Sunday, July 12, 2015

Making licorice

I've been trying to make red licorice (red vines style; twizzlers are inedible) for years now, off and on. This week I bought a bag of red vines and noticed the ingredients consist of corn syrup, wheat flour, flavoring, coloring, and citric acid.

There's not much you can do with those ingredients, so I started experimenting.

First I tried cooking the corn syrup (1/2 cup) to soft crack stage, stirring in flour (2 tbsp) and kool aid powder (flavor, color, and citric acid in one fell swoop; half a packet), and then pulling it like taffy (on the assumption that licorice is like a modified taffy). It came out this really cool candy that shattered when I dropped it or smacked it into anything, but became quite taffy-chewy when you sucked it for a minute. Tasted good, too. Tastes good, fun to eat--but not licorice.

Then I tried cooking it to soft ball stage (1/2 c corn syrup) and adding flour (3-4 tbsp this time) and kool aid powder (the other half packet), rolling it into ropes, and letting it cool. It tasted great and was quite sticky to eat, but didn't hold its shape like licorice.

So I got back online and instead of reading "how do I make licorice" posts, I watched a "how licorice is made" video and got some ideas. First of all, they mixed the ingredients up front and kept them cooking and stirring for a long time at 190 degrees (not to hard ball stage by any means). Then they cooled and shaped the dough, and cooked it again for a long, long time.

So the process was more like making fruit leather.

So new attempts: I mixed up 1/2 c corn syrup, half a packet of kool aid powder, and 1/4 c flour. It was way too liquidy to shape, so I cooked it to hard ball stage. But it was still too liquidy to shape. The cooking did cook out the starchy flavor of the flour, though, which was a very good thing. I was in a hurry and didn't bother to cool it (they cool it 24 hours in the factory), so I poured the mixture into a drying tray and put it into my fruit dryer.

Then, since the dryer was going anyway, I threw together a recipe that flipped the proportions (I read on one website that it was more flour than corn syrup, even though the package would indicate it's more corn syrup than flour). I put in half a cup of flour and 1/4 c corn syrup, and then kool aid powder and a little more flour, until it was doughy. It was very sticky. I formed it into ropes and put that in the fruit dryer, too, and then tried mixing flour, a teaspoon of corn syrup, and 1/8 c of jam and made ropes from that, just to see what would happen.

At the moment, all of them are still drying, but the one that I poured into a drying tray all liquidy is making something very close to licorice. I am pretty excited about the possibilities here.

Next time, I'll let it cool first and see if I can form ropes....

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