Cotton Candy: The History of This Tasty Treat

When I was a child, one of my favorite treats at the local fairs was cotton candy. When I became old enough to realize that this confection is made of a hundred percent pure sugar, I moreless gave it up in favor of chocolate treats.

Cotton candy has a history that goes back far, far beyond my childhood days. In fact, two men named John Wharton and William Morrison invented the first electric cotton candy machine and patented it in 1899. The manufacturing concept was simple: their machine melted the sugar down and then spun it around rapidly. The result was a light, airy, threaded candy that was originally called, “Spun Sugar” or “Fairy Floss.” The finished product was twirled onto a stick or paper cone so it could be held and eaten with a minimal amount of mess.

To make the sweet confection more appealing to the eye, food coloring was then added to it. Plus, flavorings have also been added.

Soon after Wharton and Morrison invented their cotton candy machine, a man named Thomas Patton secured a patent on a different way to make the sugary confection. Instead of melting the sugar, Patton caramelized it. He then formed light threads by using a fork.

Spun Sugar, or Fairy Floss, made its first public appearance at the Paris Exposition in 1900. From then, in 1920, its name was changed to “cotton candy.” Cotton candy has since become an American favorite at amusement parks, fairs, carnivals, and circuses. It’s most often seen in pink or blue colors.

You don’t have to wait until fair season to enjoy this age-old treat at home. You can easily make your own cotton candy, and it’s not that hard to do. Your kids or grandchildren will have a great time helping you too!

Just be sure that you make it on a day that the weather is cool and dry. Cotton candy is, of course, made from sugar. The sugar will absorb moisture from the air. This absorption will result in a sticky, melted mess.

You’ll need 5 cups of white, granulated sugar, 1-1/3 cups of light corn syrup, 1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons of tap water, flavorings, food coloring, and non-stick vegetable oil spray. Check your local bakery supply store for the flavorings. Or, you can always perform a search on the Internet to find them.

You’ll also need a 2 quart heavy duty saucepan, 2 long handled wooden spoons, an old wire whisk with the round bottom cut off, a candy thermometer, a tempered glass bowl, and some old newspapers. You can use a pair of wire cutters to remove the rounded bottom of the wire whisk.

Now, you’re ready to begin this fun, tasty project. Stir together the sugar, light corn syrup, and the tap water in the saucepan. Cook the mixture over medium heat. You’ll need the sugary mixture to reach a temperature of 320 degrees Fahrenheit.

In the meantime, while you’re waiting on the candy to reach the correct temperature, you’ll need to set up your work area. Put the two long handled wooden spoons on the edge of a countertop or table so their handles are sticking out in the air. Hold the ends down by using one or two heavy objects, such as books. Spray them with a very light coating of the nonstick vegetable oil. Spread the old newspapers out underneath the ends of the spoons. The newspaper will protect your floor.

Then, after the mixture reaches the desired temperature, remove the pan from the heat. Quickly pour it into a tempered glass bowl. Be careful! It’s hot! Add the flavoring and the food coloring and stir them in well.

Dip the tines of the whisk into the sugar and then hold it up for a couple seconds to let the excess drip off. Then, wave the whisk high over the handles of the wooden spoons so the candy drifts down on them. Repeat this process until you have used all of the melted sugar. You’ll need to work quickly so the mixture doesn’t harden before you’re done!

Once the cotton candy has hardened on the spoons, carefully remove it. Place it on freezer paper or use wax paper so it doesn’t stick.

For the best taste, your batch of homemade cotton candy should be eaten right away. Enjoy!

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