You don’t have to be a kid or a kid at heart to enjoy some good old cotton candy. Its unique texture and taste is what makes it such a unique sweet to eat, and it’s a classic that will remain popular for decades to come. In fact, it’s pretty hard to find someone who DOESN’T like cotton candy, and even if you do, it’s probably not because of the taste.
You don’t have to go to your local amusement park to get yourself one of these delicious treats, though – you can make it yourself right in the comfort of your own home. In fact, Granted, you won’t be able to make bags worth of the stuff without a specialized tool for cotton candy, but with enough time and patience, you can make some for yourself without one.
Before getting into the recipe, it’s important to note that there are two different ways to making your own cotton candy at home. You can make it hand-pulled or hand-spun. The main difference between the two methods is how you end up creating the “strings” that comprise the cotton candy itself.
Generally, you can get thinner strings with the hand-spun method, so we’re going to go with that as the method we’re discussing here, though you can make some really thin strings with the hand-pulled method too. We’ll throw in some extra instructions for hand-pulled cotton candy in the end, though, in case you want to try the other method of preparing too.
And if you love sweets, these candy of the month clubs are pretty fun. You get a box of unique treats delivered via mail each month. You can pick a box based on special candies from countries around the world, or pick a theme, like gummies or chocolate.
How to Make Cotton Candy At Home (Hand Spun Method)
Step 1 – Prepare the Ingredients
Alright, let’s begin. First thing’s first, we’ve gotta get all the ingredients we need for making homemade cotton candy. The ingredients used aren’t hard to find at all, with pretty much everything on the list available at your local supermarket. Here’s what you need:
- 4 cups of sugar
- 1 cup of water
- 1 cup of corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon raspberry extract (or some other extract if you want a different flavor instead)
- 2 drops food coloring (you can go for pink to stick to the cotton candy theme but any color is fine)
Make sure to have all the ingredients measured properly, and you’re good to go for the next step.
Step 2 – Heat up some of the ingredients in a saucepan at medium temperature
Get yourself a saucepan and set the temperature to about medium heat. Once that’s done, throw in the sugar, salt, water, and corn syrup into the pan, in no particular order.
You’ll want to then keep the ingredients heated in the pan until all the sugar you put in has melted into the mixture. For the exact temperature level, you’ll want around 320°F or 160°C for the mixture itself.
If the syrup ends up going to the sides of the saucepan, wipe it back down to the mixture. You’re not only saving every drop of the syrup but also saving yourself the effort of having to deal with sugar crystals forming in the saucepan later on.
Step 3 – Mix the heated mixture with the other ingredients
Once you’ve got your mixture, it’s time to add the rest of the ingredients. Transfer the still-hot mixture onto a heatproof container that you can mix in properly.
Then, throw in both the extract and food coloring while mixing the ingredients together constantly. It’s extremely important to keep on mixing as you do this and to not stop doing so for more than a few seconds. If you leave it for too long, the mixture will begin to solidify, making it hard for you to continue with the other steps.
Again, you can use any extract and coloring you prefer, though the raspberry extract and pink food coloring are great if you want to make your candy look like the ones you get from carnivals or amusement parks.
Step 4 – Put some parchment on your workspace
Right after mixing in everything, place some parchment on where you’re working. That’ll serve as the place where you’ll be spinning the candy into the final cotton candy.
If possible, try setting this up beforehand somewhere else, and simply transfer it to your workspace when needed. That way, you’ll not only save yourself some time but also get the workspace ready before the mixture cools down.
Aside from this, there’s also a reason why parchment is the recommended place to work on from this point forward. The next few steps involve placing the candy on a flat surface, and having it on parchment will make clean-up so much easier. It’s better than having to deal with cleaning up already crystallized candy on your workspace.
Step 5 – Begin dripping lines of the mixture onto the parchment
Since we don’t have the luxury of owning a cotton candy machine, we’ll have to improvise. Don’t be surprised if your cotton candy looks nothing like what you’re used to seeing, as this is as close as cotton candy as you can get without the fancy tools. Instead of having a machine spin the mixture around, what you’re going to have to do is prepare the strings yourself.
First, dip a whisk in the mixing bowl. Let it drip on top of the bowl for a second before letting the rest of the mixture on the whisk drip on the parchment itself.
With the dripping syrup, make lines of it as thin as possible on the paper, making sure to move at a speed slow enough to thin out the drip but slow enough for it to not break apart. Keep going until you’re either done with the entire mixture, or the lines are beginning to harden.
Step 6 – Wrap the syrup lines on a lollipop stick
Now it’s time for the fun part. Once you’ve got a good number of strings ready on the parchment, you can begin wrapping it around a lollipop stick. Just roll the stick on the lines at a steady pace, making sure that the syrup sticks to the lollipop stick at all times so that you won’t have to deal with breaks.
You can do both steps 5 and 6 alternately instead of finishing one at a time – simply put down lines and roll them onto the stick. This strategy works great if you don’t want the syrup to harden on the parchment at all, and if you’re making big batches of the stuff.
Step 7 – Serve and enjoy
After you’ve spun all the syrup on the lollipop sticks, you’re pretty much done. There isn’t much else to do other than either eating the candy while it’s still warm or keeping it in a sealed container to prevent it from getting moisture on it.
So that’s how you make cotton candy using the hand-spun method. If you want to try a more traditional method, get some corn starch and prepare to start stretching the candy, because that’s how you’ll be performing the hand-pulled method. Instead of going through every single step, we’re only going to mention the differences in ingredients and where the process differs from the first method, as the first few steps are essentially the same.
How to Make Hand-Pulled Cotton Candy
The ingredients of hand-pulled cotton candy are similar to hand-spun cotton candy:
- 4 ⅓ cups of sugar
- 2 cups of water
- 1 ½ cup of corn syrup
- 1 tbsp vinegar
- Food coloring (optional)
- Corn starch
Like hand-spun cotton candy, you mix together the sugar, water, and corn syrup together in a heated pan, with vinegar and food coloring as well for this method. Make sure to stir gently, and boil it to around 268°F. Cool the mixture in containers until it’s at room temperature.
Once you’re done with that, prepare your work table with some corn starch, and pour the mixture on top of it. You then roll the mixture in the corn starch and make a hole in the center of it to start pulling it into strings.
There are some candy pulling methods you can look up online to get the strings as thin as possible. After pulling 10-14 times, you should have yourself some thin and delicious hand-pulled cotton candy. You can freeze this as well to make it taste even better.
Fun fact: This method of pulling candy to create thin and elaborate strings is similar to the method used in making Dragon’s Beard candy, a popular sweet made in China that’s been around for at least two thousand years. The candy also used corn starch to keep the candy from sticking to itself and allowed it to be pulled into thousands of strings in a single candy.
Video: How To Make Hand-Pulled Cotton Candy
Cotton candy doesn’t have to be made with a special machine to taste good. You can either make your own cotton candy by spinning it yourself, or by using corn starch to pull it into elaborate strings.
So the next time your sweet tooth is acting up, you don’t need to buy yourself some confectioneries at the local store – just gather some common ingredients and make some cotton candy, and have fun while doing so.