Confectionery: An Unexpected Hobby

Candy pots on the boil.

Upon telling someone that I make candy at home I usually receive one of three responses:

  1. “My grandmother makes candy for the holidays, but I’ve never tried to make it.”

  2. “Don’t you need a lot of equipment to make candy?”

  3. “You do know that you can buy candy at the store, right?”

As the first post at HoltsConfectionery.com (aka HoltsCandy.com), I’d like to take this opportunity to address these responses.

Making Candy Is Not Just For Old Ladies

Home confectioner eating a chococaramallow pop

This is no old lady!

There are no age or gender requirements related to the hobby of candy making. If you like candy and are curious about how it’s made, then that’s just about all you need to start learning the confectionery arts at home.

You will need to follow some safety rules since serious burns are possible when working with sugar syrups, but there are plenty of responsible children out there so I can’t make a lower age recommendation. There are also plenty of irresponsible adults out there that probably shouldn’t be allowed near a stove, but there is nothing that I can do about that. As a rule of thumb, if you aren’t sure that you can do something safely, don’t do it.

While candy making isn’t difficult, there is definitely a knack to each technique involved. All the candy making grandmothers out there didn’t make perfect candy the first time they tried, and it probably took them years to get things right. If you have a candy making grandmother, ask her about her early candy making failures, I’m sure she has plenty of stories. While you are at it, ask your grandmother to share some of her recipes, and maybe ask for a candy making lesson or two.

If you don’t have a candy making grandmother, stick around as I have plenty of candy making failures to share and I will do my best to teach you what I know.

No Fancy Equipment Is Needed

Homemade marshmallows

No jets were exploited during the creation of these marshmallows.

I’d like to thank Kraft and Roald Dahl, the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, for this one.  You don’t need a jet to puff your marshmallows, and nobody needs a chocolate river (though chocolate fountains are gaining in popularity).  People made candy at home before it was commercially available; with a little know-how and a reasonably well stocked kitchen you too can make candy at home.

There tons of candy making gadgets out there, such as professional chocolate molds and caramel cutters, but the vast majority of these aren’t needed to get started. There are a few necessities, such as candy thermometers and a heavy saucepan, but I’ll go over those in detail another day.

If you are the handy type, you can even make some candy making gadgets at home. I’ve made my own dipping forks and a device to make packaging candies easier. These tools may not have the same polish as store bought items, but it’s nice to be resourceful and not have to buy everything that I need.

It’s As Much About The Process As It’s About The Product

Homemade candies packaged and ready to distribute

Homemade candy is just better.

Candy making is a challenging and rewarding hobby that is a world apart from my daily work with computers. In working in the digital realm professionally, I find that I gravitate toward leisure activities that are more physical in nature.  Taking the time to stir a pot and wait patiently as it turns from a handful ingredients into caramel may not sound like a lot of fun, but mastering an uncommon skill and being able to tempt my neighbors with my Chocolate Covered Salted Caramels is deeply gratifying. I just don’t get the same feeling when giving someone store bought candies.

OK, enough of my ranting about these three responses. If you love candy, enjoy learning how things are made, have access to a kitchen, can learn from your mistakes (delicious or otherwise) and live with people who can tolerate the occasional kitchen mess, then candy making may be just the hobby for you. I invite you to stick around as I’ll be be sharing my experiences with this rewarding hobby in order to try to help you along your own candy making journey. You won’t make perfect candies straight away, but with a little practice, you’ll soon be turning out confections that you’ll be proud to share.