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Hard candy technology problem

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 

I'm been making hard candy castings for some time, and concentrate on high detail castings.  The problem is that hard boiled sugar absorbs so much moisture that it's becoming very difficult to maintain detail and quality for any length of time.  I've been using confectioner's glaze but that's not a long term solution.  I'm considering Isomalt but the cost is quite high.  


I was wondering where to find a sugar technologist that can help me with developing a receipe that will suit the needs of my product.


post #2 of 22

If those are examples of your work it's very impressive!!!

here's a couple of questions: Do you want your sculptures to remain edible? 

any sugar like ingredient, including isomalt, will be hygroscopic (soak up humidity).

I can propose 2 quick solutions: coat the cast with an hydrophobic (hates water layer) like mineral oil (better than vegetable oil), wax or silicone spray.  Any of these ingredients can be food grade.

The other solution is to enclose in a sealed container either under vacuum or with an humidity adsorbent (not a typo) i.e. silica gel... the little packet of beads found in shoe boxes.


Hope this helps?

Luc H.

I eat science everyday, do you?
I eat science everyday, do you?
post #3 of 22
Thread Starter 

Thank-you for the reply Luc_H,


The idea is to maintain the edible aspect of the works; in fact I wanted to make them taste on par with any typical hard candy.  


There seems to be three ways to approach the problem; a coating, a recipe that incorporates a preservative, or barrier packaging.


I've tried confectioner's glaze (shellac) which does help with the hydroscopic problem but is a flavour barrier ; I've also tried sugar sanding which does not last long.  I also have tried oils as you suggested but they make packaging difficult and change the mouth feel of the candy.


I've tried shrink wrapping but vapour does penetrate the plastic and the sugar breaks down.  I haven't tried vacuum packaging.


I also haven't tried some of the commercial preservatives that are present in large scale candy so that's why I was wondering where to find a confectionery materials expert for advice on those preservatives.


post #4 of 22

For the sculpture to remain edible it is more difficult.


by the way preservative refers to a chemical to prevent microbiological or chemical degradation.  What you're looking for is not a preservative. You're looking for a manufacturing aid.


I cannot think of any ingredient you can put in your formula that would prevent your problem.  Are you using sugar (i.e. sucrose, caster sugar) or glucose?


The only possible alternative solution I can come up with is to pack and ship your sculpture in powdered silicone dioxide.  It's a moisture adsordent.  Unfortunately it will dull the surface of the piece (will look dusty, powdery) but will prevent humidity from touching the surface.  It could enhance the details in some way (trying to be encouraging here). Your sculpture will look like a starch moulded candy (powdery coating) instead of a glass sculpture.


hard candies are individually wrapped to prevent them from sticking together due to their hygroscopic nature.  It is the nature of the beast and I think nobody has found a solution to prevent that.


Good luck


Luc H.

I eat science everyday, do you?
I eat science everyday, do you?
post #5 of 22
Thread Starter 

Hmmmm…Silicone dioxide, never heard of that, and thank-you for that.   Basically Silica which acts as a desiccant.  Food grade because it's used in foods and pharmaceuticals.  Powdered sugar on high detail hard candy actually accentuates the detail; kind of like the "dry brush" technique that model makers use.  I'll check Silicone Dioxide out.

post #6 of 22

Can I ask where you got your molds? Do you make them? For a long time I've been wanting to make something like the old fashioned clear toy candies, but the molds are typically antiques and too expensive for me to want to buy just to play with. Are these single cast pieces? And nice details, seriously!


When it comes to sugar, theres not really a preservative in that sense. Like you said, you can use isomalt to get the results you want, but that is pricy. Otherwise, sugar does absorb moisture, thats the nature of it, its hygroscopic. Im assuming you already have your candy formula down, but obviously you would want to include a glucose syrup in it to prevent crystallization. And in your formula, you wouldn't want to have an acid present (such as tartaric acid or cream of tartar), since an acid will make it more hygroscopic, and you dont need it since the pieces are just being cast, and not pulled.


I think alot is going to come down to how you package the pieces. The next time your at the store take a look at how hard candy is packaged. They really are susceptible to the same problem your having, but they are packaged carefully. Hard candy is usually individually wrapped or enveloped, something like lifesavers or similar. Candy canes are also wrapped, but they are pretty much shrink wrapped, not really leaving any open air inside the package, and additionally, while its wrapped, you can easily admire the beauty of the piece. I was thinking this might be a option that can help you, along the lines of a shrink wrap (and hopefully the little arms of the t-rex hold up). Otherwise, you can pack the item in an air tight box with a desiccant, and again hope that during shipping the little delicate pieces dont snap.


How big are your pieces? Its sort of hard to tell from the pictures. Also, just wanted to say again, your work is totally awesome, I havent found anyone that makes this detailed of cast edible pieces. When I've searched for clear toys, some look very cool and detailed, but are made with molds you cant really get anymore. Anywho, keep up the good work!

post #7 of 22
Thread Starter 

Thank-you for the input Minas,


I understand your interest in toy candy as that is what spurred my interest in this form of sugar work.  Years ago I read a magazine article about a lady somewhere in the mid west who was making sugar castings from old metal moulds for christmas.  I too, could not find the metal moulds so I had to learn how to make the moulds myself.  Making the subject models, and learning the technology for mould making is quite involved and it has taken me quite some time to develop it.  The 3 dimensional dinosaurs are made from 3 and 4 part moulds and are cast in one pour; they are approximately 3 to 4 inches in height or width.  The pumpkin is 3 inches in diameter and is cast using a "slush" technique which leaves it hollow.


The detail is the selling point for castings like these,  but it's also the weakness, as any moisture absorbed into the sugar destroys the detail first.  I also make lollipops and have experimented with many types of packaging including shrink wrapping.  Shrink wrapping helps but after 14 days or so the sugar degrades; all plastics seem to allow vapour to pass through to some degree.  I think Luc_H may be correct in that a "manufacturing aid" or barrier as well as air tight wrapping is the solution.  The trick is to find a barrier that tastes really good. :)   I'm going to follow up on the silica idea and see if it's possible to create a mix of acids, sugar, and silica that would be similar to the sanding on sour candy.


post #8 of 22

Were you ever able to figure out a solution to your problem?

post #9 of 22
My thought is that with pieces this extraordinary, isomalt is the way to go. It's expensive, but your customers are paying for these amazing works, so they show be willing to absorb that cost. As far as I am aware, truly dry, food-safe vacuum packing is rare and expensive if you're not working at very, very large quantity scales. You could try looking for a local "maker" community and see if they have appropriate equipment on which you could rent time, but from what I've seen, the equipment won't be rated for food (nor will the environment).

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
post #10 of 22
Have you tried gum arabic?
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
post #11 of 22
Thread Starter 



The best solution that I found was to boil the sugar past 300 to 310 degrees in an atmosphere that had a relative humidity lower than 60%

post #12 of 22
Thread Starter 



I experimented with Isomalt but found that it also absorbed water vapor over time.  All clear plastic packaging is susceptible to water vapor penetration; but there are some better than others; for example Polypropylene has a Moisture Vapor Transmission Rate that is lower than most.

post #13 of 22
Thread Starter 



Looked for Gum Arabic but it's a bitch to find and seems to be very expensive.   Much of the Gum Arabic comes from the Sudan and the wars there are cutting the supply worldwide.

post #14 of 22


I have been making large candy pieces for years.  Because of the stability (or lack of) I only make the candy in the wintertime when the humidity is low. After they come out of the molds I wipe them down with lint free towel, and bag immediately. If I know it's going to need to be around awhile (few months)  I will put in Safe-Gel for Food (Silica Gel) packets. You can find them on Amazon.  The corn syrup recipes do tend to be stable longer.  I do historical reenacting so I can not use the corn syrup, I use cream of tartar in my recipe. 


AMAZING job on the molds.  I have wanted to make some of my own molds but have not tried yet.  I have made replacement pieces for molds missing parts. 


post #15 of 22

Welcome to Chef Talk @PaBuglady .


You pieces are lovely...

I do have one question.... what does corn syrup have to do with reenacting ?



post #16 of 22

sudan and gum arabic is a myth to charge a lot. try cabosil m5f but i think will be to cloudy. maybe 10x or 6x sugar? i would use some plastic like pe, will check if i have a photo

post #17 of 22
Thread Starter 



PaBuglady is probably referring to the fact that historically, corn syrup was not used in traditional hard candy.  If you want to be accurate when using those beautiful old metal molds then you would use the old recipes which used cream of tarter or other means to prevent the boiled sugar from crystallizing.  Love those old molds, very hard to find.

post #18 of 22

Yes, on the corn syrup. Historically they would not have had it yet.   I have been collecting molds for many years. I have almost 400....  If you ever want me to make a positive of something I can try and do it for you. 

post #19 of 22

I get it....was totally off in another direction.

Was wracking my brain and even tried a short search but gave up.

Thanks for the answer and thanks for the offer as well.

Welcome to Chef Talk.




Edited by flipflopgirl - 11/21/16 at 4:14am
post #20 of 22
Thread Starter 

Make a positive, that would be fantastic,


I'm looking for the old Christmas images from the 1930's and 40's; do you have any of those.....George

post #21 of 22

There are not a ton of christmas molds from that time for hard candy. I know I have a santa going down a chimney.  Let me find it this week and get you a photo. 

post #22 of 22

Those are pretty freakin rad.  Your best bet is to package the sugar with silica packs.  A clear plastic box would probably work pretty well.  It's ok if there is a little bit of moisture intrusion as long as there's something that wants to absorb moisture more than sugar hanging around.  I made hard candies in Florida for years.  Silica gel is the way to go.


I have played around with the old molds before.  I even got to chat with the owner of schimpf confectionery about how they used to use the old drop rollers and toy candy molds.  I was all excited to ask him how they got the metal molds to release the candy without damaging the details or using too much oil.  His answer: "They didn't"  Apparently they just sold them however they came out and most of the time the detail wasn't that good.


@PaBuglady I would love for someone to make some STL files so that anyone can print a 3-d positive.  It would be a cool heritage project.  Perhaps one day when I have time...

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