Saturday, October 21, 2006
The big rock candy mountain
This week I had a candy class at school, which was very very interesting, in spite of the fact that I don't especially like candy. I realize now that sugar work is actually of much more interest to me than than I had thought... I may never have the occasion (or the desire, for that matter) to make a big crazy sugar showpiece, but the principles and techniques would be quite useful for smaller, simpler finishing touches that add an air of elegance or whimsy. Sugar is a fascinating substance, and if I were less of a science flunky I would try to gain a deeper understanding of it. For example, sugar cooked to a high temperature very quickly may cause more crystals in the finished project... however, the same sugar cooked to the same temperature too slowly may be too soft to work properly... therefore a compromise must be made-- this entails much experience, including awareness of how efficient various heat sources are, the conductive properties of various pans, etc. And then for pulled pieces you must delicately balance how hot or cold the sugar "dough" is so as to maximize shine, extensibility, fixability etc. And as if this all wasn't enough already, working with sugar is inherently dangerous as it exceeds temperatures of 300 degrees fahrenheit. In spite of protective gloves, burns are essentially a guarantee.
The worlds of candy and confiture are other subjects with their own concerns, be it caramel, nougat, jelly, fondant or another tooth-melting goo. For example, I never knew that many candies are made in starch molds-- a rather interesting and somewhat complex process explained rudimentarily here and further illustrated in my fairly extensive photos from this week.
In other sweets-related news, I just purchased Paco Torreblanca's book, which I believe will prove to be a worthwhile investment.
If you had told me five years ago I would be involved with this much sugar and chocolate and cake and ice cream, I never would have believed it. I always crave salty things!