The Old-Fashioned Christmas Candy That Reminds Me of Home
When I was a kid, tin containers from friends and family littered the counter around Christmastime. By the age of 10, I prided myself in guessing where a tin came from as soon as the lid came off. Maw Maw's were filled with oatmeal cookies made with Crisco instead of butter, one neighbor made buckeyes bigger than golf balls, and little mounds of divinity always sat somewhere in the mix. Next to the fridge was usually a small box with a clear lid displaying a pile of little shards of sugar that looked like stained glass coated in white dust. Ms. Robin's hard tack candies carried strong flavors like cinnamon, mint, and wintergreen. In addition to being the perfect treat when you're not hungry but want to enjoy something sweet that dissolves slowly, these colorful candies grab the eye.
WATCH: Mrs. Floyd's Divinity
Make several batches with different flavorings and colors so you have an assortment. You will need a candy thermometer, a nonstick surface (a nonstick silicone baking mat or a well-greased baking sheet), and oil flavorings. Flavoring extracts cannot be used to make hard tack candy, but oil flavorings can be found at most grocery stores.
How To Make Hard Tack Candies
In a heavy-bottomed saucepan or pot, combine 3 3/4 cups granulated sugar with 1 1/2 cups light corn syrup and 1 cup of water. Heat over medium and stir until the sugar is dissolved. At this point, you should not stir the mixture anymore. Let the sugar come to a boil until a candy thermometer registers 260°F, then add the food coloring and allow the rolling boil to mix in the color. It's imperative that you do not stir the liquid, as this will develop unwanted sugar crystals. Once the temperature reaches 300°F, remove the pot from the heat and allow the sugar to cool until it stops boiling—the sugar has reached the "hard-crack stage," which is what will give the candy it's glassy look. Then stir in the oil flavorings before dumping the contents of the pot onto your prepared nonstick surface. Allow to cool until firm. Using a firm object (I use a rolling pin), tap the sugar so that it breaks into irregular shards. To finish, toss these candies in 1 tablespoon of powdered sugar before storing.