About This Dragon’s Beard Candy Recipe
Dragon’s beard candy, also known as Chinese cotton candy, is a simple yet decadent sweet treat that originated in China. Over the years, its popularity spread to other parts of East Asia, reaching Korea and more recently Singapore, the United States, Canada, Taiwan, and Japan.
There are lots of theories about how this candy came about. The most popular story is that an imperial court chef once entertained the Han Dynasty Emperor by performing the intricate steps involved in making a new candy. The process involved stretching a dough-like mixture and folding it again and again into figure eights until they separated into thousands of thin strands.
While eating the hand-pulled sugar, the thin white strands were sticky enough to cling to the Emperor’s face, reminding him of a dragon’s beard, resulting in the new confection being named Dragon’s Beard Candy.
These pillowy soft candies almost ceased to exist during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, when the Communist Party banned all activities attributed to the Han Dynasty. Luckily, the traditional art of making these handmade confections was revived and regained popularity. Today, you can find these sweet treats across Asia, often at festivals and tourist locations.
The dragon’s bead candy features thousands of thin strands of hand-pulled sugar that are either loose or stuffed with nutty fillings such as crushed peanuts, coconut, and sesame seeds.
Making dragon’s beard candy requires a lot of care and patience. A small mistake can destroy the strands, leaving you to start all over again.
It may seem labor-intensive, but the result is incredibly satisfying and so delicious!
What You Need for This Dragon’s Beard Candy Recipe
- Sugar: I have used white granulated sugar.
- Corn Syrup: Also known as glucose syrup, corn syrup is made from corn starch and is used to soften the texture, prevent sugar crystallization, add volume, and enhance the flavor.
- White Vinegar: Just a few drops of white vinegar will help balance out the sweetness and enhance the overall flavor of these candies.
- Cornstarch: Dipping and coating the sugar mixture with cornstarch will prevent the strands from sticking and keep them separate.
- Filling: I have used crushed peanuts and desiccated coconut for the filling.
- Corn Syrup: I have used corn syrup, but it can also be substituted with maltose.
- Cornstarch: You can substitute it with rice flour.
- Filling: I have used peanuts and coconut, but you can also use different types of nuts or sesame seeds.
Can I store these dragon’s beard candies?
These candies are very sensitive to temperature and humidity and are best consumed immediately. However, you should be able to store them in an airtight container in the fridge for about a week.
Dragon’s Beard Candy
Dragon’s beard candy is a rich, sugary, melt-in-your-mouth candy that tastes super delicious and is even more fun to make!
Yield: approx. 24 pieces of candy, depending on the size
For the syrup:
For the filling:
How To Make Dragon's Beard Candy Step By Step
Start by making the syrup. Combine the sugar, corn syrup, water, and vinegar into a saucepan, and clip a candy thermometer to the side of the saucepan.
Heat the mixture over medium-high heat until the temperature reaches 133℃ (271℉), around 20-25 minutes. Do not stir the syrup. Turn off the heat at around 132℃ (269℉), as the mixture will hit the required temperature on its own.
Pour the mixture into doughnut silicone baking molds, and allow it to cool down completely to room temperature. Depending on how thick the shapes are, it will take around 1-2 hours.
Once the sugar mixture is cooled, remove it from the mold, and dip it into cornstarch, making sure to coat it well.
Start to pull it slowly with your hands; you’ll feel it beginning to bend to your will. Dip and coat the sugar constantly into the cornstarch to prevent the strands from sticking.
Continue stretching the sugar mixture until it is about four times larger than the original size. Then, fold it into figure 8, put together the two rings, and start pulling again while dipping it into the cornstarch.
Repeat the pulling, dipping, and forming of a figure-8 until the strands turn into thin hair-like consistency. If you fold it 11 times, you’ll get 2048 strands. If you want thinner strands, fold 14 times, and you’ll have 16384 thin strands.
Lay the “beard” on a flat surface dusted with cornstarch, tear off a rough 10 cm (4 inches) section, spoon in some chopped peanuts and coconut in the middle, fold it over, and roll it up to form delicate nuggets. Continue the same process with all the rest of the mixture. Enjoy!
- When the temperature of the syrup reaches 105℃ (221℉), it will stop rising momentarily. This is normal as the chemical process of the sugar crystals changes from one state to another, so you do not need to increase the heat.
- To avoid sugar crystals forming, do not stir the syrup.
- While you wait for the sugar mixture to cool down, make sure you keep it at room temperature. Do not place it in the fridge to shorten the time because you may disrupt the crystal formation and ruin the final product.
- Instead of using doughnut silicone molds, you can also use disposable plastic containers, but they will be more difficult to process. If you use the plastic container, you’ll need to punch a hole through the middle of the shape, which may take quite a bit of effort. If you’re not able to do it with your thumb, use a tool of your choice, maybe a sturdy chopstick. The goal is to get a ring. Next, the heating and cooling of the plastic may cause it to turn brittle, making it difficult to extract from the container, and you may risk shattering the shape. I highly recommend using the doughnut silicone baking molds as they are very flexible. You can easily remove the sugar from them, and the hole is already made, offering more convenience to you. If using disposable plastic containers, you will also need to wait until the syrup cools down to 100℃ (212℉) before pouring it, whereas you can pour the syrup straight in when using silicone molds.
- In the beginning, start stretching the sugar slowly because if it breaks, you need to start all over again with another one.
- Do not cut the “beard” because it may cause the strands to merge and ruin the “beard” effect. Instead, just tear it off.