Pop Rocks! Love 'em or hate 'em, you have to admit these tiny candy crystals pack a neat little punch. This candy takes me straight back to my childhood! They can be hard to find sometimes, so here's how you can make a similar substitute with some surprisingly common ingredients.
Step 1: Gather Ingredients
~ 2 Cups Sugar
~ 1 Tsp Baking Soda
~ 1/4 Cup Citric Acid Crystals (Can be tricky to find. If your local gourmet/country store doesn't have them, try here .)
~ 1/3 Cup of Corn Syrup
~ Small amount of Water (Just enough to get sugar wet)
~ 1/4-1 Tsp Flavoring (any extract will work. Use what you like! When using stronger flavors such as cinnamon, mint, and cherry, you can use a small amount (about 1/4 teaspoon). Subtler flavors such as lemon, strawberry, orange, and peach require more (1/2 to 1 teaspoon.)
~ A Few Drops of Food Coloring of your choice
~ Candy Thermometer (Make sure it is properly calibrated. Put some water on to boil and put your thermo. in. Bring the water up to boil and see what the temp. is when it starts boiling. You may have to adjust the paper inside to set boiling point to 212°F. Then you know it's ready to go.)
~ Medium sized Saucepan
~ Pastry brush
~ Powdered Sugar
~ Large Cookie Sheet
~ Zip-top plastic bag
~ Blunt Instrument ( i.e. hammer, brick, lead pipe, etc.)
Step 2: Candy Making Time!
~ Prepare all items before you start. Dust the cookie sheet with the powdered sugar, and sprinkle a generous amount of the Citric Acid on the sugar.
~Combine Sugar, Water, and Corn Syrup, in the saucepan. Place pan over Medium heat. Stir gently and well to prevent splashing on the sides. Sugar crystals might form on the sides of the pan. If so, wipe down the sides of the pan with a damp pastry brush. Even one crystal can encourage growth of more. As soon as the syrup starts to boil, STOP stirring. At this point, you have dissolved the crystal structure of the sugar. Stirring or other agitation is one of the many factors that can encourage the fructose and glucose molecules in your syrup to rejoin and form sucrose—crystals of sugar. It needs to be smooth. That's also why it's important to use the Corn Syrup. Corn Syrup acts as an "interfering agent" in this and many other candy recipes. It contains long chains of glucose molecules that tend to keep the sucrose molecules in the syrup from crystallizing.
~Here comes the hard part. This is a SLOW process. Be patient and whatever you do, DO NOT turn the heat up. Medium is perfect for this. You might be tempted to, but trust me. It'll get there. This is a good time to tell the kids to go play.
~ Place the candy thermometer in the pan, being careful not to let it touch the bottom or sides, and let the syrup boil without stirring .
~ While the syrup is happily bubbling away, prepare the Baking Soda. Measure out your flavoring. (We're making Orange flavored Pop Rocks.)
~ Remove from heat when it gets to about 305°F. By now, there is almost no water left in the syrup. Let the syrup cool to about 275°F and add your flavoring, Baking Soda, and food coloring. Stir quickly and make sure it's as mixed in as you can get it. If you add it as soon as you take it off the heat, most of the flavor will just cook off.
~ Pour out onto your cookie sheet. It can be any shape. Try to get globs and dollops of the candy. Once it's poured, sprinkle more Citric Acid on the top of the candy.
~ Allow to cool completely.
TIP: Candy can be a fickle master. It's best to not make candy on a rainy or humid day. Cooking candy syrup to the desired temperature means achieving a certain ratio of sugar to moisture in the candy. On a humid day, once the candy has cooled to the point where it is no longer evaporating moisture into the air, it can actually start reabsorbing moisture from the air. This can make the resulting candy softer than it is supposed to be. That’s why dry days are recommended for candy making, although the effects of humidity can be somewhat counterbalanced by cooking the candy to the upper end of the appropriate temperature stage. (i.e. hard-crack stage is 300°F-310°F)
NOTE: WORKING WITH CANDY LIKE THIS IS ESSENTIALLY WORKING WITH NAPALM. BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN HEATING AND HANDLING IT. MOLTEN SUGAR WILL CONTINUE TO BURN YOU! IF YOU GET SOME ON YOU, RUN COLD WATER OVER IT FOR SEVERAL MINUTES.
Step 3: Anger Management
~ This is a good one for the kids to help out with!
~ Remove the cooled candy from the cookie sheet. Break the sheet of candy into smaller pieces and place in plastic bag.
~ Using your blunt instrument of choice, smash the candy into Pop Rock size pieces! Be careful not to pulverize the candy. You want tiny chunks, not powder.
~Store in small plastic baggies, or airtight container. (Best to do this as soon as you're done smashing them. Just like real Pop Rocks, they don't like humidity.)
Step 4: Let's Get Fizzy!
~ Enjoy your freshly made chunks of nostalgia! Eat them straight, or use them as a topping on cupcakes or other confections.
~ A better name for these might be Fizzy Rocks. The magic happens when the sugar dissolves, and the citric acid and baking soda mix. That's what creates that fizzy sensation. They don't make that loud snapping sound, but they are quite pleasant! (Be warned: They are a little sour. Citric Acid is the powder used to make Sour Patch Kids so sour.) We had a great time making them. You can't make REAL Pop Rocks at home, you need a pressure cooker capable of injecting CO2 into molten candy at 600 psi. (EXTREMELY DANGEROUS TO GET WRONG.) Go here to learn more about real Pop Rocks. You can see the actual patent for the Pop Rock process!
~ Mix things up a little bit too. Try using different color/flavor combinations. ( Orange flavored Blue Pop Rocks, Cinnamon flavored Green Pop Rocks, etc.) Or go really crazy and leave out the food color and make a "Mystery Flavor"!
~ The recipe is the same for lollipops and other hard candy. Just leave out the baking soda mixture, and you've got lollies! This is a great project to get the kids involved in, or to amaze your guests at your next party with your homemade chunks of awesome!
ENJOY, AND HAPPY POPPING!