I just tried to make some root beer flavored hard candies. I was somewhat improvising the recipe, and I ran into a weird issue I haven't seen before. When I added the root beer flavoring to the heated sugar mixture, the entire concoction bubbled up, then dried up and hardened, producing a thick layer of crumbs. I was left with what I can only describe as a dry root beer crumble.

What could have caused this? Do I need something to prevent crystal growth when I stir the mixture at the end?

Here's the process I was following:

Mix 2 cups water and 2 cups sugar in a small pot.

Dissolve sugar in water and bring to a boil.

Heat mixture until it reaches the hard crack stage (about 295 degrees Fahrenheit at this altitude).

Remove mixture from heat and quickly mix in 2 teaspoons of root beer flavoring.

Pour into molds and let cool. (I didn't reach this step.)

  • Do you know what was in the root beer flavoring? I'm wondering whether it was a weird reaction with something.
    – Erica
    Jan 6 '19 at 15:17
  • @Erica, I spent a little time looking into the oil that makes root beer more foamy than other sodas, since the reaction visually resembled root beer foam, but I didn't find anything useful. Jan 7 '19 at 17:44

I am pretty sure that this method cannot work.

When you heat up sugar with water, you make a supersaturated solution. At room temperature, you can dissolve at most 200 g of sugar in 100 g of water, which gives you a 67% sugar solution. At hard crack stage, you achieve a 99% sugar solution. If you manage to cool that down without too much mechanical disturbance, you end up with a clear hard candy.

But if you mix in a small amount of new, cold (room temperature) liquid, you are suddenly cooling your sensitive supersaturated solution, and dissolving parts of it. It loses its state and the sugar precipitates out, giving the crystals you described as "crumble".

You will have to add your flavoring before the heating stage and see if that turns out OK. But you cannot add watery liquid to hard crack, unless you are adding enough to dissolve the sugar, the way people do when adding cream to caramel to make sauce.

  • I was afraid of that. I've used this method before and made passable hard candy, even adding room temperature flavoring, but in much smaller volumes. I plan to add corn syrup to the next batch to prevent the formation of large crystals. I'd like to avoid adding the flavoring before the heating stage, as I'm not sure if it would burn. Jan 7 '19 at 17:47

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