I do not believe there is any sweet that is easier and faster to make than sugar candy which in Latvian is called “cukurgailītis”, literally “sugar rooster”. For it is always in the shape of a cockerel. I tried to find “sugar cock” on Google but for some reason all I got were some naughty pictures. So you’ll have to believe me on this one – the Latvian (and basically all soviet) hard sugar candy comes in this shape:
It’s sold in stores and always readily available in fairs and festivals, it’s a very traditional sweet here. ‘
When a child reaches a certain age when he/she can comfortably reach above a gas stove – which is about 7-8 years old, he/she is basically ready to make the most basic sugar candy of all. You take a steel tablespoon, fill it with sugar (don’t heap), add a couple of drops of water, so the sugar gets wet and doesn’t burn. Then you hold the soon above an open flame until the water evaporates and the sugar gradually gets brown. You rapidly pour the sugar into any bowl or pot or anything with cold water, and, voila, you’ve got hard sugar candy. Here are some very comprehensible pictures.
More often than not you are left with a blackened spoon, sugar high and an angry mom. I have to confess my kids are quite addicted to sugar, especially Ralph, and I can’t be the bad cop all the time, so I give him something sweet every day and try to make sure that it’s something home-made. Sure, this sugar candy is basically pure sugar. It in no way helps their teeth and moods, but at least I can be absolutely sure there are no chemical additives etc. So yesterday was one of those days when the kids got completely out of hand and literally demanded “something sweet.”
I went about it as follows. First you take a metal jug, pot or whatever of a nice, manageable size. You pour some sugar in – depending on how much candy you want. I had about 250 grams (a bit over half a pound). Then you add water – not a lot of water, mind you. Just so it wets the sugar. The more water you’ll add the longer it will take to evaporate. Place it on the stove. Make sure the pot is not too full because when the sugar solution starts boiling it tends to run over, and caramel ir quite hard to clean once it dries and sticks to a surface. (You can see it ran over on my stove as well.)
Then you take any small molds that are suited for high temperatures. I took a risk – I had two molds for freezing that were completely hopeless for freezing because you couldn’t possibly get any frozen yoghurt/milk/water out of them. And I took my beloved silicon chocolate molds that I felt pretty apprehensive about. The label said – up to 230 degrees C, but I have no idea how hot is boiling caramel, I just know it’s very hot and quite dangerous as it cools so slowly. I rubbed both molds with plain vegetable oil. I’m sure you can get some oil spray for such purposes but I’ve never seen any in Latvian stores and I wouldn’t waste money even if it were available. Common cooking oil suits me just fine. (And I used common fingers to spread the oil.)
Prepare some lollipop/ice cream sticks you’ve saved up or even toothpicks (they don’t work as well, I’ve got to tell you – they tend to break and are too sharp for smaller children). Don’t make the mistake that I made – don’t use some plastic counting sticks or food sticks because they might melt in the hot sugar. Here’s proof.
When the sugar turns pleasantly brown and you can feel a heavenly sugery caramel smell it’s time to pour it into the molds. I hurried to get the sticks in but they would not stay upright. The more children stirred the candy in the molds trying to get the sticks stand upright the more brittle and crumbly the end result was.
It takes some time for the sugar to harden and cool. If the kids are going crazy and impatient you can carefully place the molds into a plugged sink with cold water. It speeds up the process. Don’t try to get the candy out before it’s completely cooled.
Quite accidentally the kids discovered for a very short period of time you can make gossamer threads out of sugary mass. So much fun, eating the “candy hair”! You just pick and pull.
When the candy has cooled you can carefully remove it. The yellow molds were a bit of a challenge – and I know I would never have gotten it out if I hadn’t oiled them. The brown mold worked perfectly. Pretty!
We wrapped them in plain food wrap film and put in a cookie tin “for later”. The kids estimated they would have enough for a wee. That was yesterday. I only hope they’ll have some left for tomorrow.
Mmmm…. Home-made candy…
Now I’ll never hear the end of it. Whenever I’ll have no sweets for them they’ll make me make it.
Warning: you have to be Very Careful when handling boiling sugar! Wikipedia claims sugar reaches the temperature of 170 degrees C (338 F) for the caramel stage! You don’t need a themometer for this project, but do take extra special care and ask the kids to step away when YOU pour the caramel into molds.