7 Common Mistakes to Avoid for Candy Shop-Worthy Fudge and Caramels (2024)

We won't beat around the bush: Homemade candies and fudge are intimidating. From a bubbling pot of screaming-hot sugar to mysterious phrase like "soft ball stage" to that, uh, bubbling pot of screaming-hot sugar, there's a lot to give any home cook pause. Here's the good news: By avoiding a few simple common mistakes, DIY candies are actually easy to make. From this moment henceforth, you shall be known as the Candyman. Or Candywoman. Whatever; let's make some candy.

1. Using the Wrong Pan

All candy and confections start by melting sugar. You'll need a heavy-bottomed saucepan with tall sides—no excuses or substitutions. Thin and flimsy aluminum isn't the best conductor of heat; it will cause portions of the sugar to burn before it's all entirely melted.

2. Stirring the Sugar

If you've ever had grainy fudge, you tasted the effects of crystallization. "Crystallization is the enemy of candies, fudge, and confections," says Claire Saffitz, senior associate food editor. Luckily, avoiding crystallization is as easy as not stirring the sugar as it melts. Instead, swirl the pot and use a wet pastry brush to wipe down the sides periodically (sugar will inevitably stick to the edges of the pot). Swirling the pot also helps distribute the heat, adjusting for any hot spots.

Chocolate Fudge. Bourbon Sugar. Yes, you want this. Photo: Michael Graydon + Nikole Herriott

Michael Graydon + Nikole Herriott

3. Not Using a Candy Thermometer

Sorry, you absolutely cannot eyeball this one. It's imperative you get the temperature exactly right, because how firm or pliable the candy becomes as it cools is dependent on how hot it gets in the pot. If a recipe calls for cooking the sugar until 238˚, that means 238˚ exactly. You can't, uh, fudge it. The soft ball stage, which occurs from 234-240˚, is sticky and pliable; it's used for caramel and fudge. Firm ball occurs at 242-248˚; it's used in marshmallow, meringue, and gummy candies. Hard ball is 250-266˚ and best for nougat and toffee. This complete guide to cooked sugar stages is a very handy tool to have on hand.

4. Leaving Out the Parchment Paper Lining

Candies and caramels are sticky business. In fact, one of home cooks' biggest fears in making them is that they'll adhere to the pan, becoming impossible to pry out. Make the task easier by lining the pan with parchment paper. The paper should be long enough that the edges hang over the sides. Once the candies have set, all you have to do is grip the paper and lift it up and out.

5. Skipping the Cooking Spray

"PAM everything!" says Saffitz. "When I make candies, I coat the pan, the parchment, the bowl, even the spatula with a little bit of cooking spray." This is one of the tackiest cooking tasks you can tackle, so set yourself up for success and get a little preemptively slippery.

7 Common Mistakes to Avoid for Candy Shop-Worthy Fudge and Caramels (2024)

FAQs

7 Common Mistakes to Avoid for Candy Shop-Worthy Fudge and Caramels? ›

Avoid Stirring Once the Mixture Comes to a Simmer

Another key part of a successful fudge texture is when you stir the mixture. Stirring the sugar and milk during the initial stages of cooking allows the sugar to dissolve. However, once the mixture comes to a boil, it's time to put the spoon down.

What to not do when making fudge? ›

Avoid Stirring Once the Mixture Comes to a Simmer

Another key part of a successful fudge texture is when you stir the mixture. Stirring the sugar and milk during the initial stages of cooking allows the sugar to dissolve. However, once the mixture comes to a boil, it's time to put the spoon down.

What can go wrong when making fudge? ›

Fudge usually behaves this way when it's not cooked to a high enough temperature (due to oversight or a faulty candy thermometer). If your fudge is tough, hard, or grainy, then you may have made one of several mistakes: You may have overcooked it, beaten it too long, or neglected to cool it to the proper temperature.

How to make fudge creamy and not grainy? ›

Grainy Fudge

To avoid this issue, swirl the pan instead of stirring it with a spoon. You can use a wet pastry brush to wipe down any sugar that sticks to the sides of the pot.

When should you not make fudge? ›

Humidity can cause fudge to boil over in the pan or stay soft when set, so try to avoid working on humid days if at all possible. If waiting for a less humid day isn't feasible, you'll need to boil your fudge at a slightly higher temperature than usual — or just order some delicious fudge from Wockenfuss!

Do you stir fudge when it's boiling? ›

Brush the sides of the pan with a wet brush at the beginning of cooking to dissolve sugar crystals stuck to the sides. Never stir the mixture during cooking or sugar could crystallize again. The mixture may seize and become grainy. Use a candy thermometer or conduct a cold water test to check if the fudge is done.

What is the secret to smooth fudge that is not gritty? ›

Once a seed crystal forms, it grows bigger and bigger as the fudge cools. A lot of big crystals in fudge makes it grainy. By letting the fudge cool without stirring, you avoid creating seed crystals.

Can I reboil fudge that didn't set? ›

How can you fix soft fudge? Put it in a microwave safe bowl that is large enough that it won't boil over. Reheat it to the boiling point and cook for about 3 more minutes. Then you can beat some powdered sugar into it if this doesn't make it set.

Why does my fudge come out like caramel? ›

Fudge can turn into caramel due to overcooking or undercooking, incorrect temperatures, or wrong ingredients.

Why is my fudge crumbling when I cut it? ›

The ingredients for fudge are combined and cooked to 234 degrees, cooled to 110 degrees without stirring, then beaten until creamy. Candy that isn't cooked long enough will end up too soft; overcooking makes fudge crumbly or hard.

How to cut fudge so it doesn't crumble? ›

Put both knives into a large measuring cup, add boiling water onto the knives, and before cutting the chocolate or the dessert into pieces, wipe the knife with a towel. The warm knife will easily cut through without cracking.

What are the common mistakes you encounter during your activity in candy making? ›

5 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Making Candy From Scratch
  • You added the sugar wrong.
  • You did not use a candy thermometer.
  • You forgot to coat the pan.
  • You sliced the candy too soon.
  • You failed to store candy properly.
Apr 14, 2022

Can you redo fudge that didn't set? ›

OPTION 4) If you think the reason it didn't set was because you didn't heat it to the right temperature, you could try putting it back into the pan and re-cooking.

Why can't you make fudge when it's raining? ›

As strange as it sounds, it is a fact that weather affects fudge making. This is because when the weather is damper with an increased humidity level your Homemade Fudge Recipe will take longer to boil.

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