‘Tis the season for delectable treats, and one holiday favorite is the candy cane. At Laughing Moon Chocolates in Stowe, visitors can learn how to make their own candy canes.
The small retail space at Laughing Moon Chocolates is crowded with children and their adults. They’re all here to watch a batch of boiling sugar and corn syrup be transformed into candy canes. And they’ll even get a chance to roll out their own candy cane to take home – if it makes it that far.
But first all that molten sugar needs to be flavored, cooled, stretched and rolled into candy canes. Laughing Moon owner Leigh Williams explains:
So Amelia’s just cooing the last degree of our batch. She has five pounds of corn syrup and ten pounds of sugar in that pot. And our goal is to get it to 300 degrees. Three hundred degrees is the hard crack stage when you’re making candy or cooking sugar. So once you get it to 300 degrees, you’ll have hard candy.
Today’s batch is maple flavored, and the flavoring is the last thing to be added before the batch is removed from the heat and cooled on trays. A portion of the batch is separated out and mixed with food coloring. That will be the stripes. The rest of the batch is poured from one buttered tray to another, back and forth, to cool it down and add air.
Why add air?
"So there’s air for a couple of reasons," says Leigh. "The most important, probably, is it makes the candy less dense."
Air is also what makes the candy cane white. Once the candy starts to cool and harden, the candy makers pick up the gooey mass and hang it on a big wrought iron hook on the wall. Wearing thick, heat-resistant gloves coated in butter, they take turns pulling the candy – adding more air to the mass.
As the candy cools, it gets harder and harder to pull. When they’re finally finished stretching, the mass gets shaped into a loaf and placed under a warming lamp. That’s when they pour three stripes around the outside of the loaf.
Once the stripes are in place, Leigh pulls a tail out of one end of the loaf, gives it a twist, and something resembling a candy cane emerges. She snips it off with scissors and pulls out another. The loaf will yield up to 200 candy canes.
The other candy makers switch out their heavy rubber gloves for thin cotton gloves that will polish the candy canes as they roll them out, making them long and thin.
And here’s where the kids get into the act, rolling out their own candy canes, and adding the final touch – the hook!
The last step is to bag up the finished candy canes and tie them with a bow, in hopes they will at least make it outside the store before being licked!