Master the art of making hard candy, then impress your kids with a batch of homemade ring pops that they can wear and lick at the same time. Purchase ring pop sticks online or at specialty baking and candymaking stores. Or the reuse plastic rings from store-bought ring pops. Making your own allows you to customize the flavor. While they are fairly easy to make, pay careful attention when boiling the sugar, as it is easy to burn the mixture.
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Spray candy molds lightly with oil to prevent sticking. Choose a flavorless oil spray for best results.
Melt sugar and a small amount of water in a non-reactive pot on medium heat, using a 2-to-1 ratio of sugar to water. Use white sugar to make a clear, translucent syrup for brightly colored ring pops. Use brown sugar if you do not mind a murkier-looking candy.
Scrape down the sides of the pot as the sugar dissolves and becomes a clear, bubbling syrup without crystallization, which makes candy look cloudy. Carefully stir the syrup with a spatula to even out hot spots. Be careful as the syrup is extremely hot.
Bring the syrup to a boil. Test the temperature with a candy thermometer, but make sure it does not touch the bottom of the pan. Remove the pan from the heat when the thermometer reads 290 degrees Fahrenheit. Allow the syrup to continue heating in the pan to 300 F, which is the hard crack stage for candymaking.
Test that it has reached the hard crack stage by dropping a small amount of the syrup into cold water. It should form a hard, easily broken thread of sugar. If it does not, reheat the syrup until it reaches 300 to 310 F for five minutes. Be careful not to scorch or caramelize the sugar.
Flavor and color the syrup with food coloring and flavorings, such as maple, almond or vanilla. As many extracts are highly concentrated, add no more than a 1/4 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of flavoring. If you are using fruit flavors, add 1/8 teaspoon to 1/4 teaspoon of citric acid for a slightly tart taste.
Carefully pour the hot syrup into the molds, filling them until the liquid almost reaches the brim. Insert the ring pop sticks stick-side down into the molds.
Let the candies cool until they are room temperature, then carefully remove them from the molds. Wiggle the ring pops gently rather than pulling harshly to reduce the chances of cracking.
Wrap ring pops individually in plastic wrap or vacuum seal them in bags.