Sticky, candy-coated fingers and fluorescent-dyed tongues are luxuries too often overlooked past the playground and training wheel years. A scolding from the dentist is well worth the opportunity to cast off the candy wrappers and get to twirling some sugar on a stick. Whether you’re the type to swirl and savor for hours or can’t keep from chomping right in for a hard candy crack, homemade lollipops will provide a sugar high suited to the matured palate with the addition of your favorite cider.
While we chose a cherry cider for its bold natural red tone, this recipe can incorporate any blend you’re loyal to, or simply whatever bottle you’ve got in the fridge at the moment. In a nod to Valentine’s Day, these homemade pops can also make a festive and thoughtful gift for a cider-loving beau, as a treat to pass out at the office or a tray full to devour solo or share with a roommate any time.
Recipe adapted from Food Network
2 ½ cups granulated sugar
½ cup corn syrup
1-cup cider (we used Julian Hard Cider Cherry Bomb)
Sparkling sugar or sprinkles (optional)
Parchment paper or nonstick baking liner
Candy thermometer (reasonably priced at many grocery stores, available at craft stores such as Michaels or online)
4-cup heatproof measuring cup
Lollipop sticks (available at most craft stores, such as Michaels, or online)
Line cookie sheet with parchment paper or nonstick liner. Coat a medium saucepan with nonstick cooking spray.
Combine sugar, cider and corn syrup in saucepan. Stir and bring to a boil. Insert thermometer and allow mixture to cook until temperature reaches 300 degrees (hard crack).
Remove saucepan from heat and onto a cool part of the stove. Allow mixture to cool to 275 degrees. Once cooled just slightly, transfer mixture to heatproof measuring cup with extreme caution (mixture will be very hot). Allow bubbles to dissipate.
Again with extreme caution, gently place heaping teaspoons of mixture directly onto prepared sheet. Note: we found allowing the mixture to reach a slightly more viscous consistency and then carefully using the measuring cup’s pouring spout to gently drop coin-sized circles onto the sheet to work best. The pops will likely not spread into uniform circles, but that’s okay! For the perfectionist: if you’d prefer to use a makeshift mold, refer to the powdered sugar method (such as the one used here).
Place lollipop stick on top and gently turn it over to coat. Embellish with sugar or sprinkles if desired and set aside to cool and harden completely.
The finished mixture can be held for up to an hour in a 250-degree oven, so there’s no need to work in a fury.
The super-heated sugar will, of course, caramelize, making for a mostly sweet and toasty caramel flavor and color. The lollipops will also take on a hint of the cider’s tone — in this case, they got their slight golden red from Cherry Bomb’s Montmorency cherries.
The cider flavor tends to come through as more of a whisper than a bang in this recipe, so if the subtle cider infusion doesn’t quite meet your candy needs, you can also add a complementary extract (for instance, cinnamon, cherry or cranberry extract can add further depth and/or natural color).
Tips to make cleanup much easier: Once you’ve scraped the syrupy sugar and cider mixture out of the saucepan, immediately fill with water, boil to loosen the mixture, carefully dump and scrub (if rinsing, use more hot water). Other utensils you may have used can be added to the pot for a quick boil. For anything that cannot be boiled (i.e. – measuring cup), heat water in an electric kettle or on the stove, pour over the sticky mixture and allow it to sit for a few minutes. Any leftover candy drippings can be left overnight to harden and chiseled away with relative ease the next day. All worth it for a bundle of grownup-proof lollipops.