Answers to life's vexing cooking questions...

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Making & Storing Candy in Humid Conditions

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Q. How do I prevent my peanut brittle from becoming hygroscopic (absorbing moisture from the air)? I live in a highly humid climate and my peanut brittle and any other candy becomes sticky after cooling. Would adding extra baking soda or cream of tartar help?

A. Can you keep the stars from shining? The tide from coming in? Teenagers from falling in love? Then how in the world can you expect to train your candy — which you heated to such a high temperature in order to drive out all but 1% or 2% of the liquid — to resist its natural longing to partake of your moisture-laden air?

Sugar has a natural affinity for water in the air. Indeed, one of the two sugars in table sugar, fructose, is more hygroscopic than most other sugars. Candies made with honey, which is largely fructose, attract water like a sponge.

Cream of tartar, corn syrup, and certain other ingredients used in candymaking are added to inhibit the formation of large crystals as the candy cools, which is particularly important in the production of fudge and fondant, but not important in the production of hard candy and brittles.

The many books we consulted, hoping to find a long-forgotten trick to help keep your brittle brittle, disappointed us and relied on a pat phrase — "if the weather is humid, store your candy in an air-tight container." They did not, however, offer clues on how to remove the moisture already present in your air-tight container.

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