No lollygagging around: Do not plan to text or phone chat while candy is cooking. And keep little children and pets out of the kitchen. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune / October 22, 2013)

Check candy thermometer's accuracy. "Bring a pan of water to a rolling boil, immerse the thermometer and keep it in the boiling water for several minutes. Check the temperature. On the Fahrenheit scale, water should boil at 212 degrees. See what your thermometer is showing." Take the difference into account. Do the math and add or subtract as necessary.

To easily remove hard candy stuck on a pan, fill the pan with water, return to stove and let it boil. "The heat and the water will liquefy that sugar right away, and you can just rinse it out."


Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 20 minutes
Makes: 12 pieces

Note: Adapted from "The Sweet Book of Candy Making," by Elizabeth LaBau.

1/2 cup water
1 cup each: granulated sugar, light corn syrup
1 to 2 teaspoons flavoring extract, such as orange or lemon
3 to 4 drops gel food coloring, your choice
Assorted Halloween-themed sprinkles or candy corn

1. Coat cavities of hard-candy lollipop molds with a very light layer of nonstick cooking spray or vegetable oil. Insert lollipop sticks into molds; set aside. If making free-form lollipops, you do not need molds. Instead, ready a silicone mat or use a baking sheet covered with foil (coat the foil with nonstick cooking spray). Do not use parchment or waxed paper.

2. Combine water, sugar and syrup in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until sugar dissolves, then wash down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent crystals from forming. When sugar syrup comes to a boil, insert candy thermometer. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until thermometer reads 300 degrees. Remove pan from heat; let candy stop bubbling completely. Once it is still, stir in a flavoring extract and color of your choice.

3. Carefully spoon hot sugar syrup into prepared molds; be sure tops of sticks are covered with syrup and well embedded in the candy. For free-form lollipops, once the syrup is done cooking but before spooning syrup onto prepared surface, cool sugar syrup down a bit by dunking bottom of pan in a sink of ice water for 20 seconds. Swirl gently for a minute; it should thicken slightly, but still be spoonable. Spoon 1 to 2 tablespoons syrup. Do not make lollipops bigger than 3 to 4 inches in diameter or they'll be too delicate to handle.

4. While lollipop surfaces are still tacky, gently press sprinkles or candy corn onto surface. Let lollipops sit at room temperature to cool and harden. Once cool, remove by flexing backs of molds, mat or foil; do not pull out by the sticks. Wrap each in plastic wrap and store up to a month in an airtight container.

Nutrition information:
Per piece: 141 calories, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 37 g carbohydrates, 0 g protein, 33 mg sodium, 0 g fiber.