How to Make Delicious, All-Natural Lollipops Like the Ones From Sweet Pete's

There's a reason most of us never outgrow the sheer fun of a lollipop: they're fun, sweet snacks that remind us of childhood and bring a smile to everyone's face.  While we all love lollipops, what we don't love are artificial flavors, colors, and high fructose corn syrup. Of course here at Sweet Pete's our candy is all natural and we never use any of those things... no hydrogenated fat, either.  In celebration of the lollipop and its place in our history, we thought we'd share our recipe for making delicious, all-natural lollipops at home- the way Sweet Pete himself makes them.

Making lollipops is easier than you think.

You might think making lollipops is complicated but they're actually on the easy end of the spectrum as far as candy-making goes.  It's not as hard a making nougat, for example, which requires carefully whisking egg whites into boiling sugar mixtures, adding ingredients at precise moments, and hoping the nougat sets and it does't turn out too sweet.

In fact, lollipops are among the easiest candies to make...perfect for DIYers!

If you've ever talked about making candy with your grandmother or anyone else who's experienced with this business of creating wonderful candy confections for those they love, then you may recall that there are lots of different stages of the sugar-heating process. Candy is really all about coaxing sugar into various wonderful concoctions, and you do this by carefully controlling temperature.  Working with sugar can get pretty technical, and if you were to take a peek into a gourmet candy kitchen (like Sweet Pete's) you'd see the technical expertise at work everywhere.  It's not a dash of this, a dash of that artistry, but rather more of a technical artistry, one involving precise measurements of temperature and using the right tools.

Making lollipops is fun.

Lollipops are much more fun to make than most other types of candy because the recipe is so simple. There's really only one stage of heating and temperature-taking.  Not only that, but there are only a few ingredients, and the results are near-perfect every time! And, as Sweet Pete says, lollipops are great fun because you can make them fit any theme you want.  The shapes, sizes, colors...all totally determined by you.  Lollipops can be whatever you want them to be: dinosaurs, motorcycles, flowers, are limited only by your imagination (and the lollipop molds you're able to find!).
Lollipops are a simple and fun type of candy to make ...the possibilities are endless.

-Peter Behringer, "Sweet Pete"

Plus, with a recipe and techniques from Peter Behringer (Sweet Pete) himself, you know they'll turn out delicious.  Peter makes it look simple (he even created a video to show his fans how he makes his delightful and delicious lollipops), and below we'll show you his methods for creating the perfect all-natural lollipop.

Just a few things to know before we get started.

Although you won't need to know such intimidating terms such as the soft-ball stage or the hard-crack stage, you will need to know a few basic concepts. To begin, the first and foremost thing on any candy-maker's mind is the dreaded recrystalization process.  You see, candy recipes that start out with sugar (and most of them do) rely on the cook's ability to produce a smooth, clear syrup from sugar and water.  When sugar is combined with water, it loses its "crystal" structure and appearance.  That's what we want to maintain throughout the process of making our lollipops. Sounds simple, right?  Melt sugar with water and get some nice syrup for making lollipops.  The trouble is, sugar is looking for any  chance it can get to return to its former crystal state.  It wants to become crystals again and will do so if you let it. Allowing the sugar to turn back into its crystallized form is the number one mistake people make when attempting to make candy.  Of course this is true for lollipops, too.  Therefore, the following tips are important if you are going to try and recreate Sweet Pete's wonderful lollipops at home in your own kitchen.
  1.  Get the right sized pot for melting the sugar and water.  If your pot is too small, it will be too full and the burner will have a hard time heating everything evenly.  Plus, it will take forever to heat all the way through!  However, if your pot is too big, you might end up cooking your sugar solution too fast and you could overcook the sugar.  Worse yet, you could burn the sugar and that's definitely something to avoid!
  2. A pot with a little bit of a lip on it is good because you'll be pouring your hot liquid directly from the pot into the lollipop molds.
  3. Don't put your burner too high or too low when melting your sugar solution.  Same concepts at work here: too high and you'll scorch your lollipop concoction.  Too low and you'll be standing at the stovetop forever, wondering why your sugar isn't getting hot enough.
  4. Don't even think about making your own lollipops without first purchasing a candy thermometer.  Without a way to measure temperature of your sugar solution, you'll never know when to move on to the next step in the recipe.  Remember: candy making has a touch of science (but don't let that scare you away!).
  5. Keep your eyes on the pot of sugar.  You know the old saying about a watched pot, and how it never boils?  Well just for the time being, during your lollipop-making days, throw that tip right out the window.  You do actually want to watch that pot boil!  Sugar takes a while to heat up but once it gets cooking... well, it really gets cooking.  You'll need to pay close attention to your pot in order to do things at the right moments.  Stare at that pot and think of nothing else until the sugar has reached the right temperature and you're ready to go to the next step in making your lollipops.

Sweet Pete's Lollipop Recipe

  • 3 1/2 cups of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of filtered water
  • 3/4 cup of glucose
  • natural color
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of natural flavor
The glucose in this recipe is to guard against "graining", or recrystallization of the sugar.  Sweet Pete also says you can use corn syrup or something they use in the Sweet Pete's kitchen: an organic corn syrup replacement made from tapioca.  To get those nice clear lollipops, it's important not let graining take place.
  1. Prepare your lollipop molds.  If you don't have any, they are found at craft places like Micheal's or kitchen supply stores or of course online.  They are usually made of silicone or plastic but don't use any old plastic molds: they must be rated for high heat so the hot sugar you pour into them doesn't melt them!
  2. Lay your molds out on the counter in a well-lit, uncluttered part of your kitchen.  You will be pouring hot liquid into them later on, so you don't want anything to get in your way.
  3. Spray our molds with canola oil and lay the lollipop sticks out so they're handy.
  4. Take your pot, but don't put it on the stovetop yet.  Put in your water and sugar and begin stirring.
  5. Stir just until the two are mixed, and then stir in your glucose.  Keep stirring until everything is nice and mixed and it resembles a paste.
  6. Put the pot on medium and cook until it reaches 310° F.  The lollipop texture will not occur if you do not get your mixture above 295° (see why the thermometer is so important?)
  7. Do not go over 320° or else you will brown the sugar.
  8. You do not need to constantly stir the mixture.  However, keep your eye on the candy thermometer!
At this point in his lollipop-making process, Sweet Pete goes over to his counter and begins preparing his lollipop molds.  You, however, should stay near your pot and watch that thermometer.  Sweet Pete knows what he's doing because he's been making lollipops for a very long time, so he has a feeling for how much time he has before the sugar reaches 310°.  Besides, you've already prepared your molds! Let's continue...
  1. Once the mixture has reached around 295°, you can actually take it off the heat until it reaches 310°.  It stays hot.  When it reaches 310°, it should be off the burner.
  2. Now cover the pot and let it sit for two and a half minutes.  This gets rid of any crystals that may have formed.
  3. Add your color- natural is best.  Pete uses beet color for red lollipops.
  4. Add your flavoring- this always goes last so it doesn't cook off. Half a teaspoon per cup of sugar.  Be careful not to overmix (it will crystalize!).
  5. Slowly pour your liquid into the molds.  Pete likes to alternate between small and large lollipops.  That makes it easier to pour, believe it or not.
  6. Place the lollipop sticks.
  7. Let them cool.
  8. De-mold the smaller lollipops first (they're ready sooner).
  9. Cut any ragged edges off with sturdy scissors.
  10. Package quickly.  If you let them lay around, they'll start to get sticky in about 45 minutes or so.  Of course if you're in Florida like Sweet Pete, packaging has to take place super fast!
  11. They'll last a few weeks (maybe less in summer if you live in a hot climate like Sweet Pete's).
  12. Finally, something all candy chefs are painfully aware of: it's important to clean your pot the right way.  Some people like to scour the heck out of it.  Pete likes to fill the pot three-quarters of the way with water and simply boil it clean.