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Candying-art - 6/29/99

Period and modern descriptions of the candying process. Description of the
various stages of sugar candying in period and now. By Alys Katharine.

NOTE: See also the files: candy-msg, desserts-msg, honey-msg, sugar-msg,
sugar-paste-msg, Sugraplums-art, Roses-a-Sugar-art, cookies-msg.


This file is a collection of various messages having a common theme that I  have collected from my reading of the various computer networks. Some messages date back to 1989, some may be as recent as yesterday.

This file is part of a collection of files called Stefan's Florilegium. These files are available on the Internet at: http://www.florilegium.org

I  have done  a limited amount  of  editing. Messages having to do  with separate topics  were sometimes split into different files and sometimes extraneous information was removed. For instance, the  message IDs  were removed to save space and remove clutter.

The comments made in these messages are not necessarily my viewpoints. I make  no claims  as  to the accuracy  of  the information  given  by the individual authors.

Please  respect the time  and  efforts of  those who have written  these messages. The  copyright status  of these messages  is  unclear  at this time. If  information  is  published  from  these  messages, please give credit to the originator(s).

Thank you,
    Mark S. Harris                  AKA:  THLord Stefan li Rous
                                          Stefan at florilegium.org

Date: Wed, 16 Jun 1999 10:59:04 -0500 (CDT)
From: alysk at ix.netcom.com (Elise Fleming)
Subject: SC - Sugar Temperatures

Greetings from Alys Katharine.  Here is the beginning of a brief
article I started to write about sugar and the candying process.

The Candying Process

   As previously mentioned, the Italians, Spanish,and even the French,
were a bit ahead of the English in producing candies and confections.
By the mid-1600s, the French claimed to differentiate twelve different
stages in boiling, or candying, sugar.  Modern cookbooks generally list
only eight.  One problem with redacting period recipes is that the cook
"knew" the correct height or temperature for the sugar.  "Cook to the
height of Manus Christi," "Cook until it is the proper height," are not
much help to today's beginning confectioner.  Fortunately, several
modern redactors have worked out some temperatures which, together with
descriptions from period recipes, may help the neophyte confectioner.

   Before you begin your own confections, invest in a good candying
thermometer.  Follow the instructions to calibrating your specific one.
If you are making a hard candy, do so when it is dry and cool,
otherwise the heat and humidity will make the candy sticky.  (one
expert recommends cooking the syrup 2 degrees higher to alleviate the
problem.)  Be sure to have a pan big enough so that the syrup at full
boil does not run over the edge.

    Greasing the top two inches with butter can also prevent this.
Crystals may form on the sides of the pan.  If you put on a lid for the
first three minutes of cooking, the steam will prevent their formation.
Or, you can wipe them away with a damp pastry brush.  If you boil the
syrup too far, add more water and start again.  (This works especially
well with comfit making where the water is constantly being boiled

   Period cookbooks instruct the cook to clarify the sugar.  This
purifying process was necessary even through the early years of the
twentieth century to produce a clean, and fine, enough sugar for making
candies.  One process for clarifying sugar was to use the white of an
egg.  The cook boiled up a thin syrup of sugar with water equal to
about half the weight of the sugar.  The impurities rose in scum which
was then removed with a skimmer.  Another variation was one egg white
beaten into one cup of cold water.  Four cups of sugar were dissolved
into one cup of water.  The egg white was added and the mixture was
boiled on a gentle heat while one removed the scum as soon as it arose.

   One could also use 1/2 ounce of gum arabic dissolved in a little
boiling water and added to the same proportion (4:1) of sugar and water
as above.  Another relatively modern suggestion for loaf sugar was to
use the white of an egg to six pounds of sugar, but adding one
tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to prevent graininess.  The cook
needed to add small amounts of cold water as it boiled to prevent the
syrup from boiling over.  Again, the scum was removed as it boiled up.
For loaf sugar the process was repeated three or four times and
strained through cheesecloth.

   Honey also needed clarification but today's honey usually does not,
unless one is using honey directly from the hive.  There is a whitish
"scum" that appears as one begins to boil today's honey.  I usually
remove this as it appears.

   Here are some of the "degrees" of sugar with corresponding farenheit
temperatures, as well as documentation from period sources.  If any
readers know of others, I would appreciate hearing from them.  Please
note that cooks often tested the "doneness" with their hands.  A few
modern cookbooks still give hints on how to accomplish this feat.  the
candymaker dips the thumb and forefinger into ice water, then into the
boiling syrup, and then back ito the ice water.  Or, the syrup can be
raised out of the pot by a spoon so the cook can dip in his/her
fingers.  A candy thermometer is certainly safer today.

   1. The Thread, also known as "lisse": A short, thin thread appears
when the sugar is drawn out between fingers and thumb.  After a few
seconds cooking a few seconds more, the thread can be drawn out to
double its length without snapping.  Or, one can drop it from a spoon
to spin a thread.  Karen Hess(Martha Washington's Booke of Cookery)
gives the temperature as 215°F, "manus christi height," Recipe S5.  The
Joy of Cooking gives the temperature as 230°F- 234.°F

   2. The Pearl:  Sugar will form small pearl-like round bubbles.  A
pinch of syrup can be drawn out between thumb and forefinger without
breaking.  (Note the similarity of description above as is Hess's
suggested temperature.)  At least one cooking authority says that this
is "the proper degree for most kinds of candy making."  Hess suggests
220°F, "candy height," Recipe S5.  The Ladies Cabinet, 1655, Recipe 95
states, "...(to see when it is enough) it will stand on a stiffe purle
when you drop some of it upon a Plate of silver..."

   3. The Souffle or Blow and The Plume or Feather:  (Some authorities
consider these as two different stages.  Others combine these into
one.)  Dip a spoon with holes into the syrup and hit it sharply on the
edge of the pan.  Blow through the holes.  If bubbles form on the
opposite side one has reached the "blow."  If, when one dips the spoon
and shakes it to release some of the liquid, the syrup flies in flakes
or hangs in strings, it is called the "feather."  Hess identifies the
temperature as 232°F, Recipe S6, "grand souffle or feather."  She
states that the next stage is caramel and was considered to be "burnt."

   4. The Ball or "Boulet":  Drop a small amount into cold water.  If
you can roll it between your fingers and thumb to form a small, soft
(but not sticky) ball you have reached the "soft ball" stage.  The Joy
of Cooking gives the temperature as 238°F.  At 244 degrees it can be
rolled up and will hold its shape, the "firm ball" stage.  At 248°F the
ball will be somewhat malleable but not yet rigid, the "hard ball"
stage.  The Ladies Cabinet says, "boil it till it will roul between
your finger and your thumb," Recipe 40.  In Recipe 60 THE LADIES
CABINET again notes, "boil it til it roule between your finger and your
thumb, then cast it into your standing Moulds..."

   Beyond these stages of syrup modern cookbooks list the "crack" or
"snap" stage at 270°-300°F.  I have not yet seen any period
designations for this temperature.  As Hess hinted at in Martha
Washington's Booke of Cookery, stages beyond 232°F were considered
unusable for candymaking.  The final modern stage is "caramel" which
occurs at 310°-338°F.  The sugar begins to brown quickly, turn to
black, and give off a burnt odor.

<the end>

Formatting copyright © Mark S. Harris (THLord Stefan li Rous).
All other copyrights are property of the original article and message authors.

Comments to the Editor: stefan at florilegium.org