Making fondant for bees is much like making hard candy. You boil the sugar in as little water as possible and keep a close watch on your candy thermometer. But unlike hard candy, you take the syrup off the heat when it reaches 234°F and then you knead it like bread.
If you are new to this, the first thing to do is go back to my previous posts and read the general guidelines for cooking with sugar. First read “How to make hard candy from table sugar.” For information on candy stages, calibrating your thermometer, and cooking at high elevations, see “Notes on cooking sugar syrup.”
Fondant is softer than hard candy. In fact, it is squeezable and pliable like dough. Many beekeepers believe that fondant is easier for the bees to eat than hard candy. Although I personally do not share that opinion, I do believe it is important for the beekeeper to what he or she feels is best. That said, fondant is more work than hard candy, which is more work than granulated sugar out of the bag. I had a much different opinion of the amount of work when I had fourteen hives than when I had one—and this may happen to you too.
After you’ve boiled your syrup to 234°, you pull the pot off the stove and cool it down to about 200°F. At this point you can try to knead it with gloved hands (maybe—it is still egregiously hot). Better yet, pour it into a stand mixer and beat the syrup slowly with a paddle attachment. Continue beating the mixture until it turns white and has a smooth and silky texture. Divide it into molds and you are done. Once it cools, wrap it and store it in a cool place.
Fondant for bees
Serves: 4-5 hives
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Dietary: Gluten Free, Vegan
Meal type: Main Dish
Misc: Freezable, Pre-preparable, Serve at Hive Temperature
10 lb granulated sugar
1 quart water
1 tablespoon vinegar or lemon juice
5-8 drops essential oil (optional)
If you are extremely picky, you can wipe down the inside of the pot with a wet pastry brush while the mixture comes to a boil. This will keep any errant sugar crystals from forming more crystals as the mixture cools. I don’t do this because the bees don’t care.
Before you begin to knead the fondant you can add a few drops of essential oil, if desired. I like to add anise oil because the bees seem to find the food faster. You can also use tea tree, spearmint, lemongrass, peppermint, or wintergreen.
- Prepare molds in advance. You can use paper plates, pie pans, or take-out boxes. Spray lightly with oil and place on a flat, heat-proof surface.
- Measure the water and the vinegar (or lemon juice) into a large pot and bring to a slow simmer.
- Pour in the sugar, stirring until it dissolves completely. Keep stirring until you feel no “grits” in the water. If the sugar won’t dissolve add more water, little by little, until all the crystals disappear.
- Once the sugar is completely dissolved, you can gently turn up the heat to medium high and stop stirring. Insert your candy thermometer. (Because the crystals are gone, there is nothing to settle on the bottom and burn; the sugar is in solution.)
- Boil the mixture until the thermometer reads 234 degrees F, then remove the pot from the heat. If you wish, you can test the candy at this point. Place a drop of syrup into a glass of cool water. Reach in and get the drop. The drop of candy should flatten and run down between your fingers.
- Set the pot aside to cool to about 200 degrees F. You can set the pot in a sink of ice water to speed up the process, but it is not necessary.
- When the fondant reaches about 200 degrees F you may add a few drops of essential oils, if desired.
- Pour the fondant into a stand mixer with a paddle attachment and slowly beat until the mixture turns light-colored and smooth. Alternatively, you may knead the fondant with your hands, but be careful of the heat.
- Divide the mixture into 8 or 10 paper plates and then allow it to cool completely.
- Once cool, wrap the fondant in plastic wrap or wax paper. You can store the fondant for several weeks in a cool place, or for long periods in the freezer.