Cotton Candy

A popular favorite at events big and small. With its sweet flavor and unique texture, there is something magical about the way a fluffy piece of cotton candy melts in your mouth.

Have you ever wondered how this colorful confection is made? Or perhaps you have made it, but would like a few tips to make it easier next time. Read on ...

Making Cotton Candy:

For 5 months I made my living making cotton candy. I noticed a few things along the way. First of all, you should be forewarned that:

  • People are drawn to watching cotton candy be made. You will have an audience watching you enjoy your work!
  • There is a high possibility that you will find yourself covered from head to toe in a sweet, sticky substance. Please, resist the urge to lick yourself in public!
  • Exposure to cotton candy depress for an extended time may lead to the super-power of being able to blow rainbows out your nose and into a tissue.

Many people seem to be fascinated, at the process that turns pure sugar into a cloud of sweetness, so fluffy that they can eat a service as big as their head and still have room for more!

Well, it isn’t quite “pure” sugar. The first step in preparing cotton candy is to mix the sugar with a bit of colorful, flavored dye. Start with a heaping spoonful of die in a few cups of sugar. It will take a little trial and error to get the hue that you want. Just know that it will get darker as the dye melts into the sugar.

Once your sugar mixture is ready, turn on the machine. Check the directions to see if your machine needs to warm up first. Then pour in your sugar.

It doesn’t take much… a cup or so will go a looong way! As the machine warms up, it will slowly melt the sugar and spin out that light and fluffy substance we all love.

Wait for a thin layer to build up (half an inch or so) before spinning your stick/cone in the bin. You can let it get thicker if you will be bagging it instead of spinning onto a stick. Just know that the machine may spit out an occasional hot semi-melted sugar pellet. They sting! But in five months I never had a serious burn from one.

Now for the tricky part:

 

Once the candy is bagged comes the part that took me over a week to master: Tying the bag. It sounds easy enough. Just grab a twist tie and tie it as if it were a bag of fruit. Right?

Bagging cotton candy can be tricky. You want to envelope it in a fluffy pillow of air, making sure the bag doesn't collapse on itself and squish the candy inside.

By the time you have one bag tied and hung up, it will be time to fill the next one. Repeat the collecting and tying process until you have spun out all the sugar. Turn off the machine if you are finished or need to take a break. Otherwise, pour in more sugar and continue.

Tips of the trade:

  • Spraying your hands with a thin layer of Pam cooking spray will keep the candy from sticking as bad.
  • Wear a hat. It is really hard to brush your hair when it is covered in sugar! If you do end up with sugar in your hair, rinse well with extremely warm water. This will dissolve the sugar for easier removal / washing  / brushing.
  • Do not keep your drink near by. It will get extra sugar in it and condensation on your hands easily becomes a sticky mess! If you must have a drink near by, make sure it is in a well insulated cup (to avoid condensation) and consider a lid and straw.

Taking Care of Your Cotton Candy:

Do you have high hopes of your candy lasting more than a few hours? These tips will help slow the process of it transforming into a syrupy block of sugar:

  1. Keep it fluffy. Did you read what I said earlier about keeping the bag as fluffy and pillowy as possible? It really does help!
  2. Keep it dry. Moisture will melt it so quickly!
  3. Keep it cool. My boss actually kept our concession stand around 55 degrees to ensure our cotton candy made it through the day!

The Memories:

Need a little humor in your day? I have three memories to share from my days as a professional cotton candy maker.

#1. Make It Blue

For some reason, the blue dye we used in our cotton candy was the most finicky color! Within days of being open it would change from a fine powder into a hard block. Any time we needed to make blue cotton candy, I had to rub the blocks together.

As the blocks of blue slowly turned back into powder form, people would watch and comment that they never knew making cotton candy was such hard work!

#2. I Spilled The Blue

At one particularly busy spot (Gilmer, Texas), we had all three bins spinning and could barely keep up with the orders. With no time to spare making blue, I decided to be smart and open a new can of powder. ... At least I thought I was being smart. Who knew that a little spill of blue powder could turn into such a huge mess?

5 ladies working in a small concession stand, making and selling cotton candy, sno cones, drinks, candy apples, and popcorn. As the floor got damp from the occasional bumps and spills, that little bit of blue powder slowly took over. HELP! It’s the ATTACK OF THE BLUE!! Our shoes, our pants, the floor, the cooler, the box of apples – all stained blue.

#3. No Bees Please

Somebody once told me that bees are only attracted to the nectar in flowers. That person clearly hasn't seen honey bees swarming after the sweets we had!

Unfortunately, the customers weren't pleased to find complimentary bees in their bags of cotton candy. We got several returns that day.

#4. Winter Wonderland

I have already told you that cotton candy keeps best at cool temperatures. My boss preferred to keep our popper at 55 degrees to ensure that our cotton candy made it through the evening!

It happened when we were in her hometown. I was sooo cold and people kept on asking me why I was wearing a jacket on such a warm summer night. That question got me to thinking … Things were going a little slow. I had made enough candy to get us through the night and probably the next day. So why not add a little fun and see what happens? I came up with a winter wonderland theme for our concession stand.

I covered the front counter with a layer of the sweet substance I had been working with all evening. Then I took some yellow and made a few balls. Stacked them up and I had a snowman! Did it a few more times and we had a whole sugar-snow family! I went on to make hats, eyes, noses, and a few other items that came to mind. By the time my boss returned to see how things were going, I had stopped selling “cotton candy” and was giving people the opportunity to buy their very own “Summer Snowman Kits.”

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