Sunday, May 1, 2011

Candies & Confectionaries: Final Class on Sugar

In my last Candies & Confectionaries class, we spent the day with sugar. Specifically, we learned about the methods for cooking sugar to be used in different applications; our main focus of the class was working with pulled sugar.

To make sugar for pulling, we placed sugar in a copper pot with water, and brought the mixture to a boil. After boiling, we skimmed off the sugar scum, then added glucose to the liquid. When the sugar reached a temperature of 305 degrees F, we removed the pot from the stove and placed it in an ice bath to ensure it would not cook higher than 309 degrees F, which was the desired temperature.

After cooling slightly, Chef poured the sugar onto a marble table which had been oiled. Chef used an oiled bench scraper to work the sugar from the outside in, until it no longer spread out. When ready, he began pulling it, much like a taffy machine would stretch taffy. He then divided the sugar into five pieces, four of which were colored with food coloring. My classmates and I took turns pulling the sugar to work in the color. We used gloves for this process because the sugar remains hot, but more so because the sugar is somewhat sticky and can pull skin from your fingers. Necessary precaution, for sure.

Chef then spent some time demonstrating different applications for pulled sugar. He first showed us how to make a rose, by making the petals one at a time. He then used two different colored pieces to create a ribbon, which he turned into what we called "neck frill" - it's really just a ribbon, but earlier in the day we watched a video where this method was used to create "neck frill" for a pulled sugar clown. And really, it's funny to say "neck frill." Who wouldn't want some of that?

After this, Chef demonstrated how to blow sugar, using a tool made specifically for this. In this process, sugar is placed at the end of a rubber tube, which is pumped using the hand tool; this brings air in the sugar so it can be shaped in different ways. He did this to create a bird. Chef's work is shown here:

After Chef's demo, we had time to play around with the sugar and try out different techniques. After my first attempt with this product, I can't really say at all that I made any progress. Pulled sugar seems to be one of those things that seems a bit out of my creative comfort zone. I was most interested in working with the ribbons, and that proved more difficult than I imagined.

I spent the rest of the creative time hanging out with my friend Katelyn. We decided we would take our attempts at ribbons and some scrap pieces of pulled sugar and attempt to build a "firework" of sorts. It was lots of fun actually.

At the end of class, we made rock sugar. In a similar fashion to making pulled sugar, we prepared and cooked the sugar mixture. After pulling the sugar from the stove, we poured it into a very large bowl covered in aluminum foil. The mixture expanded in the bowl before our eyes. After it cooler, we took it out of the bowl and broke it into pieces.

All in all, it was a fun class session to end the semester with. This class really pushed me in terms of creativity, detail and skill, and patience. Probably patience more than anything else. I feel really good about my work in this class, and I believe I pushed myself as much as I could to work with these different applications and projects. I'm not sure I'll ever do these things in their entirety ever again, but there are definitely components from this class that will continue to be a part of my work. Amen for progress.

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