Candy Floss, or Cotton Candy’s origin is a lot older than it might seem. Anyone looking upon it might consider it a decidedly modern invention, and while it has undergone massively significant changes, the origin of this seaside fancy goes all the way back to 15th Century Italy. Italian cooks created sculptures from a similar concept in spun sugar. They began by melting the sugar, then drawing it out with a fork and draping the thin strands over a wooden broom handle. This was so intricate that Henri III of France was treated to an all-sugar banquet – including sugar spun cutlery and tablecloths on a state visit to 16th Century Venice.
Over time this became more popular among high society, but it was still not easy to make. This was a labour-intensive thing to do and did not become commonplace until an invention from a rather cynical source.
Candy Floss (or Cotton Candy) as we know it was invented by dentist William Morrison, and confectioner John C. Wharton. In 1897, they created and patented what was called an electric candy machine: a metal bowl containing a central spinning head filled with sugar crystals and perforated with minuscule holes. This worked much like modern machines do. A heater would melt the sugar while being spun at 3,400 RPM, forcing the liquid sugar through the holes which then solidifies almost instantly into long, skinny strands. The end result was the amorphous and tasty mess we know and love.
As you might expect, candy floss requires expensive and heavy-duty equipment to make, so we’re going to give spun sugar a try instead! Try it out yourself with the recipe below.
Raspberry, lemon, almond, vanilla, or other extract or oil (for flavouring)
Cooking spray or vegetable oil
Prepare a clear surface, and lay some plastic wrap or newspaper down upon it (You’ll be using parchment paper to spin the sugar, so this is to avoid the mess of hot, sticky sugar getting onto your worktop).
Combine the ingredients together in a large heavy-bottomed pot, then continuously stir over medium heat until all the sugar has been melted. Use the thermometer to make sure the mixture has reached 220 degrees centigrade.
Transfer the sugar mixture into a large, heat-safe bowl. This will stop the sugar from burning.
Now we need to work fast, it’s time to spin the sugar!
Dip the tines of your whisk into the mixture, then quickly drizzle the thinning sugar strands back and forth across the parchment paper until you have a “nest” of candy strands. The thickening process will start after about 10 minutes. From here, you can either eat the cotton candy in clumps or spin it onto lollipop or popsicle sticks.
Serve and enjoy!
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