Archive for January, 2013

Lessons from Cinnamon Hard Candy

The lime hard candy had a mediocre result. I didn’t want to let it just lie there, so I decided that I’d make some cinnamon hard candy. We had the oil and the equipment available – might as well, right?

If the lime candy experiment produced mediocre results, then the cinnamon hard candy experiment was an abject failure. I wanted to perfect the technique but didn’t – though I (re)learned some valuable things in the process. I know what I did wrong, and don’t plan on doing it again even though this taught me several things.

Patience. It’s not just for doctors anymore

You remember those folks who will tell you that patience is a virtue? It’s a virtue because stuff tends to turn out a LOT better if you exercise it. My cinnamon hard candy recipe had ts flavorings and oils added too quickly, and as a result turned out poorly.

Experience is the best way to learn science

I had no idea. Really. I had no idea that the sugar that was dissolved in the water would go back into its granulated form after a while. I thought that it would be a goopy sort of sugar syrupy mess, but that’s not what happened at all. When in doubt, try it out! You’ve not got much to lose, and who knows, it may work!

Research makes things better

If I’d done my research, I would have found out that adding spicing and flavoring to hard candy before its time was probably not a good idea, and I would have found out what the results were going to be. I’m of two minds on this one, of course – because the story of this particular ‘failure’ is fun.

More is not always better

I would have found this out through the research. Using 2 tsp of cinnamon oil to the mixture was way too much. The house smells good as a result. Even the day after, there’s still some pretty awesome smells, but the candy is completely and totally shot. It’s kinda neat and crumbly looking, but it’s definitely not hard candy. (Man, I wish I had pictures!)

Here’s the recipe for how NOT to make cinnamon hard candies.

2 cups sugar
2 cups water
2 tsp cinnamon oil
3/4 tsp ground pepper

Dissolve sugar in the water and wait for it to boil. This forms a simple sugar syrup, and what you’re waiting for is some of the water to be boiled off so that the temperature rises. Wait until the temperature rises to 230 or so, put in both the oil and the pepper.

Watch as the heat rises, and something else happens. Where the sugar was in a liquid form, the stuff will boil and gradually turn its way back to sugar. Apparently, there’s something with the oil and pepper that makes it boil more and not like it.

Realize that your experiment isn’t going to make hard candy, remove from heat at around 270, pour it into the lightly sugared pyrex, and start writing about it because you don’t have hard candy. You’ve got this … well, it looks like a landscape for a Warhammer game.

Write about it.

No matter you’re involved in, the best thing to do is experiment. I think that I’m like a lot of people who don’t actually do enough research before pressing the ‘go’ button. You know what? There’s sometimes a thrill in not knowing absolutely for sure how something will turn out.

Financial Lessons Learned From Lime Hard Candy

As we’re immersed in life, we’re also immersed in the lessons which life teaches us. We are amazing creatures, capable of making even the most spurious correlations and connections – our ability to synthesize, when compared to other mammals, is top-of-the-line. What better way to talk and teach about finance than to make lime hard candy?

Lemon candies are everywhere. You can find lemonheads, lemon drops, lemon cough drops, lemon this, and lemon that. Lime? Not so much. Limes taste better, they’re more exotic, and they were the perfect candidate for making candies because of this perceived rarity.

Choose Your End Goal

Now, your finances aren’t the same as creating lime candies. After all, if you put the same ingredients into the mix, you can end up with a lot more things than just a pile of moey at the end. YOu can end up with a trip to Jamaica or your house paid off, or countless jubilant people singing your praises because you gave them some cash. You need to choose the end goal that you seek when it comes to your money situation, else you’ll have a giant goop of materials and nothing done.

Have the Right Tools

After deciding that I was making lime candy, I had to get a baking pan, a sauce pan, the candy thermometer, something to stir with, and the other materials together. What I found was that having a wide pot doesn’t work as well as a smaller saucepan because the candy thermometer isn’t totally immersed. I couldn’t get an accurate reading of the temperature.

Different tools work for different people. With making candies, there’s a specific way that has been tried so many times that it’s been crowdsourced to be the best. With finances, there are a number of tools out there. I like having all of my information in front of me – and as such, I’m really starting to get into the use of Manilla. Think of it like supercharged organization software for real folks.

A Little Goes a Long Way

Confectioner’s sugar goes everywhere, if you let it. My shirt is still covered in the white powder, and I somehow get the feeling that I’m going to be covered in it for a long time – even after doing laundry. I’m very happy that it’s not glitter (called ‘craft herpes’ by some), but it’s still pretty pervading. And a little bit goes a LONG way.

We are incredibly resourceful as individuals, and we can find ways to entertain ourselves and not spend a dime. Not only do we have a lot of tools at our disposal, but there’s a lot of awesome imagination flowing here, too. A little bit of cash can go a long log way if you’re thinking about how little you can spend.

Timing is Essential

There is a point where you have to take the mixture off of the stove and pour it onto your baking sheet. Once the candy has been poured, you need to wait about a minute or two before starting to cut the candy into squares. Too early, and you’re using the knife to lift everything up with it – making a goopy mess. Too late, and the candy itself has hardened to the point where you can’t do anything other than break off a piece.

There are several reasons to time out your finances well. One, you need to make sure that you’re getting the maximum for your dollar – some places don’t allow you to carry over a credit. For many, money is hard to get a hold of, so might as well spend it as effectively as possible. That timing can give a little bit of leeway or feel like it’s being wasted. Your choice.

Looks like Crap, Still Tastes Good

No, there are no pictures of this lime candy. It’s not pretty, though. There’s confectioner’s sugar everywhere, candy has the great ability to shatter into a ton of pieces, and those pieces are not wrapped up all nicenice for other people’s consumption. It’s quite rough, but extremely functional as far as candy goes. Actually, I plan on making more of this for later.

The diference between being a dreamer and being a doer is that a doer will put whatever they’re doing out there and then try to make it better later. The dreamer will try to perfect whatever it is before they put it out, running the risk of never getting it out there. You don’t have to have a perfect budgeting plan, you just need to have a plan.

Here’s the recipe for lime candy:

2 cups water
2 cups sugar
2 tsp essential lime oil
1/2 to 1 cup confectioners sugar (for dusting)

Equipment needed:
Candy thermometer
Baking sheet
Wax paper
Dull knife

Before starting, take your baking sheet, cover it with wax paper, then dust the whole thing with confectioners sugar. Don’t go crazy with the dusting – just enough to cover the whole thing.

The wax paper keeps everything from sticking to the baking sheet. The confectioners sugar keeps your mixture from sticking to the wax paper.

Attach the candy thermometer to the pot, making sure that the bulb doesn’t directly touch the bottom. Turn on the heat and start stirring. Stir until the sugar is dissolved in the water and it starts boiling.

Keep working at it until the temperature reaches 300-310 degrees (hard crack stage). It will take around 10 minutes, and you have to keep an eye on it.

When the temp reaches 300-310, turn off the heat and add the flavoring, giving it a slight stir so it permeates the entire mixture. Pour the mix onto the baking sheet, making sure that it’s evenly spread.

The mix will start cooling immediately. After a minute or two, test to see if you can cut the newly poured mixture without it lifting everything else with it. When you’re able to do that, start cutting the sheet to get the candy into pieces.

Run your knife down, then across, making little squares. Keep doing it until you’re not able to separate the pieces anymore. After it’s cooled slightly, you’ve got candy! Awesome, awesome lime candy.