Hand-Pulled Cotton Candy: Dragon’s Beard

Dear future husband, I can’t cook, but I can make you awesome treats! You don’t want to know just how long this has been on my list. It’s the simplest recipe in life, but because Hand-pulled cotton candy: Dragon’s Beard , is notorious for being difficult to master, I kept putting it off.

Hand-pulled cotton candy held in hand

Don’t you dare click out of this! I attempted this five times just so that I could provide you with the easiest method possible to make this treat. Five attempts to get it just right because everyone in YouTube and Blogger land either makes it look way too easy or way too difficult, and that can be frustrating.

Hand-pulled cotton candy held in hand

Firstly, even though it took me five attempts, it wasn’t difficult to get the hang of it. The very first time I did it, it looked awful but I came pretty close to getting it right. In any event, I wanted it to be close to perfect, and I wanted to find the easiest method to share with you, so I had to keep trying.

Hand-pulled cotton candy held in hand

*This is a two-part process. First you’ll have to make the candy, then you’ll have to hand-pull the candy.

*You can go ahead and scroll down to the ingredients and instructions section, but if you want to see what not to do (and the mistakes I made along the way) then read the whole thing.

First Few Attempts and Lessons Learned

Attempt #1.

If you don’t know already, this Hand-Pulled Cotton Candy: Dragon’s Beard, is something that is pretty widespread in China and South Korea. If you watch any of those Asian men doing it at their dessert stalls, you’ll notice that their candy is pretty soft and pliable before they even start hand-pulling it. In almost every YouTube video, however, westerners teach using really hard candy, which we often times see them accidentally snap in two when pulling.

I knew from the get-go that I wasn’t going let it get too hard.


So first, I decided that I would test out the perfect temperature. I allowed the candy to cool in my silicone mold (which I left on the counter) for only one hour before I started.

Hand-pulled cotton candy showing weak strands

What I noticed though, was that even though the warmth had gone from it, it was far too weak to endure the pulling no matter how gentle I was, and so the strands got too thin too quickly and simply fell apart.

Attempt #2 and #3

I allowed it to cool in my silicone mold for an hour and forty-five minutes, then popped it into the fridge for an extra 15 minutes.

This time, I was able to hand-pull it for a longer time, but it still fell apart eventually. Also, since I hadn’t created the hole in the dead center of the candy, when I started pulling, parts of the candy were thicker than others. This left me with a strange-looking final product. From the picture, you’ll notice that some parts are thin and others thick.

Hand-pulled cotton candy showing strands thicker in some areas
Hand-pulled cotton candy showing strands thicker in some areas

Attempt #4

This time I allowed it to cool in the mold for 45 minutes and in the fridge for 45 minutes. It was pretty hard, so I had to fiddle with it for a long time before it became pliable. As you can see from the photo, it came out much much better than previous attempts, but the strands were still breaking apart too easily while I pulled. And trust me, I was barely exerting much force.

Hand-pulled cotton candy held in hand

Final Attempt and Success!

The next day I decided to start again from scratch by whipping up a new batch. This time I let it cool in the mold for 45 minutes, then placed it into the fridge for 30 minutes.

Remember what I said about those Asian street vendors using softened candy? Here’s my hypothesis; they create a huge batch, and it hardens completely as the day drags on and customers come and go. When they’re ready to hand-pull more, they re-heat that batch until it softens a bit, then they begin.

Hand-pulled cotton candy held in hand

So that’s what I did. Once I removed it from the fridge, I placed it into the microwave for ten seconds. At that point, it will be super easy to work with and very pliable.

Having figured out the temperature aspect of it, I then needed to figure out why it was weakening so easily, and I did. Cornstarch! I thought I had been using enough, but I only dipped it into the cornstarch occasionally, which is the wrong way to do it.

Hand-pulled cotton candy held in hand

I needed to be completely coating every strand of it in cornstarch every second. Not only does the cornstarch prevent the strands from sticking together as you pull, but it also helps to stiffen the candy so that it won’t fall apart easily.

close-up image of the thin cotton candy strands

When I did this, it became stiff enough, so that with every loop, I had to pull with a bit more force, which meant it was getting stronger rather than weaker and that’s good! Now I can make Hand-Pulled Cotton Candy: Dragon’s Beard in my sleep \(^_^)/.

What did I learn?

*If it’s too hard, then it will snap in two when pulling.
*If it’s too soft, it will be too droopy and fall apart without much effort.
*Let it harden completely first (45 mins on counter and 30 mins in fridge).
*Once it’s out of the fridge, pop it into the microwave for 10 seconds or less.
*Ensure you put the hole in the dead center so that all parts will be equal in size.
*Drown it in cornstarch; every single strand should be coated at all times.
*When pulling, be gentle but firm.

Hand-Pulled Cotton Candy: Dragon’s Beard

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~What you’ll need~

  • Candy Thermometer (it literally costs $5 on Amazon and its easy to use, so relax);
  • Food coloring (I used this gel food coloring);
  • 2 cups of white sugar;
  • 1 teaspoon of white vinegar;
  • 1 cup of water;
  • ¼ cup of light corn syrup;
  • Round silicone molds. – (Donut-shaped is easier but not necessary) -find them here and here;
  • Something with a blunt, rounded end that can make a small hole (obviously not a knife);
  • Cornstarch (get a small box or two).

~Candy-Making Instructions~

  1. First of all, you won’t be mixing anything so drop that spoon!
  2. Place a saucepan on the stove on medium heat.
  3. In the saucepan, add you sugar first, then your corn syrup.
  4. Add four drops of food coloring to your one cup of WATER, then pour it into your saucepan.
  5. Add the vinegar.
  6. DO NOT MIX.
  7. You’re aiming to get to a temperature of 269 degrees F. Using your candy thermometer, check the temperature at intervals. Ensure that you don’t let the thermometer touch the bottom of the saucepan because it will give an incorrect reading.
  8. Occasionally, you’ll notice sugar crystals forming at the sides of the saucepan. You’ll need to use a damp cloth or a brush to brush it out of the saucepan. (This will prevent the entire mixture from crystalizing).
  9. Once the temperature reaches to 269 degrees Fahrenheit, remove it from stove and pour into your silicone molds.
  10. Be careful at all times because hot candy is no joke! (my pinky finger can attest to that.)
  11. Allow the mixture to cool for forty-five minutes in the silicone mold.
  12. Now that it is slightly cooled, transfer the silicone mold to the refrigerator and let it stay there for 30 minutes.
candy in silicone molds

~Hand-Pulling Method~ (see photos below)

  1. See how easy that all was? Now this is where I need you to focus!
  2. Get a large bowl or rectangular container and fill it with cornstarch.
  3. Pop the hardened candy out of your mold and drop it into the cornstarch.
  4. If you didn’t use a donut-shaped silicone mold, then you’ll have to make a hole in the dead center of your candy.
  5. If it’s too hard, then heat the end of your metal tool to create the hole, or simply create the hole after the next step below.
  6. Pop your candy into the microwave for no more than 10 seconds.
  7. Place it into the cornstarch and create your hole if you haven’t yet.
  8. Cornstarch is your best friend going forward. Be VERY generous with it, and use it very very frequently.
  9. Placing your fingers into the hole, gently begin to widen it by pulling it apart gently.
  10. Once you can get at least six fingers in (three on each hand), we’ll begin.
  11. Hold it like you’re holding the steering wheel of your car, and pull gently on the candy as you turn it around and around.
  12. Coat it in cornstarch as often as possible (every few seconds).
  13. Slowly but surely, the hole will widen.
  14. When it’s wide enough, as seen in photos below, double it by twisting it into a second loop. (you’ll have two unbroken ropes in hand).
  15. Coat in cornstarch and continue the steering wheel maneuver, by pulling as you turn it.
  16. Every time the hole widens, you’ll create another loop until you have four loops, then eight, then sixteen and so on and so on.
  17. You need to ensure that each strand is covered with cornstarch at all times, otherwise it will start sticking together or it will weaken and fall apart.
  18. You’ll notice that the strands are stiffer, so you’ll have to pull harder as you turn, but still be as gentle as possible.
  19. When it’s as thin as seen in the photos below, or thinner if you so desire, you can stop.
  20. Serve and enjoy.
collage showing the process step by step
Hand-pulled cotton candy held in hand
Hand-pulled cotton candy held in hand
Hand-pulled cotton candy held in hand
Hand-pulled cotton candy held in hand

*This dessert is usually served by cutting the pulled candy into chunks and wrapping it around crushed nuts. I like placing mine into my mixed drinks (alcohol) and letting it dissolve. It’s tasty.

*If I could find my tripod or I had another pair of hands, I would have filmed this for you, but I’ll be sure to make this again in the future and post the video for you to see. I hope this post helps you in your Hand-Pulled Cotton Candy: Dragon’s Beard making adventures!

Thanks for reading!

If you enjoyed this Hand-Pulled Cotton Candy: Dragon’s Beard post and you went ahead and made your own, please share it with the world and if you happen to post a picture of your creations, tag me on Instagram @pulledfromhercarriage so I can see!

Also check out my other dessert recipes, such as my Homemade Fortune Cookies, my recipe on How to make lollipops and my Homemade Chocolate-filled Donuts and my Homemade Buttercream Ice-cream.

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