ounces or 2/3 cup) evaporated milk

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Mix sugar, syrup, salt, and cream together in a heavy, 3-quart pan. Bring to a boil and wash down pan. As mixture cooks add canned milk very slowly. Stir constantly. Turn heat down when temperature reaches 236° F (113° C). Cook to 242° F (117° C). (If you see any sign of scorching, turn heat down sooner. Caramels scorch very easily.) Remove pan from heat and add vanilla. Stir well. Pour into two buttered bread pans. Let stand until cold and firm. Cut and wrap in waxed paper.

Almond Toffee

1 cup (200 grams) sugar

1/4 cup (62 grams) water

1/2 pound (2 squares, 1 cup, or 250 grams) margarine

1/4 cup chopped almonds

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

dipping chocolate or two 15-cent chocolate bars

finely chopped walnuts or filberts

Mix sugar, water, and margarine in heavy kettle. Bring to a boil and wash down pan. Stir constantly. Cook to 240° F (116° C) and add almonds. When thermometer reaches 280° F (137° C) turn heat down to medium. Cook to 300° F (149° C) and remove from heat. Add vanilla and mix well. Pour onto greased cookie sheet. Place chocolate bars on hot candy. When they are melted, spread them over the candy and sprinkle with chopped nuts. Or, cool candy and break it into small pieces and dip in melted chocolate. (If it is not to be eaten soon, dipping is recommended.) This is excellent for mailing overseas.

The Serious Business of Sugar Cookies

Christmas memories come back now in bits and snatches, but the one that lingers longest is a vision of sugar cookies.

Mother baked them, and my sister and I decorated them: we were convinced that they should look like a Christmas-cookie-page layout in a fancy cookbook.

Sometimes I was frustrated by Mother’s lack of cookie cutter shapes—she only had about five—but what we lacked in shapes we made up in decorations. We always had at least five bowls of frosting—white, red, yellow, blue, and green—and besides that, we had chocolate shot, silver dragees, red-hot cinnamon candies, raisins, chocolate chips, and at least four colors of sugar.

I think Mother worried that we’d lose interest in the middle of it and she’d be left with all that blue frosting, but there was no danger of that. Her biggest problem was that we only “sort of” cleaned up.

Cookie decorating took place two or three days before Christmas, and produced at least five dozen cookies. During this time, the kitchen was off limits to our four brothers. If a boy wanted to help, he was given a stern lecture on the cosmic importance of his responsibility, and had a trial period during which he had to prove both his earnestness and worthiness. If he snitched or made a green Santa Claus, he was OUT. We were about Serious Business.

Some time during the process Dad would wander through the kitchen and stand with his fingers entwined behind his back and a Mortimer Snerd grin on his face. At first we would mostly ignore him, so he’d clear his throat and say, “How’re you doing?”

“Fine,” we’d say. “Isn’t this a pretty one?” We’d each display one of our most elegant creations.

“Wow, that’s a beauty,” he’d say. “Looks good enough to eat.”

It never occurred to us that he was waiting to be invited to eat such breathtaking cookies. Finally he’d say, “How ’bout a sample?”

If one of the boys snitched, he was banished, but this was Daddy and we couldn’t say no. “Okay, but take one of the broken ones. We’re saving the best ones for Christmas Day.”

Dad was a carpenter and early in our sugar cookie tradition he made a three-tiered plywood cookie tree that we covered with aluminum foil and decorated with a red bow. It was only fitting that our beautiful cookies be served in style.

I don’t remember when we stopped making sugar cookies for Christmas—probably when we became teenagers and outgrew “childishness.” But I’ll always remember that they were beautiful, and that I made them.

In those days we didn’t have money for Christmases full of bicycles and wagons and toy refrigerators. But we always had enough sugar cookies. Pam Williams, Sanders, Arizona

Family Christmas Book

A week or more before Christmas we begin having a mini-family night each evening. Each night, one member of the family has the opportunity to choose a poem or story about Christmas that he would like to read or tell, then we all sing together. On Christmas Eve we have a special program: each member of the family shares something he has found in a magazine, heard in a lesson, or saved from years past.

This collection, along with all the other treasures that show up at Christmas, became so large and disorganized that we finally came up with the idea of our Christmas book. We purchased an extra-large three-ring binder and covered it with green velvet. After sorting out all our materials, we found the following sections work for us: (1) Religious poetry and stories dealing with the true meaning of Christmas; (2) nonreligious poetry and stories dealing with Santa, Rudolph, etc.; (3) pictures of the family and Christmas tree for each year; (4) cards we make each year; (5) cards our friends make; (6) recipes we like for the holidays; (7) craft and gift instructions.

We use the other cards we receive to illustrate and decorate the pages. The children enjoy looking through our book and seeing how they appeared in previous years; they also like to illustrate the stories and poems. It’s expanding rapidly, and it won’t be long before each section will require its own binder. Jean S. Marshall, Provo, Utah

A Risk at Best

Question: I have an antique wool knit shawl, linen, and quilts, all with brown “old age” spots. Can you tell me how to remove the spots without damaging the old material? Lorena L. Tucker, Rocky Mount, Virginia

Answer: Brown spots that sometimes show up in old clothing and household textiles may be caused from any variety of staining agents. Each of these requires a different procedure for removal. Chemicals used to remove such stains must be flushed out of the fabric to prevent further fabric damage. Since it requires an expert to identify and remove the stains, and since special equipment is not available in the home, we strongly recommend that valued old articles be entrusted to the best dry cleaner available for spotting and cleaning. Margaret Childs, Department of Clothing and Textiles, Brigham Young University

Home Nurse Pharmacy

Although we generally consider as medicines only those items that have been ordered by a physician’s prescription, other substances that are found in many homes can also be considered as medicines. These medicines should be available at any time so that the home nurse can respond immediately to the needs of an ill or injured family member. Often someone will need relief of symptoms at night or at other times when it is inconvenient to make a trip to the drug store.

A home nurse with the following items available will be better equipped to care for ill members of the family:

  • Aspirin, including children’s aspirin *

  • Nasal decongestant (drops or spray) *

  • Cough medicine *

  • Sore throat lozenges

  • Antibiotic ointment for infected skin areas *

  • Petroleum jelly

  • Calamine lotion

  • Burn ointment or analgesic spray

  • Antihistamine tablets or capsules *

  • Sunburn protective cream or lotion

As with prescription medicines, all these items should be discarded when they become discolored or when there is any change in appearance or smell. All medicines should be kept in a locked cabinet if there are children in the family; parents should also attach a label indicating the appropriate antidote on bottles containing poison.

In addition to medications, the family should have a supply of other items that are often needed on an immediate basis:

  • Thermometers (oral and rectal)

  • Medicinal alcohol (70%)

  • Antibacterial soap (to cleanse cuts and abrasions)

  • Absorbent cotton and cotton swabs

  • Adhesive bandages

  • Adhesive tape (1/2-inch or 1-inch wide)

  • Sterile gauze pads in assorted sizes

  • Scissors

  • Tweezers

  • Tongue blades

  • Small first-aid book

These items should be kept together in a convenient location known to all members of the family. A family can handle illness or injury in a calm, unhurried manner if the proper supplies and medicines are readily available. Of course, if the problem is serious, a physician should be consulted. Suzanne Dandoy, M.D., M.P.H., Acting Director, Community Health, Arizona State Health Department

  •   *

    To be given to children only after consultation with the family physician.