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How do I make candy shells like M&Ms or Reese's Pieces have?

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With an industrial factory? –  bmargulies Aug 8 '10 at 22:39

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You can give your candies hard shells by dipping them into a melted mixture of one part water, two parts sugar, and 1/2 part corn syrup. Melt those ingredients together over medium to medium-high heat until the sugar has totally dissolved and the mixture is at the hard crack stage (295-310° F./146-154° C.). Remove your pot of glaze from the heat and place it into a waiting metal bowl of ice water. Once the glaze has stopped bubbling, begin dipping your candies immediately. Once dipped, set them on an appropriate, lightly greased surface to cool (use a flavorless oil or kitchen spray for greasing).

You'll want to skewer your candies to dip them; never attempt to dip candies into hot glaze by hand. You'll also want to set everything up for dipping before you make your glaze: have your bowl of ice water ready; have a greased tray or marble slab/counter ready to receive your dipped candies; have your kitchen to yourself (distractions aren't good when working with hot glaze).

Your glaze will cool very quickly, so work carefully but efficiently.

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Adding to this, for safety's sake: you will also want a large vessel of ice water handy, one that you can submerge your entire arm in. Also--okay, I'm not a worrywart, but if we're advocating working with 150° sugar I'd like to cover the bases--wear two layers of clothing, or an apron that covers most of your body. That way if you spill the sugar you can remover the outer layer quickly before it hits your skin. I speak from experience at having been half-naked in a professional kitchen that you want to be able to take off clothing as quickly as possible if needed. –  daniel Aug 9 '10 at 5:28
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A couple of notes on this. First, the corn syrup is extremely important in order to keep the glaze from seizing as you cook it. Second, while this will glaze your candies, it won't be exactly like an M&M or Reeses. For coated candies like this they typically use a large tumbler where they tumble the pieces and then pour in powdered flavorant/colorant. Once the pieces are evenly coated, they then pour or spray in a food-grade wax to seal and shine the pieces. –  GalacticCowboy Aug 9 '10 at 16:50
    
@GalacticCowboy: (1) what is "large tumbler"? Google returns Batman cars instead of food or other machines. (2) wax? –  user2954 Mar 21 '11 at 9:47
    
What's the reason/chemistry for putting the hot sugar in a bowl of ice water? It seems like that would only serve to limit the workable time. –  antony.trupe Jul 23 at 21:40

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