Hello again, friends!
In a world full of sweets and other delectables, sweet foods have become one of the biggest pick-me-ups and cravings we have today. While a lot of sugary treats take shape in the form of candies, we often forget that sugar is not just meant to be eaten. In the pastry world, sugar is like a pastry chef’s clay – there are many forms pastry chefs can shape sugar into, whether it’s pulled sugar, blown sugar, cast/poured sugar, spun sugar, or rock sugar (all of these were used in the showpiece, below).
Cast or poured sugar is cooked and poured into molds to achieve any desired shape used for the base of a showpiece, like the the green circle base at the bottom of the showpiece (above) and the red coral used to decorate the base. Rock sugar is used to make edible rocks due to its bubbling affect as it cools over crumpled-up foil to give the mass a textured look, similar to rocks. As for pulled or blown sugar, once the sugar mixture is cooked, it is poured onto a Silpat on the counter and left to cool shortly before it is kneaded onto itself. Spun sugar is when sugar is cooked and then a spun sugar tool (a tool made up of a base with nails and attached to a handle), is dipped into the sugar and then the tool with the sugar is whipped over two dowels for the cooled sugar to hang on. This is used to make decorative bird’s nests and for other decorative purposes, such as for cakes.
One of the products from the sugar mixture, the pulled sugar, is formed by literally pulling, cutting, and forming the sugar into a specific shape. The pulled sugar can be made more opaque and shinier by repeatedly folding and pulling the sugar mass (using multiple layers of gloves, as the mixture is extremely hot) until the desired opaqueness is reached. The other product, blown sugar, is made just after kneading by creating an open pocket over a pump and then pumping air into the sugar pocket until the desired size is reached, closing up the gap between the sugar and the pump, cutting the sugar off the pump and then heating up the loose ends to close off the gap.
There is a substitute for sugar when creating showpieces – this is called isomalt, primarily used for decorative purposes and gluing sugar pieces to the base when all of the elements are made and ready to assemble. While it is edible, isomalt is only mildly sweet compared to regular sugar and it is not used in baking like regular sugar is, so isomalt is only used for garnishes and decorative elements of a dessert. Isomalt can cook to a higher temperature without caramelizing and must be stirred while cooking to dissolve, unlike regular sugar (which caramelizes at a lower temperature and must not be stirred while it is cooking). Isomalt granules are also larger in size than granulated sugar granules.
The first time I worked with sugar was in lab, about three weeks ago, and I found it fairly easy to cook and mold the sugar. We also made spun sugar on the first day, which I loved. However, making pulled sugar and blown sugar is much trickier as it sets up so quickly. If I let the sugar sit too long it rapidly became unusable. With all of this being said, I was able to make the fish showpiece above, which is one of my favorite pieces so far.
Thank you all so much for staying with me throughout this journey I am on and I hope you enjoyed reading this post.
See you soon!