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Tools & Tips for Working with Heated Sugar
Elizabeth Faulkner
  With practice, you will become expert at the temperature subtleties of sugar work. Here are some basic ingredients, tools and tips to help you get started creating your own sugar artistry.
 
 
Ingredients
 
Basic Tools
 
Tools for More Specialized Sugar Work
 
Helpful Tips
 
Storage and Spoilage
 
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Ingredients (see recipes for exact measurement)

• C&H Pure Cane Baker’s Sugar for fast, easy melting.
• Water, to dissolve sugar.
• Light Corn Syrup, helps keep mixture smooth and prevents re-crystallization.
• Cream of Tartar, a drying agent.
• Food coloring (if desired) in liquid form, to add color

Basic Tools
(Most tools you will have on hand already; others can be purchased at a general cookware or cake decorating store.)

• Professional sugar thermometer - Must read exactly 212°F/100°C when placed in boiling water at sea level. Regular home-use candy thermometers can be used, but these are easily broken and should be checked for accuracy
• Heat source
• Copper or stainless steel pot
with a 2-quart capacity
• Double boiler
or a bowl larger than the pan filled with water
TIP: The process of placing a pan in a bowl of water to cool or heat the contents is called a water bath or bain-marie, the French term.
• Brush
dedicated for use in sugar boiling to wash down sides of pan.
• Metal scraper or spatula
• Wooden spoon
• Sieve
or perforated spoon for skimming
• Measuring cup
- pint or quart
• Marble or granite surface
or vegetable-sprayed parchment paper placed on the back of a baking sheet, or a silicone mat
• Rubber cleaning gloves
or surgical gloves – to protect your hands from the heat, cleaning gloves work best. Either thickness will also protect the sugar from any dampness on your hands as you work with it.
• Dehumidifying agent
(silica blue gel or quicklime) to protect the finished pieces

 

Tools for More Specialized Sugar Work
For Sugar Cages, Corkscrews, Teeter-Totters, Shards:

• Ladle, copper or stainless steel mixing bowl or other bowl to form cage shape
• Knife-sharpening steel
or wooden spoon to form corkscrews
• Dinner knife
or narrow metal spatula for teeter-totters and shards

For Spun Sugar:

• Metal whisk with end cut off and wires spread slightly or long, narrow metal spatula

For Pulled Sugar:

• Lemon juice (delays re-crystallization and gives sugar flexibility)
• Small drop bottle
• Kitchen scissors
• Heat lamp
to keep sugar warm and pliable
• Leaf mold
to form larger rose leaves
• Oiled metal spatula
for sugar ribbons

Helpful Tips
Caution: Working with hot sugar can be dangerous, so use caution. Be watchful of children underfoot. Take care when transporting boiling sugar and when working and molding hot sugar with your hands.

• Make sure to have cool water handy in case of an emergency. If hot sugar or water burns skin, place skin in cold water (not ice). If done within the first minute or so, cold water emersion for up to 30 minutes can reduce total area and severity of the burn.
• The crystallization process starts with stirring and heat. Crystals affect the sugar’s texture. Large crystals form in hot syrups occasionally stirred. Small crystals form in cool syrups that are constantly stirred. Avoid crystallization by cooling the syrup rapidly in cold water. When pulling sugar, take care not to work the sugar too long; over pulling can result in the sugar re-crystallizing and taking on a dull matte finish.
• Use a heat lamp to soften sugar while you are working with pulled sugar.
Wipe spills on the counters or floors immediately to avoid hardened sugar later. Some sugar work, especially spinning, can be quite messy, so it is a good idea to cover up areas where flicking sugar may drop.
• Before beginning a sugar project, place two plastic bags nearby. If the phone rings or the dog needs to be let out, you can quickly use the plastic bags as gloves to keep from leaving a sticky trail.
• Remove hardened sugar stuck to pans by filling pan with boiling water. Wash down sides with a clean brush dipped in water.
Climate can play role in sugar crystallization. If you live in a damp climate, you may find it more difficult to work with sugar due to high humidity.

 

Storage and Spoilage

The growth of bacteria or molds rarely spoils cooked sugar. The sugar's flavor can be degraded, however, by the exposure to air and rancidity of added fats, from milk solids or butter. Cold storage (refrigeration or freezing) can slow the process of spoilage yet encourages "sugar bloom" in loosely wrapped pieces. Temperature variations can cause condensation on the candy surface, and some sugar will dissolve into the liquid. After evaporation, the sugar crystallizes, leaving a rough, white coating. Generally, sugar decorations should be prepared as close to actual serving time as possible.

For storage: Place decorations in sealed plastic bags with a dehumidifying agent inside. Decorations will keep many months stored in an airtight container with silica or quicklime that can be purchased at a cookware or cake-decorating store.

 

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