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"Can I use honey to prevent my candies from crstallizing?"

I'd like to know if honey is an ingredient that can be used to decrystallize candies cooked with sugar and milk. When I make pralines, which call for sugar, butter, milk, pecans, and flavorings, after about two weeks the pralines turn white—basically into sugar. How can this be prevented?

— Ursula Williams


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Dear Ursula,

It's got to be holiday season, as questions on candy are appearing more often! Pralines are a much-appreciated festive treat, but come to think of it, they're simply delicious at any time of the year.

When your pralines turn white, you are seeing the recrystallization of sugar. And you are right that honey does technically slow down the rate at which crystals form in candy. However, it is not commonly used because of its high fructose content. Of all the various sugar components, fructose is the one that most easily absorbs moisture from the air during cooking and during storage. So candies that contain honey often end up being on the sticky side, which isn't desirable.

Consider trying corn syrup instead because it does such a fine job of stopping the formation of crystals. It's a popular, inexpensive, and very effective interfering substance and it doesn't become sticky as candy is stored over a period of time. Because corn syrup is slightly less sweet than sugar, it also tends to reduce the sweetness of the finished candy. Instead of 1 cup of brown sugar and 1 cup of granulated sugar, try 1 cup of brown sugar, 3/4 cup of granulated sugar, and 1/3 cup of corn syrup. You will also likely have to cook the praline syrup to a slightly higher temperature (238° F - 240°F/114° C - 115° C) because of the presence of the corn syrup. Using a candy thermometer makes reaching the exact desired temperature an easy process.

Because one of the characteristics of sugar is its ability to attract moisture, make sure to store your pralines in an airtight container and never in the refrigerator.

Good luck with the candy-making and Happy Holidays!
Anne and Sue



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