Intro: Authentic & Artisanal Pixie Sticks
Pixy sticks are part of a genre of candy that is more chalky/crunchy than most. It's kind of love-it-or-hate-it and is made with dextrose instead of sucrose and/or fructose like most candies. For me, real pixie sticks are too acidic and come in way too limited of a flavor range, so I fixed it. This recipe covers super authentic standard pixy sticks using drink mix as flavoring and more creative options like fruit juices and flavor oils that come in a huge range of options like lavender, amarreto, pear, champagne, root beer, clove, kona coffee, mint, and kiwi strawberry. I love the idea of starting with a candy that is so iconically associate with childhood and reinventing it as an exotically flavored gourmet treat.
Step 1: Ingredients
There is no substitute for real pixie stick flavor and texture, it's usually available from brewing suppliers.
Standard pixie sticks contain citric acid. Anhydrous (dry/powdered/water free) is easier to measure in the quantities this project uses. Make sure to only use "food grade" products, again usually available from brewing suppliers. I always use at least a little acid, dextrose tastes kind of flat without it. Depending on what you're making, you may want to try some others:
- ascorbic - vitamin c, tastes like oranges
- tartaric - tastes like grapes
- malic - it gives apples their 'fresh' flavor and is a good 'flavorless' acid choice
phosphoric - used in colas, I haven't experimented with it yet read westfw's comment before trying it yourself!
**Acids are dangerous. Chemical burns suck. Handle these powders carefully, and measure with extreme caution. If you get these powders in your eyes or nose it will hurt a lot and you may need medical attention. If you want to make super pucker candy work your way up slowly. This is all relatively safe as long as you're not dumb about it.**
- Kool-Aid and other powdered drink mixes will give you a really authentic flavor.
- Fruit juices and extracts work well but tend to give a lighter flavor. Replace the water in the recipe with fruit juice if you're using this option, and consider bumping up the flavor with some drops of the same or a complimentary flavor of extract.
- Flavor oils are used in candy making, come in dozens of flavors and work really well. Every flavor oil will require a different amount, but 10 drops is a good starting point for this recipe. Mixing these flavors works well, too.
baking soda/sodium bicarbonate
Want your pixie sticks to foam? Stir in a pinch of this (up to 1/2 gram) to the standard 50 grams of dextrose AFTER THE RECIPE HAS DRIED. This adds a really unique physical experience to the candy, and is especially effective with flavors associated with sodas (root beer, cola, etc.)
The more accurately you can measure grams the better off you'll be.
I use metal and/or paper - these flavors can soak into plastic pretty effectively.
Step 2: Mixing
Measure 50 grams of dextrose into a container, paper cups have worked best for me.
Measure your acid into a small metal cup.
- Up to 1 gram of citric acid with powdered drink mix for about a normal pixie stick flavor, more if you're into super acidic candy, less if you're here for flavor and not acidity (you can skip it all together, there's already some in the drink mix.)|
- Up to 1 gram for a nice flavor if you're using fruit juice.
- As little as a pinch, up to 1 gram for flavor oils.
Add 2 teaspoons of water OR 2 teaspoons fruit juice to the metal cup/acid. Dissolve the acid into the water completely before continuing.
Add the powdered drink mix/flavor oil (10 drops is a good starting point) or fruit extract to the water, stir in.
Start adding dextrose to the mix, a little at a time, until there is no liquid left in the metal cup.
Put all of that sugar/flavor/acid mush into the remaining dextrose in the paper cup. Stir it all together. Stir it again every few hours as it dries - it will break down into a pixie stick powder as it dries.
Step 3: Finishing
You can, of course, funnel your dry powder into paper straws and seal the end if you're up for such a process. I'm not, so I poured mine into never-used-before test tubes and corked the tops so I could pour out what I want when I want it.
If you're wondering why you shouldn't just mix dextrose, acid and drink mix together, there are a few reasons. The first is texture - if you don't add moisture to the dextrose it will be a finer grade of powder and less crunchy. If you've ever accidentally breathed in powdered drink mix you know how incredibly fine it is and how much it can burn your nose, moisture fixes that. The powdered acid is a slightly different size and weight of grain than the other powders, so it will try to separate to the top or bottom of your mix as it stands (the same way a box of cereal has broken pieces at the bottom) resulting in some bites that are bland and some that are super acidic. Adding water means a day or so of drying and a much tastier product, cutting corners will probably result in disappointment.