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Homemade sweets such as taffy, peanut brittle, pralines, fudge or butterscotch are fun and easy to make. The process of candy making is the steady boiling of syrup until they reach a point or stage of crystallization. The candy thermometer is a candy maker's best friend when it comes to making these home made treats. It will tell you the when the correct temperature of each type of candy has been reached and help make your final result almost fool proof.
When your directions state to cook the sugar syrup to a thread stage your candy thermometer should read between 230 and 234 degrees fahrenheit. A soft ball stage that is used for fondant, fudge or pralines is reached between 234 and 240 degrees fahrenheit. For candies like caramel you will need a firm ball stage which is reached between 244 and 248 degrees fahrenheit. For candies, like taffy, that need a hard ball stage your thermometer should read between 250 and 266 degrees fahrenheit. The soft crack stage needed for butterscotch and such candies is reached between 270 and 290 degrees fahrenheit. For you favorite brittle recipe you will need the syrup to reach a temperature between 300 and 310 degrees fahrenheit. When you are living at higher elevations you will need to decrease the final cooking temperature of any syrup by 2 degrees or each 1,000 feet in elevation increase.
Try to make your candy on a cool, dry day and use a heavy bottomed pan. Always stir the syrup with a wooden spoon when possible and check the temperature often while the syrup is boiling. To keep your candy from being grainy add corn syrup or glucose to the syrup. Remove any crystals that form on the sides of your pan with a damp cloth or pastry brush. When your candy syrup is boiling do not stir it. Simply regulate the heat to keep it from boiling over. Once the syrup has reached the correct temperature you should immediately pour it into a lightly greased contain and allow it to cool. Do not stir, add scrapings from the pan or disturb it in any way after it is poured. When your recipe says to beat the candy always wait until it has cooled to 110 degrees fahrenheit prior to starting.
Most candies such as pralines and divinity will need to be spooned onto a buttered sheet of foil immediately when they have cooled to a 110 degrees temperature. Then they should be allowed to sit until completely hardened and placed inside an air tight container. Some candies such as peanut brittle should be poured into a buttered toast pan. When this is thoroughly hardened it can be broken with a butter knife handle for storage. An excellent recipe for pralines can be made by combining one cup of tightly packed brown sugar, two cups of granulated sugar, one cup of light cream and 5\8 teaspoon of salt in a sauce pan. Bring this mixture to a boil and allow to simmer without stirring until it reaches 238 degrees fahrenheit on your candy thermometer. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to 110 degrees fahrenheit undisturbed. Add two tablespoons butter and one teaspoon vanilla extract then beat the mixture until it begins to thicken. Stir in 3 cups pecan halves and drop a spoonful at a time onto a buttered piece of foil.