There are a couple of reasons why you want to make some spun sugar this holiday season and a couple of reasons why you don’t.
Let’s go through the list of why you DO want to make it first.
1. Being able to spin sugar lets everyone know you’re better than they are.
2. You never can tell when a food critic’s car might break down in front of your house. You don’t want him/her to think you’re some sort of asshole who doesn’t know how to spin sugar. Best to always be prepared with some on display just in case.
Now the list of why you DON”T want to make spun sugar this holiday season.
1. No one likes a show off (but who cares).
2. It can make a mess, splattering sugar all over your kitchen and hair and it’s entirely possible the food critic will never leave your house because he will be forever stuck to the floor (but who cares).
O.K., now that that’s settled, let’s talk about how we’re all going to spin sugar this holiday season.
The best part about spun sugar is it’s easy to make. Much easier than the look of it would imply.
Stainless steel or copper pot
A couple of wooden spoons
A whisk with the ends clipped
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 Tbsps Corn Syrup or 1/4 tsp Cream of Tartar
In a nutshell, all spun sugar is, is thin strands of melted sugar that have been formed into a ball, nest, ribbon, or whatever. To get the strands you just have to melt the sugar, let it cool a tiny bit, then use a whisk or something to pick up the syrup sugar and fling/drizzle it. Once it reaches the cool air it starts to harden, creating thin strands of gold.
Here’s that whisk with the ends clipped I mentioned in the materials list. It’s just a regular whisk that I’ve cut the end off of with wire cutters. This lets you have many tips for the sugar strands to come off of when you’re flinging it.
1. Set your burner to medium low.
2. Pour 1/4 cup of water into pot, followed by 2 Tablespoons of corn syrup (or 1/4 tsp cream of tartar) and finally 1 cup of sugar. Make sure you slowly pour the sugar into the pot, keeping it in the centre so none of if touches the sides of the pot.
3. Now LEAVE it. Don’t stir it, swish it or move it. (if you stir the mixture it will crystallize) Allow the sugar to melt into the water on its own.
4. Heat the sugar mixture at medium low until it reaches 300 f degrees. That’s bordering the hard crack stage. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, 300 f degrees is when the sugar has just started to become a light amber colour. If it’s taking more than 5 minutes to get to this stage, turn up the heat a little bit.
*hint* To keep your spun sugar a nice light colour use a pastry brush that you constantly dip in water to brush down the sides of the pot as it simmers. Any little bits of sugar stuck to the side of the pot will turn DARK and discolour your sugar.
5. Once you’ve reached temperature take your pot off the heat and let it cool down a bit. (a lot of cooks say they dunk their pot into cold water for a few seconds to stop the cooking of the sugar but I find when you’re just doing a small amount like this, you’re better off not dunking the pot into cool water because it cools it too quickly.
6. Take either 2 forks in your hand or a wire whisk that you’ve cut the ends off of and dip it into the sugar and lift it up. If you see tiny strands (as opposed to drips) coming off the tines, your sugar is cool enough to fling.
7. Set a couple of wood spoons over a bowl and just flick your whisk back and forth over it. The higher you hold the whisk the better and the stronger you fling it the better. BUT you’ll also get spun sugar all over your kitchen. I just slowly pull the sugar back and forth across the bowl. The upside? Not as much sugar around the kitchen. The downside? The strands are slightly thicker than if you fling the sugar.
8. Lift the spun sugar and form it into whatever shape you want. You can place it over a greased bowl or cup to get a rounded look. Or you can lift the strands as a long ribbon, wrap them around a straight sided glass or mason jar to make a big circle.
(basically once it’s spun and still pliable you can form it however you want)
*hint* If your sugar doesn’t hold its shape and stays soft, you haven’t cooked it to a high enough temperature (borderline hard crack).
9. Once your sugar starts to get a bit too cool to fling, you can make your twirls. Take a spoon or knife and dip it into the sugar. Let the ribbon of sugar hang down and using a dowel or the handle of a wood spoon, just twirl the ribbon of sugar around it. I like these even more than the spun sugar and they’re way less messy to do because you aren’t flinging anything around.
10. If your sugar gets too cool to work with just put it back on the stove and reheat it remembering not to stir it while it heats up. Each time you reheat your mixture it will get darker and darker making your spun sugar more and more caramelized. So you’ll start off with spun sugar that is a light amber and end up with spun sugar that’s more of a dark amber colour.
Here’s a tip for you. If you do this, line your floor with newspapers.
You’re supposed to line your floors with newspaper if you make spun sugar. The first time I did this I didn’t line my floors with newspapers because I’m super-cool. And super-cool girls don’t need to line their floors with paper. Super-cool girls are also stupid. And sticky.
Confused? Watch this quick video of me making spun sugar and sugar spirals.
I spent an entire day making spun sugar every way possible. I made it with only sugar (hardens too quickly, isn’t pliable for long). I made it with sugar and water (same pliability problem, but totally doable if you don’t have corn syrup or cream of tartar). I made it with sugar, water and corn syrup. I made it with sugar, water and cream of tartar (no difference between either as far as I could tell). So an entire day of making spun sugar fills you with more tips than you thought possible. Here are a few more.
* To clean your pot once the sugar syrup has hardened in it, just fill the pot with water and put it on the burner.
* Don’t even attempt to make this on a humid day.
* If it’s winter and really dry in your house, the sugar will last a day or two on the counter before it gets weird. (melts, gets sticky). If you want to store it longer apparently you can put it in Tupperware with as many of those silica packs as you can scrounge up in your house.
* Lay down the newspaper. Just put down the newspaper damnit.
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