Making your own candy canes is real easy! They only require a few simple ingredients, taste better than the ones from the store, and have all kinds of character. It’s one of the most basic candy-making projects you can do, and an easy way to start developing you sugaring and confection skills.
Note that this is a small batch. The bigger batch you cook, the easier the sugar will be to sculpt and stretch, due to thermal mass. More on that later. Let's go!
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
* As with most candy-making, cream of tartar can be replaced by using 1/2 sugar, 1/2 corn syrup, or some other form of acid.
Step 1: Cook Your Sugar
Put your 1 cup sugar and 1/4 tsp cream of tartar in a pot, and pour the 1/4 cup water over it. That should be enough to wet all the sugar. If not, add a smidgen of water. Cook it on medium high until the sugar dissolves and the mixture goes clear. If there are sugar crystals on the side of the pot, wash them down with a brush or paper towel. Then clip in your candy thermometer, but don't let the bulb touch the bottom. See my Torrone instructable for an explanation of how cooking sugar works: https://www.instructables.com/id/Cherry-Almond-Torr...
You need to cook the sugar until the temperature reaches the hard crack stage, between 300ºF and 310ºF (around 150ºC). I went for 310, just to make sure all of the water was out and I'd have a smooth and dry end product.
While the sugar gets to the right temperature, lightly butter some baking pans.
Step 2: Pour the Sugar Out, and Start Mixing
Once the sugar reaches the right temperature, pour it into pans. I wanted two colors, so I used two pans. If you want a solid color, you can use one. Don't scrape the syrup out of the pot, that may cause it to crystallize.
Quickly drop a couple drops of color and flavor (maybe 1/4-1/2 tsp) onto one. Using a spatula, push the edges up and towards the middle, and repeat as it flows outward.
Step 3: Once It Cools a Little, Stretch and Fold!
Now be careful with this. Hot sugar burns! Approach the sugar gingerly when you think it's cool enough to handle. Poke it quickly, test it, pick it up...
When you can, stretch it out, fold it back, and repeat. As it cools this will get more and more difficult, and you will need to devise a method of rewarming it. Confectioners generally use a heat lamps, I believe, but I don't have one. Some use heated tables. I used a space heater, which was ok, not great. Then I tried the oven, which was ok, not great. I tried a little tea-light candle. Don't use those, they get your candy wet (ask me how, I'm a scientist!). A hair-dryer would probably work well.
If you can keep one stretching and one warming, it'll flow pretty smoothly. This is where bigger batches help. Since there's more sugar in one mass, they will retain their heat and remain workable longer between warmings.
The point of folding and stretching is to incorporate lots of tiny little bubbles into it, which will give it a shine like those fancy ribbon candies you see sometimes. Nice and pearly. This is a judgement call, and I got tired and called it good after a bit.
Be careful, and don't burn yourself! Although I won't say it's not worth it, because it is.
Step 4: Fold the Pieces Together
Once you get your sugar pieces nice and shiny, work them so they're about the same size and slap 'em together. From now on, you want to fold and stretch in a controlled way to make nice stripes in the end product. You can stretch it out and cut it instead of folding, and just stick the two new pieces together.
Once you are satisfied with the number of stripes you've got, pull one end out into a thinner rod.
Step 5: Pull Some Canes!
Stretch it out into some sizes you like, give it some twisting, snip off the canes (or bend quickly to break it), and curl the end.
Bam! Candy canes!
Step 6: Candy Canes!
Keep going until you're out of stripey sugar! You may have to rewarm it a little. You can also snap off little pieces, cut pieces with scissors, have fun with it! When you're done you'll have a pile of candy canes, and you should definitely eat one while it's warm, it is a unique experience. I like the flavor of these much better than the typical store-bought candy candy cane, and if you don't agree, you can change the flavoring in your next batch!
You can make a good amount of great candy for the price of a cup of sugar and some odds and ends, and it's fun doing it!
Enjoy, and let me know how it goes! And please vote for this instructable if you like it!