Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sugar - Part 1

Friday was my Sugar Day... aka Day 1 of working on my sugar project. It was SO much more fun and so much harder than I thought it would be!!!
We had a brief lecture from Chef C about the process for the seven students doing the sugar pulling. We wrote our names down for who would cook and pull their sugar when, since Chef C wanted to be on hand to work with us individually. I was #3. We also named off some colors we wanted to have so Chef C could mix the appropriate amounts for us (sometimes food coloring contains acid, and we didn't want too much to interfere with our sugar). Next, she told us the equipment and setup we would need.

To get ideal "clean" sugar, there are some prerequisites:
  1. Clean equipment (we used a copper pot for ultimate heating efficiency, and had to clean it with vinegar and salt).
  2. Wipe the sides down with a wet brush - any beaded sugar on the sides will fall in and cause crystallization - bad!
  3. Add a doctor (some kind of doctored sugar, like isomalt).
  4. Add an acid.
  5. Don't stir after the sugar comes to a boil.
  6. Skim the scum.
Following these steps will ensure lump-free sugar. When dirt or crystallized sugar stays in the pot, it attracts more sugar crystals, and equals lumps! We had to cook our sugar syrup to 138˚C (first time ever working in Celsius!), then add our food color and the acid (a cream of tartar solution added with an eye dropper for consistency). Once the sugar reached 158˚C (about 350˚F - HOT!), we took it off the heat and poured it directly on our marble slabs, which had been rubbed with a little non-stick spray.

Beautiful color, right?! I was in love! Marble naturally absorbs heat and redistributes it amongst its mass, so it is a great way to cool things down quickly. Once the sugar stopped spreading, I used a bench scraper (also greased) to scoop it up on top of itself to redistribute the hot and cold parts. The aim was to get the hotter parts onto the marble, rotating everything. Here I am, excited about the process:

The gloves are to help my hands handle the heat. Once it got to be a manageable heat, I would flip it and roll it like a jelly roll to distribute the heat. Finally, the sugar stopped spreading so much and started to tighten up. It was time to do the pulling!
I have to say that this was the most fun part! Pulling agitates the sugar, causing crystallization and air pockets. This lightens the color of the sugar (even when you don't add color, the sugar will usually look yellow, then very bright gold) and gives a beautiful shine! You must try not to overpull. The shine you achieve at this level will stay with the sugar throughout the rest of its "life" as you use it. Pretty cool! We add a couple of twists and fold, twist and fold, bringing the ends together and pulling gently only with our fingertips to try and get an even pull. It was so much fun and it didn't even hurt my fingers too much! Then it was pulled pretty wide, laid on the marble, and I then cut it into chunks before it got too hard. Finally, I left it on the marble to cool:
This sugar can then be stored and held for a loooong period of time (sugar won't go bad) as mise-en-place. Then whenever you need it, you can just grab it! Pretty handy! Every student did a different color, so we had a lot to choose from. Once it was in this cut up state, it was a free-for-all on what we were allowed to use.

On Monday, we will turn in our finished sugar showpiece completely assembled. I didn't take a picture of any of the pieces yet because I'm not sure they'll make it through the weekend (it's very humid here - aka sticky sugar!) and I may just do some over. I'll described the process more on Monday. We have to include these components in our piece:
  • 1 swan
  • 2 roses
  • 5-6 leaves
  • 1 sugar straw
  • 5-6 ribbons
I started out with the roses, and man was it harder than it looked! I ended up making two yellow roses and one aqua rose. The third one came out the best, naturally. Then I did the leaves (easiest). The sugar straw came out weird, and the ribbons were almost impossible. Those will take some work!

Lastly, I attempted the swan. This is done similar to glass-blowing. We use a hand pump attached to a metal pipe. The end of the pipe is heated and attached to a small ball of warm sugar. Gently, I pumped air into the ball and tried to shape it with my hand. The first one was a complete dud - I pumped too hard and busted a hole in the side. The second try was more successful, but the swan ended up having a funny looking... backside as I attempted to remove it while it was still soft. My third try was laughable - it was all good until I tried to remove the swan from the pipe (attached by the tail). I heated the end up and was trying to pull it off gently, when the entire bird literally took flight - flying off the pipe and smashing onto the floor, breaking in many, many pieces. I looked up and saw that I was being watched by a tour through the windows. Great! They laughed, I laughed, and ran to get the broom and try again. My fourth attempt was a great success! A small, beautiful white/gold swan. Yes!

Hopefully everything makes it through the weekend and I will have max time on Monday to perfect and assemble. Ahh!

This is also an exciting weekend. I volunteered to help with the Gluten-Free Summit happening on campus. I got to attend all day for free today and watch six demos and taste delicious food! Tomorrow I am assisting an author/television host from Canada with her demo. She is awesome! I am so excited and soaking up everything I can. Tomorrow I hope to recap everything!

1 comment:

Patti MacLeith said...

hmmmmm. I wonder who chose that color!

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