I never thought these fragile beauties could be so easily created. I’m talking about basic sugar work pieces here..you know, for beginners. Sugar Work 101. None of those intricate sugar work pieces that are made for competitions; definitely not the complex pieces people hold their breath over when they’re being transported from the working table to the main display table.
I could spend hours and hours boiling sugar and water and molding it in different ways. Time would fly by while I try to find infinite ways to shape and mold sugar while experimenting with an endless spectrum of colors at the same time. I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that I find sugar work to be quite amusing. Please allow me to give you a brief lesson on how to play with sugar! Above all, please be safe and don’t burn yourself. Sugar for décor pieces has to be cooked to a minimum of 300 F (hard crack stage) to 310 F (petit amber). That’s pretty hot!
*Note: You really don’t need a candy thermometer for this. You can use the “eye-balling method” to know when the sugar has been cooked to the appropriate temperature. I try to explain how to do that in the procedure. A lot of it is practice and training your eyes and senses. Once you know what to look for, it gets easier and easier to do so. So no thermometer? Who knew that pastry and sugar work is not really as exact as they make it out to be…Actually, it kind of is, but you just to discipline your senses to be on the look out for such precision. Even more fun!
20 oz sugar
4 oz water
1-2 T corn syrup -> just so you know, adding corn syrup prevents crystallization during cooking. If you don’t have any, honey or other sugar that’s liquid at room temperature will work as well.
1. Mix sugar and water together in a pot. Remove any lumps you feel in sugar/water mixture with your hand.
2. Wipe sides of pot to push granulated sugar down with wet fingers if necessary.
3. Cook sugar and water on low-medium heat slowly and steadily. Bring to a boil and to a a temperature of 300-310 F. You may place a small aluminum tray over pot create steam by partially covering pot.
4. Add corn syrup when sugar is completely dissolved and mixture looks completely clear and continue boiling until sugar-water mixture reaches a temperature of 300-310 F.
You can test for hard crack by dropping liquid sugar into iced water. Then bite into hardened sugar. Sugar should crack and not stick to your teeth if it has been cooked to hard crack stage. Hence the name hard crack. If sugar sticks to your teeth, continue cooking it until it doesn’t. Now it would be about the right time to make that dentist appointment…You can test for petit amber stage by simply looking out for a light amber color in the sugar. You can place a drop of sugar onto a white surface to see the color better that way. The color should be light amber, not dark amber. Remove pot from heat when steam stops and do any of the sugar décor techniques that are listed below.
Before you begin you have to make the toughest decision of your life: Add food coloring to cooked sugar or leave it plain? It’s up to you and you can try both ways if you’d like to. If you decide you want to add food coloring to sugar, simply add drops of coloring directly into the pot and do not stir. Agitate pot back and forth until coloring has been well incorporated all throughout. I repeat, do not stir food coloring.
Angel Hair/Spun Sugar: 1. Place two wooden spoons on counter so that handles are hanging from counter top 2. Dip two forks into sugar and swing forks back and forth rapidly over wooden spoons to form angel hair. Forming a cross with forks while doing this works well. 3. Remove spun sugar from wooden spoons and form it into a nest shape. Gets soggy very quickly.
Grease ladle with vegetable spray and remove excess grease with a paper towel. Drizzle sugar over bottom of ladle, creating a pattern that overlaps. Allow sugar to harden and remove sugar mold from ladle very gently.
Cast (Poured Sugar): The mold you use should stand up to heat–ie: silcon/neoprene (does not have to be greased), wood, metal (grease with vegetable spray), or play-doh. Yes, play-doh!
Be sure to put mold on a flat surface that’s nonstick (such as a silpat) when pouring sugar into mold.
1. Pour sugar into mold. 2. Leave sugar in mold for 30-40 minutes, depending on its thickness. 3. Unmold hardened sugar.
Two ways of achieving effect:
- Wrinkle up a piece of parchment paper and pour sugar over it. Air bubbles will form when sugar hits the cracks.
- Brush alcohol over parchment paper. Air bubbles will form as sugar hits the alcohol.
– The more expensive the parchment paper is, the better it will work because expensive parchment paper has a higher level of silicone.
Sugar Over Ice:
1. Fill a bowl with ice.
2. Pour sugar slowly over ice. Sugar will find its way around the ice.
3. Wait for sugar to set and harden for a couple of minutes.
4. Unmold and squeeze sugar mold out of bowl over a cooling wrack that’s been placed over a sheet tray.
There is much more to say about sugar. As of now, let’s start with this!