My grandma taught me how to make candy when I was 12 years old. I have made this recipe every year since. It is very easy and very tasty. If I sent my mother her Christmas box without a bag of this candy in it I would be in serious trouble.
Here we go! First rule is no small children underfoot while making this. Melted sugar burns terribly and you don’t want to trip over a child and hurt them. Put on a Christmas movie for them and tell them you are cooking spinach – they won’t want to be anywhere near you.
Second rule – have a candy/fry thermometer you trust. They are cheap things you can get at Wal-Mart or Target if you are a fancy person and prefer red over blue in your cashier’s clothing. How do you know if you trust your thermometer? Stick it on the side of a pan of water – not touching the bottom of the pan – and see what the temperature reads when the water boils. Should be 212 . If it is only 5 degrees off or so, just adjust accordingly when making candy. If it is off 20 degrees you have a problem!
Third rule – don’t make this when it is humid. It will be sticky and we don’t want that.
Now for the ingredients:
2 cups of sugar
1 cup of white syrup/corn syrup
1/2 cup of water
2 teaspoons of Anise flavoring
red food coloring – the cheapy stuff works just fine here
Put your sugar, syrup, and water in a heavy bottom pan. Clip your thermometer onto the side of the pan with the tip submerged in the goo but not touching the bottom of the pan. Cook this at medium heat until it reaches 300 degrees. Notice I did not say to stir it. Don’t. It messes with the crystalline structure of the sugar and makes problems. In theory. In actuality I have stirred it and not stirred it and gotten the exact same results.
When the sugar mixture reaches 300* turn off the heat and add your flavoring and coloring. It will snap and pop a little when you do this – don’t have your face over the pan. Stir it up and then pour it onto a sprayed cookie sheet with a rim or like I do – onto a silicone baking mat on a rimmed cookie sheet.
Now we will separate the professionals from the amateurs. Scoring. Stand by the candy and start making lines in the molten lava with a butter knife making a checkerboard pattern on it. Each square should be about the size of a postage stamp. In the middle of the candy where it is really hot the lines will disappear. You just have to wait for it to cool some more. Continue this forever and ever and ever until it is all cool enough that the lines don’t disappear any more and then let it cool completely before breaking into pieces.
Or if you are lazy like me just let it cool without scoring it and then break it into weird-shaped pieces instead of pretty squares. It tastes the same either way.
If you don’t like Anise flavor try root beer or cherry or peppermint or basil or cinnamon. But not basil – that was a joke.