Fairy floss


Candy, specifically sugar candy, is a confection made from a concentrated solution of sugar in water, to which a variety of flavorings and colorants is added. It is sometimes frozen (as in an ice pop).

The word "candy" comes from Arabic qandi, derived from Persian qand, meaning "sugar."

In North America, candy is a broad category that includes candy bars, chocolates, licorice, sour candies, salty candies, tart candies, hard candies, taffy, gumdrops, marshmallows, and more. Vegetables, fruit or nuts glazed and coated with sugar are called candied.

Outside North America, the generic name for candy is sweets or confectionery (UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and other Commonwealth countries). In Australia and New Zealand, candy is, in normal usage, further categorised as either chocolate or lollies (for all other non-chocolate candies).

In North America, the UK, and Australia, the word lollipop refers specifically to sugar candy on a stick. While not used in the generic sense of North America, the term candy is used in the UK for specific types of foods such as candy floss (cotton candy in North America and fairy floss in Australia), and certain other sugar based products.


Candy is made by dissolving sugar in water or milk to form a syrup, which is boiled until it reaches the desired concentration or starts to caramelize. The type of candy depends on the ingredients and how long the mixture is boiled. Candy comes in an endless variety of textures from soft and chewy to hard and brittle. Caramel, toffee, fudge, praline, tablet, gumdrops, jelly beans, rock candy, lollipops, taffy, cotton candy, candy canes, peppermint sticks, peanut brittle, chocolate coated raisins or peanuts, hard candy (called boiled sweets in British English) and candy bars are some examples of candy.

Sugar stages

The final texture of candy depends on the sugar concentration. As the syrup is heated, it boils, water evaporates, the sugar concentration increases, and the boiling point rises. A given temperature corresponds to a particular sugar concentration. In general, higher temperatures and greater sugar concentrations result in hard, brittle candies, and lower temperatures result in softer candies. These "stages" of sugar cooking are:
StageTemperature in °FTemperature in °CSugar concentration
soft ball (e.g. fudge)234-240°F112-115°C85%
firm ball244-248°F118-120°C87%
hard ball250-266°F121-130°C92%
soft crack270-290°F132-143°C95%
hard crack (e.g. toffee)295-310°F146-154°C99%
clear liquid320°F160°C100%
brown liquid (caramel)338°F170°C100%
burnt sugar350°F177°C100%
The names come from the process used to test the syrup before thermometers became affordable: a small spoonful of syrup was dropped into cold water, and the characteristics of the resulting lump were evaluated to determine the concentration of the syrup. Long strings of hardened sugar indicate "Thread" stage, while a smooth lump indicates "ball" stages, with the corresponding hardness described. The "crack" stages are indicated by a ball of candy so brittle that the rapid cooling from the water literally causes it to crack.

This method is still used today in some kitchens. A candy thermometer is more convenient, but has the drawback of not automatically adjusting for local conditions such as altitude, as the cold water test does.

Once the syrup reaches 340°F or higher, the sucrose molecules break down into many simpler sugars, creating an amber-colored substance known as caramel. This should not be confused with caramel candy, although it is the candy's main flavoring.

Candy and vegetarianism

Some candy, including marshmallows and gummy bears, may contain gelatin derived from animal keratin (which is a protein in skin, hair, nails, hooves, horns, and teeth), and is thus avoided by vegetarians and vegans. "Kosher gelatin" is also unsuitable for vegetarians and vegans, as it is derived from fish bones. Other substances, such as agar agar, pectin, starch and gum arabic may be used as gelatin replacers, although the texture of final product may differ from the original.

Other ingredients commonly found in candy that are not vegetarian or vegan friendly include carmine, which is a dye made from the cochineal, and confectioner's glaze, which may contain wings or other insect parts.

Shelf life

The shelf life of candy can be anywhere from two weeks to more than 1 year. This may be shortened if the candy is not stored in a cool, dry place.

Health aspects


Candy generally contains sugar, and sugar can lead to damaged teeth. However, it is not sugar itself that damages the teeth. Several types of bacteria, particularly Streptococcus mutans, are present in the mouth, and these feed on sugar. When they metabolize the sugar, they create acids in the mouth, which lower its pH value. In response to the acidic environment, the enamel of the teeth begins to demineralize, which can cause cavities. To help prevent this, dentists recommend that individuals should brush their teeth regularly, particularly after every meal and snack.

Glycemic Index

Candy has a high glycemic index (GI), which means that it gives a high rise in blood sugar levels after ingestion. This is chiefly a concern for people with diabetes, but could also be dangerous to the health of non-diabetics.


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