Candy Corn: Buy It Vs. Make It
Okay, fine. That’s not my candy corn. My candy corn came out looking like teeth, which was ironic because trying to bite them almost broke my real teeth. I may as well tell you, this was a bit of an epic fail — but an entertaining one.
I was so excited to make my own candy corn. This is just the sort of geeky home-brew thing I live for. Sure, those other moms might make their own perfectly white Martha Stewart marshmallows, but candy corn have their own garish place in the pop-culture pantheon. They are polarizing: my friend Marjorie calls them “tiny fangs of vomit,” while I am seriously calling supermarkets to see who has the candy-corn-flavored Oreos in stock.
All this is to say that I was delighted when I found several versions of a candy corn recipe online. They all centered around the same basic ingredients, but there was a variation in how careful you had to be. Some recipes just recommended eyeballing the mixture; others were super-diligent about weighing ingredients rather than using measuring cups, and about using a candy thermometer.
The minute I start weighing things and using a candy thermometer, I’m automatically catapulted past any acceptable limit of “effort.” This column is called “buy it vs. make it,” not “make it at all costs.” The implication is that I’m essentially a big lazy bum unless there’s a compelling reason not to be. And high-school chemistry experiments in my kitchen is just one Bunsen burner too far.
Besides, when I read the comments on each different recipe, approximately the same proportion of people were successful. No matter what you do, it seems, your candy corn can be a disaster. Which mine was. Here goes …
On the surface, this is not a difficult recipe, and probably if I cared enough to try it a couple more times, I could get it right. You melt stuff in one pot, you combine sugar with milk powder in a bowl, you mix them together, and you wait till it’s cool enough to knead. Then you roll and chop the mix into happy little tricolored triangles. Should be easy, but some scientific algorithm having to do with heat and melting and whatever else left me with two cement-hard lumps.
It’s not exactly expensive to make candy corn. You need corn syrup, confectioner’s sugar, butter, vanilla extract, and a scoop of dry milk powder (I used my husband’s whey protein from his breakfast-smoothie stash). Those are all pantry items in my house, but I’ll price it out, based on Safeway’s prices and Alton Brown’s weighted measurements:
Karo syrup, 4.5 oz at 25 cents/ounce = $1.00
Nonfat dry milk, .5 oz at 50 cents/ounce = $1.25
3.5 oz granulated sugar at 55 cents/ounce = $.18
2 tablespoons of butter at 25 cents/ounce = $.50
If you add all-natural food coloring, that’s twenty buckeroonis, and nobody in this column is shelling that out. So it’s a total of about $2.29 for this recipe, which is supposed to make about 80 pieces.
According to the package, 22 pieces of Brach’s candy corn weighs in at about 1.375 ounces. It’s $.15 an ounce at Safeway right now, so 88 pieces would be about 5.5 ounces, or 83 cents (if you round up). It is much, much cheaper to buy it. About a penny a corn!
(Though I just discovered that Jelly Belly makes candy corn. That has got to be amazecorns. It’s $.96 per ounce, so more than five bucks for 80 corns, assuming they’re the same size as the cheapies …)
Believe it or not, mine is good! It’s very tasty. Even when it turned out to be a disaster, I couldn’t help gnawing on it. But part of the joy of candy corn is the waxy, artificial texture. And that, friends, is sadly lost when you make it yourself.
Ok, my editor made me hand over photos of my candy corn debacle … be kind!
As you can see, the initial mix doesn’t exactly look auspicious.
Homemade candy corn or shark teeth … you make the call!
Well, at least they capture the Halloween spirit in one respect: they’re scary.
What’s the verdict? Check out all our Buy It vs. Make It comparisons!