What’s Wrong with my Homemade Fondant?
Ask the Expert!
Reading Time: 2 minutes
Christine Proulx asked:
I made a double batch of the fondant. It turned out as hard candy, not soft, pliable fondant. I will still feed it, but would like to know — is that a result of boiling too long? (I used a candy thermometer & watched the temperatures closely — took off heat when it reached 235 and waited until 190 before mixing).
Rusty Burlew answers:
The best place to go for good information on making candy is a reliable all-purpose cookbook. I use Better Homes & Gardens, but most general cookbooks have a candy section. Once there, read the instructions on cooking and testing sugar mixtures.
I think the thing most likely to go wrong is the temperature measurement. Always start by boiling water and sticking your thermometer in it to see at what temperature water boils where you live. Altitude affects the boiling point, but more often, the thermometer is off. I use three thermometers when I make something sensitive, and they never read the same!
Once you know the boiling point shown by your thermometer, just find the difference from 212, and add or subtract that number from all the temperatures in the recipe. So if your water boils at 215, add three degrees to the “done” point.
The other thing that affects candy is humidity. If it is very dry outside, the candy mixture will continue to lose water as it cools. Remember that the hardness of the candy is determined by the amount of water left in the mixture. So if you cook it to the right temperature, but water keeps leaving while you’re waiting for it to cool, it can possibly to go to the next stage.
That brings up another point worth remembering. The amount of water you need to make candy is the amount of water you need to dissolve the sugar. So when a recipe says to use (as in this example) 1 part water to 4 parts sugar, it is just a guideline. You could just as easily use 10 or 20 times as much water. Although it would take much, much longer to drive off the water, the end point is determined by the temperature, and the temperature is determined by how much water remains in the mixture.
I mention that because sometimes people say, “Maybe I didn’t add enough water.” But the amount of water you start with makes no difference in the end.
Another thing that could skew the results is the vinegar. Most candy recipes are designed to use sucrose (table sugar). When you add an acid, say vinegar, you invert the sucrose into its two components, glucose and fructose. Once you invert the sucrose I don’t know if you will actually get the same results at any particular temperature. I’m here paging through recipes in cookbooks and I don’t see any that use vinegar.
Beekeepers add vinegar to fondant recipes under the mistaken idea that you need to invert the sucrose for the bees. This is not true. Most nectar is mainly sucrose, but the instant the bees ingest it, their saliva breaks it down into glucose and fructose. The same happens with table sugar. So while inverting the sugar won’t hurt the bees, they don’t require it, and there’s a chance the inverted sugars don’t work as well in these recipes. Of course, you will find people who say it works perfectly. Maybe so. Like I said, I don’t know for sure, but I think it’s a potential problem.
One thought on “What’s Wrong with my Homemade Fondant?”
The addition of acid, especially with heat, can cause some of the fructose to break down into HMF (hydroxymethyl furfural), which is highly toxic to bees. It’s better to K.I.S.S. Even better is to feed heavy syrup in the fall to bring the hive up to weight and again in early spring when broodrearing starts if needed. Bees can ingest and then store syrup where they can use it. Solid sugar is much harder to use. In fact, where I live in Colorado it’s too dry for the bees to use sugar unless there’s enough water to make it into syrup. Best of all, of course, is to leave the bees with sufficient honey in fall, but that’s not always possible.