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Weekend candy diasters - any advice?

Good morning,

I tried to "test drive" my new candy thermometer this weekend - marshmallows and toffee.

Marshmallows - Got the marshmallow recipe from cobiming Martha's, cooking for engineers and egullet (they were all VERY similar - gelatin, no egg whites). Each recipe called for a different temp b/t 234 - 250. We cooked to about 250, poured into stand mixer and followed directions to a "t". Marshmallows never really increased in volume. They were sticky like taffy. End result was hard and gross, a hyrbid between candy/taffee/marshmallows. I've heard of them not setting up, but not being too hard...

Toffee - Followed a very basic recipe from Ghiradelli. Butter, sugar, water, add vanilla later. The recipe called for cooking to 305, which I found suspect as other recipes called for 280. I decided in advacne to stop at 290. Between 280 and 290 I started to see a bit of smoke and it smelled it was buring. Immediately removed from heat, stirred in vanilla. While it set up fine there is a slight burnt flavor/aftertaste. My SO will eat it, but I can't give as holiday treats.

Help, what am I doing wrong? Thermometer is brand new from Crate & Barrel. A candy/deep fry model for approx $20.

Any insight? TIA!

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  1. Did you calibrate your thermometer? Bring a pot of water to boil & put the thermo in....see how close it registers to 212, assuming that you're at/near sea level. RE: toffee, I never use a thermo, but use my nose instead. If you make it a couple of times, you'll find the sweet spot between cooked & burnt by smell and color.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Hungry Celeste

      yeah, great advice on the boiling water calibration test. Just be aware that if you are at a higher elevation, your boiling point will be different.

    2. sounds like you've answered your own question about the toffee. if most recipes call for 280, then i'd suggest that after you calibrate your therm(brilliant, celeste)you cook to 280.

      i have ruined candy before too.sigh. at least its just cheap sugar and water....

      2 Replies
      1. re: opinionatedchef

        Yes, excellent suggestion to calibrate. Shall do that tonight. And yes I should have gone with my instincts with the temp. Candy just seems much more difficult than baking...I'm trying both again Friday night, hopefully with better results!

        1. re: opinionatedchef

          my english toffee recipe takes the sugar/butter to 320, 10 degrees past hard crack. Constant stirring avoids real charring, but there is very light scorching in my Le Creuset style pot even with CONSTANT stirring. I like the heavily developed flavor, but it doesn't taste burnt to me, or others I've gifted.

          Would never use a steel pan for this purpose. You need the even heat spread of enameled cast iron for this.

        2. I prefer to pull my marshmallows at about 238, it will have a little carryover heat. By pulling at 250, it probably rose a bit, and that is really too high. I use a Thermopen, and it is really almost instant. Those other thermometers are a lot slower. I'd pull yours at 235 next time.

          Also, one tip about marshmallows, always stir the soaked gelatin mixture before putting it on the mixer. That will break it off the bottom so it all gets incorporated.

          1. i don't know if it applies to your situation, but here's the issue i ran into last year while making toffee. i, too, was using a new candy thermometer. the first couple batches got way too hot, despite me watching the thermometer like a hawk (and yes, i calibrated it). what i finally realized, after much frustration, was that the thermometer was poorly designed. it had a metal foot that was supposed to allow it to stand up, but what it really did was elevate the bulb, so that small batches didn't touch it. the design of the metal foot also precluded thicker liquids from flowing freely around the bulb, so it had a cool pocket immediately surrounding the bulb, while the rest of the toffee burned. the thermometer went into the trash, out came the old one. no more problems.

            1. I made marshmallows this weekend! I've used a MS recipe (the one from her first big cookbook, the book that has a green & blue cover from '96 or '97) for marmallows with much success. I usually stop boiling the sugar mixture just before it hits 240. I follow the recipe closely and always get the same result--beautiful, pillowy marshmallows.