Hand-pulled Cotton Candy

by Laura on February 19, 2011

I stumbled on a photograph of pişhmaniye on the Honest Fare blog this week and had to make it.  My niece Elisabeth was coming to spend the morning with me yesterday, so we added it to the list of projects for the day.  She liked making smoothies, chocolate cookies, coconut macaroons, waffle fries, and Reubens, but she flipped for this.  Cotton candy in the United States, this gossamer candy is called papa’s beard in France, dragons’ beard in China, pashmak in Iran, pişhmaniye in Turkey, fairy floss in Australia, and candy floss in Britain, Ireland, South Africa, and Canada.  Whatever you happen to call it, it’s delicious, and it’s easier to make than you might imagine.  You have to watch temperatures as it heats and cools, but the pulling process is simple and fun.  And the finished candy is almost too pretty to eat.

As promised, Miss Elisabeth, here are the step-by-step photos for your birthday party tonight.  I hope you have a ball! xo

You begin with the boiling sugar syrup.  Watch the temperature closely as it approaches 269 degrees.  Remove it from the heat when it is about one degree away.

When the syrup cools to 212 degrees, divide it evenly between four one-quart containers.

When the containers of candy reach room temperature, they are ready to be pulled.  Place a bed of cornstarch on a baking tray.

To remove the candy from the quart container, gently squeeze the container as you rotate it.  It takes a little patience, but it will come out.  Just keep squeezing and turning.

With your thumbs and forefingers, burrow a little hole into the center of the candy.  If your sugar syrup cooked improperly and your disc of candy is hard in the center, microwave it for a few seconds at a time until you can make an indentation in the center of it.

Now begin to work the candy into a bigger circle.  Use gentle pressure, and keep the candy a uniform thickness.

And a little bigger.

And a little bigger.  Keep everything even, and keep using gentle pressure.

When the candy gets about this big, loop it into a figure eight.

And bring the two halves of the figure eight together like this.

Now the real pulling begins.  Hold the candy in both fists.  The front hand remains stationery.  The back hand ever so gently pulls on the candy.

Bring your back hand to the front position.  The candy rotates.  Now pull gently again.  And rotate the candy and your hands again.

As you pull and rotate, the candy will get thinner and thinner.  When it’s about this big, make another figure eight by twisting your hands.

And bring the two halves together.

Begin pulling again.

And rotating and pulling.

And pulling. Until it’s time to make another figure eight.

And to bring the two halves together.

You’re getting the feel for it now.  Keep pulling and rotating.

Make a figure eight.

And bring the halves together.

Keep pulling.

And pulling.

And making figure eights.

And bringing them together.

Every time you make a figure eight and bring the strands together you are doubling the number of strands you are pulling.

You can work a little faster now.

Just keep everything moving through the cornstarch so that the strands will remain separate.

Working the candy until it is about this length and then making another figure eight.

Keep going.

And going.

Until you’ve done between ten and fourteen turns.

After fourteen turns, you’ll have 16, 384 strands of hand-pulled cotton candy.

{ 4 trackbacks }

- HANDGEMACHT – – konglomeratdesign
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{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sophia February 20, 2011 at 7:48 pm

Wow! Love all the pictures of the pulling process!

2 Kris Jacobson February 21, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Wow! It reminds me of playing Cat’s Cradle with my kids!

3 Nithya March 4, 2011 at 2:31 am

Oh my God!! This is fantastic and unimaginable.. I’m drooling right now. We call this as cotton candy in India and I am a crazy fan of it. The process looks classic :) and never knew it can be made at home. Great job :)

4 Laura March 4, 2011 at 6:35 am

Oh, I’m so glad you enjoyed the post! Making the candy was quite easy and a lot of fun.

5 Stephanie December 4, 2012 at 12:05 pm

Thank you so much for this tutorial! I heard about pismanye a few weeks ago and have been searching for a proper recipe. So helpful!

6 Laura December 4, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Stephanie, I’m so glad you found it helpful. It is quite easy and fun to make.

7 Rachel December 7, 2012 at 6:16 am

Wow this looks amazing, sounds hard to do but looks easy with all your pictures. brilliant!

8 Laura December 7, 2012 at 8:20 am

Rachel, Thank you!

9 Melanie Cole December 7, 2012 at 7:01 pm

How long does the cotton candy keep for?

10 Laura December 7, 2012 at 7:40 pm

Melanie, I’m afraid I don’t have a good answer for you. Both times I made it it was devoured by children within hours. I suspect it would be okay prepared a day ahead, but it’s quite supple and I think it would dry out. If you don’t mind something of an edible nest, you could make it in advance.

11 Suzanne December 9, 2012 at 7:41 am

We made this today. And it was a long process
and so so much fun
It made heaps. And there were four of us pulling
And laughing we were aged 13 21 and 44
Fun for all ages
However it does not. Will make it next time when there
are plenty around to eat it. It was a big solid
lump a few hours later.
Like I said well worth the effort and so much fun. !!!!!!!!

12 Laura December 9, 2012 at 9:38 am

Suzanne, Wonderful! And thank you so much for the information on keeping it.

13 Bob December 14, 2012 at 4:35 pm

I think you have 32768 strands after 14 turns, not 16384. After 0 turns there are two strands, the two fat ones that come from just making the hole. After the first turn there are 2^2=4 strands. After two turns there are 2^3=8 strands, and after 14 turns there are 2^15=32768 turns.

14 Lucy January 25, 2013 at 9:57 pm

This is amazing! I can’t wait to try this.. reminds me of watching the pulled noodles at the markets in Xi’an!

15 Laura January 26, 2013 at 2:10 pm

Lucy, It is amazing–and quite easy. Good luck with it!

16 Christina January 26, 2013 at 5:26 pm

Omg this is amazing. I can’t wait to try this.

17 Laura January 27, 2013 at 5:04 pm

Christina, Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

18 Elizabeth January 29, 2013 at 2:45 pm

Can you add flavoring to this?

19 Laura February 7, 2013 at 11:33 am

I think a drop or two of extract would be just fine. Best of luck with it!

20 Robin July 26, 2013 at 10:49 pm

you are mistaken, we very much call it Cotton Candy in Canada, never even heard the term candy floss before!

21 Laura July 27, 2013 at 10:51 am

Robin, I stand corrected! Thank you.

22 DinaS July 27, 2013 at 6:57 pm

We tried this today! We couldn’t quite get the strands thin enough but we are inspired to make this again, a batch of red and a batch without coloring and a bit of peppermint to make candy canes!

Our son and his friend absolutely loved this and couldn’t wait to take bags of our candy to our neighbors!

23 Laura July 28, 2013 at 5:05 pm

DinaS, I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

24 Lucas August 3, 2013 at 10:41 am

Hi there! What an amazing idea! I am wanting to try this with my gf’s daughter as I think we would both have a blast doing it. I have a question (and maybe I missed it somewhere on here): what would the measurements/ingredients be on the sugar syrup? Sorry for the basic question here :)

Thank you for such a great post and I will be frequenting your site :)


25 Laura August 3, 2013 at 3:05 pm

If you scroll to the bottom of the post, there is a detailed recipe with measurements; the print button is on the top right. Hope you enjoy it!

26 Melani August 12, 2013 at 8:08 am

We are planning on making this today and I was just wondering if the vinegar is a teaspoon or a tablespoon? Thanks!

27 Laura August 12, 2013 at 8:49 am

Melani, It’s a teaspoon. I hope you enjoy it!

28 Giulia October 15, 2013 at 7:14 am

Bellissimo Post!

29 Abbie October 26, 2013 at 4:14 am

I would love to make this for a bake sale of sone sort. Would this do well in plastic baggies? I doubt it but if you have an answer I would love to know!!

30 Laura October 27, 2013 at 8:34 am

The candy was best the day I made it and it dries out rather quickly. Plastic baggies might help. If you’re going to try, I’d make the candy the day of the event if possible. Good luck with it!

31 Leanne November 7, 2013 at 4:39 pm

This looks very much like the taffy my mother made when I was a child. The difference is that we did not pull it through cornstarch but continued to pull it until it was fairly stiff. We then cut it into bite sized pieces and rolled in corn starch. When it was completely solid, we then wrapped the pieces in waxed paper. I remember a few times trying it on my own but I never had the energy to pull it all (when I was a kid we had several people pulling). When that happened, I cut and dropped the soft candy into the corn starch then froze it. Loved it then and if I had it now, would love it as an adult. The cotton candy we can get at the fairs is spun sugar – sugar melted with nothing added then spun in a high speed devise creating more of a mass of sugar the size of hair. Many different flavors are available.

32 Laura November 12, 2013 at 6:57 am

Thank you for sharing that with me. xx

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