Cotton candy or candy floss is a delightful treat associated with happy times, a familiar sight at carnivals and fairgrounds. It's sugary-sweet, and no one seems to mind that it can get sticky. It's a curious puff of ultra-fine threads of sugar that pleasantly melt in your mouth. Children are enticed by the cloudlike texture, and they're intrigued by how a huge lump of it can immediately dissolve once they stick it into their lips. Adults love it too - they're likely brought back to childhood memories of when the Circus came to town. But the warm, caramel fragrance of candy floss alone is enough to get you excited. How is it Made Cotton candy is basically sugar spun into a light and fluffy form and then gathered onto a stick or paper cone. A candy floss machine is used to spin granulated sugar. The colored sugar (pre-tinted with food coloring) is poured into a rapidly-spinning central bowl and where it is exposed to heat. Sugar caramelizes when heated; the spaces between sugar molecules expand, resulting in a thick, syrupy liquid. The molten sugar is then flung through tiny holes on the central bowl, toward the outer rim at high speed. It cools so rapidly that it doesn't get a change to pull itself back together into crystals, so it solidifies into fine, gossamer-like threads. The sugary threads accumulate around the inner walls of the outer bowl, like pastel-colored spider webs. Now this is when the machine operator takes his cue: he picks up a stick or paper cone and rolls the threads of sugar around it, forming a fluffy cloud of cotton candy. The Invention of the Candy Floss Machine and the Birth of it Before the candy floss machine was invented, sugar was spun entirely by hand. It is caramelized in a pan and then flung with a fork (and sometimes spun on a broomstick). Spun sugar was enjoyed in various confections and desserts since the sixteenth century, but it wasn't quite as fine as cotton candy as we know it today. Making it required a whole lot of time and patience, so it didn't come cheap. It was mostly a luxury, a treat enjoyed only by wealthy people. The candy floss machine was invented in 1897 by a candy-maker named John C. Wharton and a dentist named William J. Morrison. They worked together to invent a device that would reduce the effort of spinning sugar, for the benefit of candy-makers and candy-lovers alike. They debuted their brilliant innovation in the St. Louis World's Fair in Missouri, U.S.A. in 1904. They demonstrated how to make a fluffy confection they called "fairy floss" - sugar in the form of cotton-like lumps served in wooden boxes. It was a huge success; they sold over 65,000 boxes in six months! The arrival of their machine made spinning sugar easier, quicker, and therefore cheaper, so spun sugar was not just for rich people anymore. Modern Cotton Candy The treat has become popular all over the world and called different names. It's known as cotton candy in the U.S.; candy floss in the U.K., Ireland and Canada; fairy floss in Australia; barbe papa in France and sugar thread in Italy. The modern candy floss machine has evolved to be sleeker, faster and more efficient, but it has maintained most of Wharton and Morrison's original design. Some models have compartments that allow three different colors of sugar in a single run. Larger, heavy-duty machines can produce cotton candy in bulk.
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