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