When I set out to make this recipe, I had grand ideas about giving it away as Valentine's Day gifts. Now that I've gone through the process, I've changed my tune a little bit: make this recipe for Valentine's Day, but invite your loved ones to help you make it - because making it, in my opinion, was much more pleasurable than eating it.
Pulled cotton candy is another one of those things I didn't even know, and still wouldn't know, existed if it weren't for Pinterest. But it turns out hand pulled cotton candy is well known throughout the world, perhaps best recognized in its Chinese incarnation as "dragon's beard" candy.
If you've ever made candy you know that it's a finicky process. Just a few degrees make a huge difference. A difference between success and total failure. You must watch your solution closely while resisting the temptation to stir.
My first attempt at this was a total failure. I turned my back for a second, ok maybe a few seconds, and in that time the temperature went up by about ten degrees past the desired point. Then I let it cool way past the cooling point, which made it so rock hard it couldn't even be poured. I attempted to reheat it and salvage it, but it was too late... You think by now I'd have learned to pay attention. Luckily I halved the recipe and didn't waste a ton.
The amazing thing about this recipe, when you get it right, is witnessing the alchemy of turning a boiling solution of water, sugar and vinegar into a solid, which then gets manipulated into a soft, fluffy batch of stringy candy.
This recipe came from a blog called A Little Zaftig, where you can find beautiful step by step photos of the process as well as some great tips to ensure success.
This is another one of those recipes that must be read all the way through a couple of times before you set out to make it. A Little Zaftig makes it look really easy, and it is - as long as you pay attention to the details. I'm including the proportions included in A Little Zaftig here but again, I only made half the batch. One full batch makes enough for 4 people to pull and each fourth makes a mound big enough for 4 people to eat from - it's a lot.
4 1/3 cups sugar 2 cups water 1 teaspoon vinegar scant 1/2 cup corn syrup 1 drop food coloring - optional cornstarch for working the candy
Also, you must have a candy thermometer.
It's essential that you go through the original post, as my photos don't do it justice. There is also a great hand pulled cotton candy youtube video that demonstrates the entire process.
After boiling the ingredients to 268° and not any higher, the solution is left in the pan to cool to 212° and not any lower. It is then poured into plastic quart sized containers and left to cool to room temp. The disc is popped out (getting the disc out can be quite tricky) and pulled into a ring.
The ring is stretched and pulled, then doubled over.
The same process is repeated over and over again until the entire thing resembles powdery strings.
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If you eat the candy right way, it becomes kind of a hard candy again in your mouth, but the next day it's much more powdery and cotton candy-like.