This is a supplemental post to my Caramel Filled Apple Ribbon Candy Recipe. This is for troubleshooting some common issues when making hard candy and shaping ribbon candy specifically.
General Issues and Fixes:
If at any point the candy becomes hard to work with and no longer pliable, it is way too cold. You should be able to poke the candy and easily indent it at all times. If not, you need to put it in 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.
If you are straining to ‘pull’ the candy, it is way too cold and you need to repeat the process above.
On the other hand, if the candy becomes viscous like honey, it is too hot. It shouldn’t easily melt into a puddle when you are in the shaping stage of the process.
If the candy becomes sticky or won’t harden there are two causes. First, you may have not heated the candy to the proper temperature, therefore, it is not hardening to a hard candy stage. Secondly, if you are making this on a humid day that water in the air is sticking to the candy making it sticky and unpleasant. There isn’t really a fix to either issue besides trying again. Check Google for humidity levels the day you plan to make it and make sure you have a four-hour window of humidity below 35% before starting. You should also check your thermometer to make sure it is accurate, here are instructions on that.
Troubleshooting Shaping Issues:
Falling or Drooping Ribbons:
If, like in the image above, your candy is falling, drooping, or has scrunched bottoms (like you hit the top of it and it got all squished), your candy is probably too warm. The candy should set up quickly just as you finish shaping it into ribbons and if it is drooping, it is probably too hot. Depending on the severity of the issue you can keep moving forward and it will cool to a nice temperature shortly, or you need to remove/turn off your heat source until the candy starts too cool slightly. Having a squished bottom can also be because you are sticking your fingers through the bottom of the candy to the surface you are working on. When shaping you should only put your fingers halfway down the side of the candy, not all the way (or it’ll be squished).
The candy above is all sorts of messed up, but mainly it was squished too much at the very end when bringing the loops together. You should cup your hands and lightly push the ends together to bring the loops together, the above candy was pushed too much (and maybe a few more things happened to it).
Besides drooping, the above candy is too thick. You are not pulling it our far enough and stretching it to become thinner. Maybe you aren’t sure of the thickness and haven’t gotten the hang of it yet. All you need to do is stretch longer to make it thinner. You could also be pulling it less because you are afraid the candy is becoming to narrow. To fix this, lightly pull at the edges of and stretch the main blob of candy. Having a wider blob will allow you to pull the candy to the right thickness while it remains wide enough. Also, pull firmer near the base of the blob to stretch it out farther without making the end narrower or thinner (if it is a good thickness).
Large and Misshapen Loops:
The loops of the above candy are too large and misshapen (among other things). This is probably because you are swaying your nondominant hand too much when making the length of the loops. You should use your thumb as a measurement for the length of each loop and keep your arm pinned in position when making said loops. Swaying your arm around and not being consistent in loop length will cause too big or small of loops.
The above candy is having the opposite problem from our last. This candy has too small of loops. This is caused by not using your thumb as a measurement and instead, giving the loops very short amounts of candy. You should make your loop length longer to fix this/ give more candy when making loops.
Candy Breaking while Shaping:
The above candy is broken. It is cracking during shaping because the candy is too cold. The candy is hardening while shaping so it is breaking and cracking as it gets shaped because it is becoming rigid and cooling. Keep pulling if the rest of your blob is still warm and the problem should go away. If not, your blob has cooled too much and needs a trip into the oven.
Hope this helped with any issues you are experiencing!