I love making ribbon candy. It’s very rewarding, looks pretty when it’s done, and it’s impressive because many people don’t make it by hand anymore. This has been one of my favorite flavors and I can’t wait to share the art of ribbon candy with all you lovelies! The ribbon candy is green apple flavored and filled with caramel and it is freaking delicious. It tastes like those caramel apple lollipops that you can only get a month out of the year. This is a great treat to make for gifts or just for the challenge!
I came up with this recipe because I catastrophically failed another one. One of my favorite YouTube channels right now is Hercules Candy. It is a family of candy makers (and some friends) that show what they do with witty banter and funny stories. I strongly recommend checking them out. They introduced me to the idea of peanut butter filled molasses flavored ribbon candy (if that sounds good or you want to see their other goodies, check out their website). After watching a dozen videos and getting their recipe and technique down I finally gave it a shot last week. It went horribly. I have never been more frustrated with a recipe in my life. Then I made it again, and again I failed.
I decided that it was too difficult and I would just make a few different flavors and colors and still put the base recipe on here. Then, as I was looking at flavor oils I stumbled upon apple and all of a sudden I was falling down a wormhole of thoughts about making caramel apple ribbon candy.
You see the main problem with the peanut butter filled ribbon candy is the fat in the peanut butter. So if peanut butter leaks out or gets anywhere the candy won’t stick and seal and then peanut butter just keeps spilling out and making a huge mess and suddenly the whole kitchen is a peanut allergy nightmare. However, caramel is sticky and not as runny. So if it gets somewhere it’s not supposed to it’ll still marry the two candy pieces together and you can still make it with ease. Plus, the caramel keeps the candy soft for longer so you have more time to shape it and not the 7 seconds you would get with unfilled ribbon candy.
If you have never dealt with the molten hot mess that is hard candy making, I recommend you start with a much easier recipe. This recipe is really for veteran candy makers. It is hard, it is dangerous, and it requires experience and equipment. However, if you are a veteran or stubborn, this is a fun recipe that is perfect for gift giving. I’m not going to ramble and make this crazy long post any longer, let’s get to the nitty-gritty!
Tips and Tricks:
- Before making this recipe, read all the resources and instructions before starting. I also highly recommend watching this video where you can see the process you’re committing to on a large scale. This is unfilled, but the process is nearly the same.
- Get the proper equipment. You can read here about all the equipment you need, how to find/get it, and cheaper alternatives. This isn’t a recipe you can just dive into and not have everything for.
- CANDY IS HOT! This is not a recipe to make with kids (at least not for the very first time you are making it). It is not a recipe you should be light-hearted about or shrug off my warnings. This is serious business and you need to get serious about it. Read here about sugar safety.
- Candy can splash when really hot and runny. When you first start folding the edges of the candy over the center of itself, it will be practically liquid like water and it can splash if you flip it too roughly (and it will still be molten as it flies through the air and onto your skin).
- If at any point the candy stops being pliable (you can’t leave an indent by poking it) it is too cold. You need to put it into a 200°F oven and let it warm up for 3-5 minutes, flipping every minute. I use a sheet pan with a Silpat mat on it to make sure the candy doesn’t stick, but a well-oiled sheet pan can work (but if it sticks it really sucks, so splurge on a Silpat mat).
- If the candy becomes stuck, using quick, firm, and hard jabs with a bench scraper will get it off. Going slowly will heat up the bench scraper and the candy will become stuck. The quick and harsh movements help break the candy away from the pan. If you are getting strings, quick motions can break them apart too. Make sure whatever the candy rests on (and therefore may stick to) is scratch resistant. The candy won’t stick to a Silpat mat, so again, strongly recommend.
- Read here for ribbon candy troubleshooting.
- Read here for some tips and tricks on how to handle sugar (it’s a tricky witch).
- Don’t be afraid to change your vinyl/nitrile gloves often. They are cheap and not worth the fuss.
- Breathe. If you get flustered and start making rash decisions as things go south you are going to hurt yourself and/or your kitchen. Have your wits about you, take a deep breath if you are feeling frantic, and stop making the recipe if you are getting crazy (I know I had to step away a few times when it become frustrating and it helped me complete the recipe and do a good job in the end).
Caramel Filled Apple Ribbon Candy
Tart green apple flavored hard candy filled with buttery caramel and twisted into ribbons.
Check out this video for a visualization of the process (this is unfilled, but the technique is nearly the same). Some steps here are in a different order because this is on a small scale.
Do not substitute the sugar and corn syrup. Yes, it’s unhealthy, but this is candy for goodness sakes.
Read over the equipment list, the sugar course, and all the recipe instructions before starting. This is a very difficult and time-consuming recipe that should not be taken lightly.
This is a hard recipe, so please leave comments below if you have questions or contact me through the contact page. I usually reply within the hour.
- 2 lbs white granulated sugar
- 1 lb light corn syrup (weighed)
- 7 fl oz of water
- 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar (helps with flaking)
- 4 teaspoons Tart and Sour Flavor Enhancer from LorAnn (or skip if using a green apple flavoring)
- 1 teaspoon Apple Flavoring from LorAnn (replace with green apple flavoring if using, may need more then)
- Vegetable oil (for greasing)
- 15 pieces of caramel (4.5-5 oz, I used Brach’s)
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- Green gel food coloring (I used kelly green from Wilton) -Equipment-
- Candy Thermometer
- Bench Scrapers
- 3.5 qt heavy bottom saucepan (read here about using the proper pan)
- Cotton Work Gloves
- Food Safe vinyl or nitrile gloves, unpowdered
- Wooden Spoon
- 2 rimmed sheet pans lined with Silpat mats (do not grease Silpat mats if using)
- Pizza stone (or other heat sources like a heat lamp, space heater, or oven set to 200°F)
- Marble slab (or other heat-resistant surfaces, read here for cheap ways to get marble)
- Pastry brush
This is a very long process, I am going to split it up into three parts: Making the Candy, Getting the Candy Ready for Ribboning, Making Ribbons.
Making the Candy
1. Start ribbon candy base. In a 3.5 qt, heavy bottom saucepan (no smaller, and not non-stick) carefully combine the sugar, corn syrup, water, and cream of tartar to prevent splashing the sides as much as possible. When well mixed, move to the stove over medium heat and stir constantly until all the sugar is dissolved (if you see any bubbling, stop stirring). Use a pastry brush dipped in water to wash away any sugar crystals on the side of the pan from stirring.
2. Bring candy to temperature. Once the sugar mixture has begun boiling, pop in your candy thermometer (make sure it’s not touching the sides or bottom of saucepan directly). Do not stir the mixture at any point while the sugar heats up (do not swirl the pan either). Bring the sugar to 310°F, this will take about 30-45 minutes regardless of batch size. Wash down the sides of the pan once more with a pastry brush after inserting the thermometer.
3. Preheat oven to 200°F. Place a pizza stone (if using) and a lightly oiled, rimmed sheet pan in while the oven preheats (or a sheet pan with a Silpat mat, not oiled). Let sit there until ready to use.
4. Oil Up! While still waiting for the sugar to come to temperature, begin lightly oiling your marble slab (or other heat resistant surface), bench scrapers, and food scissors. It should be oiled well enough to see it, but not so much it is pooling/excessive.
5. Make caramel. Following the back of the bag, start to melt down the caramel and stir in the 1/8 teaspoon salt. Once it is melted, place off to the side. (the candy is so sweet that the salt helps bring it down a few pegs to be more enjoyable).
6. Add flavoring. Once the sugar has reached temperature, turn off the heat, remove the thermometer and move the pan off the heat. Add in the tart and sour flavor enhancer and apple flavoring (or just green apple if using), and give everything a good stir. The sugar mixture will boil up aggressively growing almost double in size, and then calm down (this is why using a 3.5 qt pan is so important).
Get Candy Ready for Ribboning
** From this point on you need to wear cotton work gloves at all times until the candy is done.**
6. Pour and cool candy. Once the flavoring is mixed in well, slowly pour the molten hot candy mixture onto the marble slab (or other heat resistant surface). If the surface you are using doesn’t have sides/barriers to prevent the sugar from overflowing off the surface, slowly pour the mixture in batches. Pour about half on and wait for it to cool for about 1 minute, then slowly add a 1/4 and wait another minute. Take your bench scrapers (with cotton work-gloved hands) and fold the edges over themselves to make a larger mound of candy (versus the large puddle it’s in), and then add the remaining sugar over top slowly. Watch for candy pouring over the edges and stop pouring if it comes close to the edge. I use a large sheet pan or foil underneath my marble slab in case anything does spill over (oil both).
7. Cool candy. Once the candy is all on the marble slab, use bench scrapers to slowly fold the edges of the blob over on itself to distribute the heat and evenly cool the candy down. Let the candy sit for a moment (30-40 seconds) to pool, and then repeat the process of folding and waiting until the candy has noticeably thickened and has become less runny (should start to firm up and keep its shape). To test if it is ready, fold the blob in half with the bench scrapers it should take a while for it to melt into itself and you should still be able to see the crease from folding. It will probably take 5-7 minutes for the candy to become cool enough. If it is still runny like honey, it is not close to being ready. Scrape bench scrapers together to clean them of candy. See video (watch 5:27-14:31) for a timeline and visual guide of the cooling, folding, and bench scraping process (their batch is bigger and will take longer to cool).
8. Pull Candy:
- Once the candy has cooled enough, remove a piece about 1/5 the size of the total blob, this is for the colored stripe. Put the blob off to the side or into the oven with the door open on a sheet pan with a Silpat mat (or under your heat source of choice).
- Take the large blob and start pulling. Pulling the candy will make it easier to eat (right now it would be like eating glass) by adding air bubbles. The air bubbles will also make the candy white/lighter in color. The candy is ready to be pulled when it is cool enough to handle for at least a minute at a time (sometimes the heat builds and I need to put it down for a second, but it shouldn’t be actively burning your hands the whole time).
- Pull the candy by stretching it out into a rope. Bring the two ends together and twist. Stretch the twist until the individual pieces come together to form a long stretch of candy (should be less than your wingspan, maybe 2-3ft of pull). Bring the ends together, twist, stretch, bring ends together, twist, stretch.
- After 4-5 twists and stretches, ball up the candy and make a new rope (this ensures the end pieces you are holding get added into the pulling process. Keep pulling/repeating this process for 3-5 minutes or until the candy becomes satin-like, glossy, and very light colored/white.
- If you are having to pull on the candy like a resistance band, it has become too cool. Let blob sit in the oven on a sheet pan lined with a Silpat mat for 3-5 minutes, flipping every 45 seconds or until it has become pliable again. Keep pulling if needed or move to the next step.
- Once you are done pulling, place the candy in the oven for a few minutes to heat back up/keep temperature. You’ll want to flip it every minute to keep it from sticking. If it does stick, pull on it hard and it should come off mostly (using a sheet pan with a Silpat helps a lot). If it’s really sticking, use well-oiled bench scrapers to carefully help remove it using a prying motion versus quick hits (try not to scrape the pan or Silpat mat).
8. Color the Candy Stripe. Take the small blob you left off to the side and remove from the pan and place onto the marble slab. Add a small amount of gel green food coloring to the center and cover with the edges of the candy. Knead the color into the candy (or use bench scrapers on the marble if it is very runny). Once all the color is mixed in, place the stripe back in the oven for a few minutes if it has cooled. May want to change gloves and wipe off any dye if it got anywhere.
9. Reheat Caramel. If the caramel has set up, begin to heat it again until it is warm enough to get it out of the bowl (mine was pretty thick and pliable like playdoh when I used it, but runnier is also fine).
10. Start Forming the Blobs and Filling with Caramel:
- Take the large white blob out of the oven and separate into two even blobs. Remove the stripe from the oven and set aside on the marble.
- Put one white blob on the sheet pan the green stripe was just on (or a completely different one that is greased or has a Silpat mat) and leave the other blob on the sheet pan it’s already on. Should have the green blob off to the side, and two sheet pans with two even white blobs on them.
- Form the two white blobs into even discs (the wider the better, try not to make them long and stretched out, keep them balled up, but flattened). Make one white blob slightly bigger to where it can cap over the other blob slightly.
- Put the two white blobs in the oven if they are cooling too much (they should be moldable like playdoh, if not they need to be put in the oven for 3-5 minutes or until pliable, flip often to prevent sticking).
- Form the green blob into a thick rope and cut into thirds (just eyeball it). Roughly squeeze the green stripes into ropes long enough to stretch over the white blobs. Place one green stripe onto the middle of one blob, and two green stripes onto the other blob going in the same direction and evenly spaced. Rub lightly to get the stripes to stick to the white.
- Flip the thicker/smaller of the two blobs over (the stripe(s) should be down on the pan and the white side face up). Lightly press a small trowel into the blob, the caramel will go here so you are creating a small shallow ‘pool’ for it to sit in. The pool should be in the center and going in the same direction as the stripes. Put the caramel in a strip in the center of the blob. Once the caramel is in, cap off the caramel and blob with the other remaining blob, stripe side up and out. Should have no green on the same side as the caramel.
- Smooth and lightly press on the edges of the candy to help ‘seal’ the ends. Place the candy into the oven for a few minutes to heat back up, flipping often. After a minute or two, the blobs should seal pretty well on their own.
- See this video (13:35-15:09) for a visualization of the stripes and blob shape (pay attention to how pliable this is) and this video (17:43-20:05) for filling the candy (this is with peanut butter that is a lot runnier and harder to work with but you get the basic idea) the shape you are making for the main blobs should be more round as you have less candy to work with.
**You should still be wearing cotton work gloves during this entire process while dealing with the blob of candy**
11. Prepare to Shape Candy. While the candy quickly reheats in the oven, take the preheated pizza stone out and place onto a heat safe surface (I use my wood cutting board). If using another heat source, get that ready and in place. Place a flat sheet pan next to the pizza stone/work area. You will pull the candy off the giant blob and cut it onto this sheet and then form the ribbons on this sheet.
12. Shape Candy and Make Ribbons.
- Remove the candy from the oven and flip.
- Place the sheet pan with the candy on it onto the pizza stone (or near the heat source).
- Start pulling the candy into a thin long tongue (like a fruit roll-up, but a bit wider). Pull in the same direction as the stripes. See this video (17:03-17:16) for a visual. You don’t want it so thin that it is becoming see-through, or caramel is coming out, and not so thick that it looks clunky. It should be the thickness of a penny to a quarter for filled (unfilled can be thinner, but don’t worry horribly about thickness). You will have thin and thicker pieces, wider and more narrow pieces, it is just about working through issues and keep moving. You got this!
- There are multiple ways to pull the candy but I like to start it by pinching at the disc of candy until I get it going, then pull strips off using the palm of my hand on top of the strip and my fingers wrapped around the bottom of the strip (like making a fist but with your thumb out like a hitchhiker and your fingers flat against your palm not bent). I apply light pressure when I first pull to get the candy out but release pressure towards the end of the strip that is already thin enough.
- Pull the candy into 5-inch pieces to start. This process is much easier with 2 people, one to pull the candy into strips and the other to shape. The one shaping the candy into ribbons can just wear vinyl/nitrile gloves as the candy cools substantially. The person pulling strips off still needs to wear cotton work gloves.
- To shape the candy, hold the candy strip on its side with your nondominant hand and in between your thumb and pointer finger. With your dominant hand start the candy off between the sides of your pointer and middle finger. Using your thumb on your nondominant hand move the candy away from your body. Walk your middle finger in front of the candy stripe. Using your thumb pull the candy towards you to your finger then walk your pointer finger over the stripe. Your walking fingers create the loops and your thumb is creating the length of the loops (longer length= bigger loops, shorter = smaller). Don’t worry about keeping the loops together, you should worry about making them/crimping them into the candy, and then at the end, you can squish lightly to bring the loops together. Watch this video for a crimping then pushing together visual (18:48-18:58).
- Watch this video (9:21-14:08) to learn how to shape with your fingers (they used Fruit by the Foot, I used a folded paper towel).
- Repeat the process of pulling candy into strips and shaping them into ribbons until you are near the end. You can make longer strips as you feel comfortable. Keep flipping the candy often so it doesn’t become too hot on one side. Keep the candy in a disc as much as possible (helps keep the strips wide enough). If the pizza stone cools, place the candy in the oven for 2 minutes at a time to warm, flipping halfway through.
- When you are at the end of the candy you will have to pull both ends and work at keeping it warm more (there isn’t a mass of it to stay warm, just a strip that cools quickly). If you can’t get the end to work, well, forget about it! It’s a small piece that isn’t super important.
DO NOT EAT THE CANDY until it is fully hardened. It can be molten on the inside and that’ll be the last thing you taste for a while (which I don’t think it’s worth it).
13. Enjoy! You just made an awesome creation and now it is ready to enjoy! For packaging labels and ideas, see below.
Here are some packaging ideas and labels for both 4-inch wide cellophane bags and tag labels. Both look great on white paper or kraft paper (pictured below).
4-in Fold-Over Label (right in the image above)
Gift Tags (left in the image above)
Thank you so much for reading and may your ribbon candy adventures be everything you could ever want!
*I am not affiliated with, receive money from, or anything of the like from any company, brand, or product mentioned in this post*