How to Make Cotton Candy at Home
Cotton candy is connected for many of us with happy childhood memories. It can be identified with county fairs, the amusements or special days out during the summer. However, this doesn't mean cotton candy (or candy floss as it is sometimes known) should be relegated to the past or only enjoyed when at an event. You can make cotton candy at home to relive these memories or even create your own. To do this, you can purchase a cotton candy machine. However, these can take up space and it might be better to make it without one.
At oneHOWTO, we explain how to make cotton candy at home with or without a cotton candy machine. Our first method is known as dragon's beard candy which uses a traditional Chinese method. We even show you how you can make homemade cotton candy with a comb!
- Pastry brush
- 2 round plastic containers with wide bases and not very high (typical for serving Chinese food).
- Kitchen thermometer
- Plastic comb or comb
Chinese cotton candy recipe (dragon's beard)
This method of making homemade cotton candy is known as dragon's beard cotton candy. This is a Chinese method similar to how noodles are prepared by hand. It involves pulling the caramel until it forms many thin strands. It is a little time consuming, but it is also effective and delicious.
Toast the flour in the oven or pan for a couple of minutes and reserve. It will be the basis for making homemade cotton candy.
In a saucepan off the heat, pour in the rest of the ingredients. Follow this order: sugar, water, corn syrup, and vinegar. Mix with a wooden spoon to integrate the ingredients well. Next, heat the saucepan over medium low heat without stirring. If you boil the mixture too much it can crystalize the sugar, meaning you can't make cotton candy.
Monitor the temperature constantly. This preparation is very precise and you cannot go overboard with the heat, so do not let it boil over.
Run a wet brush around the edges if you see the sugar crystallize on the sides. Remember that making cotton candy at home involves handling the candy with great care. if you get any of the molten mixture on your skin it can stick and cause severe burns.
Wait until the caramel reaches about 133 ºC/271 ºF. It is very important that you check it with a thermometer, since it would be very difficult to get the temperature right without it. Once at this temperature, remove from the heat.
Let the preparation rest for a few minutes. The caramel needs to be lowered to 100 ºC/212 ºF before continuing to make the homemade cotton candy.
When it has reached the ideal temperature, pour the caramel into a silicone mold, ideally greased with some spray coating. If you have a silicone mold with a hole in the middle (e.g. for a bunt cake), this is ideal. Do it slowly to avoid bubbles or you burning yourself. Do not use glass containers, otherwise it will be difficult for you to remove the caramel from its mold.
Let it sit at room temperature for a few hours. The longer the caramel rests, the better it will compact afterwards.
Once enough time has passed, remove from the mold. Flip the container upside down by pressing your thumbs on the bottom until it pops out.
If you used a mold with a hole in it, this will be easier. If not, you will need to make a hold in the middle of the harden caramel. With the end of a clean wooden spoon, work a hole into the middle until it is about an inch wide. You want to have a donut shaped piece of caramel at the end.
If you have a caramel which is too hard, you can soften it one of two ways:
- Heat the caramel in the microwave: it is not the most advisable, but it is the fastest. With 2-4 seconds it will be enough for the caramel to acquire a higher temperature, meaning you can manipulate it more easily.
- Work directly with your hands: this option will take longer, but it is also the most traditional. When handling the caramel to prepare the cotton candy, the heat of your hands will raise the temperature and will progressively facilitate the work.
To start manipulating the caramel, place it on your table which has been liberally spread over with your toasted cornstarch.
Place your fingers in the hole you made earlier. Now stretch out the caramel gently until the ring starts becoming larger.
When the piece has acquired elasticity by warming in your hands and it has grown in size, double it over onto itself and repeat the same process. If it is too large, break the caramel donut into smaller pieces and do this process on each piece.
Keep dipping into the cornstarch so it doesn't stick onto your hands.
Keep repeating the procedure by folding it into a figure 8 and then making a ring. You must repeat this step up to 14 times to get the candy floss texture of very thin strands.
This recipe for dragon's beard cotton candy at home needs between 3 and 4 hours of rest of preparation time before it can be eaten. Keep in mind that the texture takes time to acquire its final shape. It will go from being an elastic candy to being totally brittle.
Your homemade cotton candy without a machine is ready! You can serve it directly for consumption or use it as a decoration for cakes or other desserts.
How to make homemade cotton candy with a comb
Next, we show you how to prepare cotton candy at home with a comb. With this method you will get a very similar result, although the final texture is more like the professionally made commercial cotton candy you can buy at fairs. It does require manipulating the caramel while it is hot, so children should be nowhere near you when making this.
- Line the table or counter with parchment paper. You need a surface that is as wide as possible, so it is comfortable for you to work with. Tape the parchment paper together on the face-down side.
- Prepare the caramel. The procedure is identical to that used to make Chinese-style cotton candy at home.
- If you want to add flavor and color. Apply the essence and/or food coloring just after removing the caramel from the heat, and stir until they are completely integrated.
- Protect yourself well before starting work. Hot caramel burns are among the most severe in the kitchen, so don't skimp on precautions: wear gloves, an apron, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt.
- Have a new comb handy. Buy a new clean comb and keep it exclusively for making cotton candy at home. Choose one with many teeth, so the sugar strands will be thinner.
- Dip the comb in the caramel. When you take it out, let it the caramel drip off into strands.
- Use a sweeping motion with the comb. On top of the paper-lined table, run the comb from side to side in quick movements. Make several movements until the comb runs out of caramel.
- Pick up the extended strands. You can roll them on a skewer without tips or use them directly to decorate desserts once they have cooled.
Alternatively, instead of using a comb, you can use a whisk with the end cut off so you have tines sticking out. However, use a cheap whisk as it won't work as a whisk anymore.
How to make homemade cotton candy with a machine
If you are going to prepare cotton candy at home with a machine, do not miss the following tricks so that you have a wonderful result:
- If you don't have any candy floss holders, cut off the ends of the skewer sticks and set aside.
- Run the machine for 3-4 minutes before using it. The idea is to let it heat up before adding the sugar, something similar to preheating an oven.
- Substitute caramel for sugar. It is worth using candies of any type or color. Of course, in each batch use 3 of the same type.
- Pass the skewer through the internal sides of the machine. Do it as if you were stirring a stew. At the same time, between your fingers, rotate the skewer constantly.
- Repeat for as many as you need.
Now that you know how to make homemade cotton candy, you can learn how to make similar treats with our guides below:
If you want to read similar articles to How to Make Cotton Candy at Home, we recommend you visit our Recipes category.
- The original oriental recipe uses 25 grams of maltose instead of 30 grams of invert sugar.
- The invert sugar and vinegar serve to prevent the caramel from crystallizing.
- If you don't have syrup or use honey
- If you don't have cornstarch, you can also use cassava starch, rice flour, etc.
- If you don't have vinegar, use the juice of ½ lemon