Week 11: Is it hot in here, or are we just pulling sugar?

Last week was an unusual week because it was a mix of different things, we learned about sugar in all shapes and forms for the first three days of the week and then thursday and friday were all about alternative baking. I’ll write about that in my next post because it doesn’t feel right to write about them together.

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My first sugar cage (that worked), I plated it with some chocolate almonds from chocolate week, and another cage on top. The cages absorb humidity in the room so they only last one day.

Sugar work included learning about isomalt, sugar (casting, piping, spun cages, bubble sugar, rock sugar, blown sugar and casting sugar), making fruit jellies, marshmallows, nougat, fondant, gumpaste, and more. Sugar is a vastly versatile medium for baking and sugar artwork/ show pieces. Some days felt a bit like we were in science camp, making things foam and blow up and melt and more.

Working with sugar is also kind of scary. There are many stages of cooking sugar but essentially you boil it until its liquid lava hot. It is so hot you could bake bread in those temperatures. It is also so hot that you can burn yourself very badly if you are not careful. There was a lot of, “walking with a hot pot” shared in the classroom. It almost became funny to hear it so much…. Hot pot! Hot pot! I have a hot pot, coming through! Safety can be fun too. But always better safe than sorry.

I got a little drop of hot lava sugar on my finger and it burned, I had a small blister the next day. I could not imagine a worse sugar burn. It is unlike water or hot metal that you can instantly pull away from, the sugar just sticks to you, hot, lava. Ouch. You have to wait until it cools before you can pull it off, basically.

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Brining sugar up to temperature. The bubbles start to change once they become sugar, it’s kind of fun to watch. The other two pots in the background are being boiled off. You can’t just chuck a sugar pot in the dishwasher, it will take forever to clean. Just boil it with new water and the sugar melts off the sides making dishes much easier.

Enough of that.

Sugar is still cool to work with because it can be stunning and beautiful. We learned how to blow sugar, like glass blowing, but with sugar. It is super tricky though, and some people are naturals at it instantly. Like my station partner, he made a few blown pieces and it was amazing to watch. Impressive. You have to keep the sugar under a heat lamp though, and heat lamps are, well, HOT.

Sugar really does seem to require a sweet-instinct. I blew one sugar ball, but then it popped before I could take a photo.

Spinning sugar is also sticky-tricky business. We made little sugar cages, like you would have seen on plated desserts back in the 80s. It feels like a dated skill to have, but it is actually still used a lot (apparently). Sugar cages do look pretty, and once I figured out how to make them I was pleased with myself.

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We also learned how to pull sugar in different ways including little petals and made a sugar rose. We used isomalt for this, a special kind of sugar that is easier to work with for pulled pieces. It is derived from sugar, less sweet, and has better chemical properties for turning into a sugar show piece – it is easier to work with essentially.

Sugar was interesting to learn about and fun to work with for a little while, but it can be super frustrating. You could spend hours on something and one in one bad move, it will shatter to pieces everywhere. It tests your patience. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is sugar pulling talent. I can see how it is useful to understand still, and has many different applications but it is still tricky.

I kind of missed baking cakes, cookies and pies, etc…

Anyway, the photos are super fun, here’s a look at what we did and some more detail:

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Various sugar casting pieces we made, some snapped, others survived the moulds. The triangle at the top is my favourite piece that we made. I like the two-tone colours.

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We also learned to make candied hazelnuts. Stuck them on a skewer and dipped in the sugar, just at the right time, then pull it away to create the pointy top. Eventually you can pull out the skewer and just use the nut as a fancy garnish. I loved this idea (mostly because it was easy, and I could do it!). You can see the pile of our sugar cages in the background too…

 

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This is isomalt. We chose to colour it gold…. It’s very warm to touch, like a hot rock. We have to keep it under a heat lamp to pull it.

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We also made fruit jellies, we made raspberry flavoured ones.

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When the jellies set the next day we tossed them in sugar, and may have sampled one or two…. I love fruit jellies.

 

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Here is my station partner at work with sugar blowing. I took a bunch of photos but this one is my favourite. We were working in a well lit room, but with the light from the heat lamp it looks like we are working in the dark almost. Pretty cool. Pretty warm!

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My first sugar rose! I managed to keep it intact without shattering it! Yay!

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My Chef demonstrated how to make ribbon, I ran out of time to try this on my own, but it was very cool to watch this be made.

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After we made all our sugar pieces we sculpted them together the next day for display. Then the culinary students came over and took a look at all our designs! This was my piece I named, “The beginning of the Sea”.

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All the different sculptures on display! Not bad for beginners! 

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Our Chef demonstrating more sugar tricks, how to make sugar look like a waterfall. Pretty amazing!

Once we began gumpaste work, I was fully engaged.  Sugar is interesting but I totally loved gumpaste. We had a guest Chef in to teach us how to make gumpaste roses and flowers. It was SO FUN! Gumpaste is amazing. It is basically a type of fondant mixture that doesn’t dry out as fast, so you can mould it and work it more easily. Roses were fun. I love all the little pretty details…. I could have made flowers allllll day.

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Here is the rose that the guest Chef made, passed it around the class. PRETTY!

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Then we were set off to make our own gumpaste rose.

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My first rose!

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After gumpaste, we learned to make marshmallows in all sorts of flavours. I made pumpkin pie marshmallows with my station partner and they turned out GREAT! Others made Root Beer flavour, raspberry, cherry, and more. We made this plate to share with the culinary class.

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Then we made marshmallow fondant and practiced decorating cakes (using styrofoam as a base). I like marshmallow fondant, it is easier to work with than the other traditional fondant. As it was just practice I played around with this design and then only had a few minutes to paint, so it’s a messy paint job.

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That was our three days in sugar, onward to alternative baking!

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