Pa Dutch Clear Toy Candy
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The earliest recipes for sugary, crystalline clear toy candy span over generations in Pennsylvania, as far back as 1772. The Pennsylvania Dutch used barley sugar because it was plentiful and economical. In 1818, when less expensive cane sugar was imported to Pennsylvania, candy makers of the day made the switch.
To cast the sugar into shapes, candy makers used sturdy metal molds. The molds could be anything three-dimensional—animals, sailboats, baskets, even an old-fashioned Father Christmas. Initial molds were made from brass and cast iron. Aluminum molds, which came later, are popular with modern candy makers because they are lighter, resist rust and are food-safe.
Antique molds are rarer, as many were donated to the war effort to make weapons. Even if you can find them, many are better suited for a museum or for display on a kitchen wall. Some have tarnished with age, and some molds have even corroded. Many have lost a lot of their metal detailing. Some have warped over time or have broken hinges that make them questionable for securely holding scalding liquid sugar.
Most molds have Christmas and wintertime themes. Old-fashioned candy kitchens make clear toy candy when the weather is freezing cold, and the humidity is hibernating. Making these treats in humid weather will make the candy cloudy, giving it a chewy film that is the opposite of sparkling.