You mean we’re not doing spun sugar?

I didn’t put spun sugar on the croquembouche and as a consequence there was a small outcry (it’s semi-traditional). But while I decided against it on Tuesday there’s no reason we can’t do it Friday just for fun.

There are a lot of methods for producing this, this is the one I think is the easiest. The first step is to destroy a whisk. Using some pliers or snips, cut the loops off of one like so.

You’ll have something like this.

Now all you need to do is bend the wires outward so you have something brush-like, like this:

I once used a bus tub and some thick dowel rods as a catcher. This Tupperware tub will stand in nicely. I only have the one handle from my old chimney cake project, but that will work!

You’ll of course need some caramel. This is nothing but a cup or so of sugar combined with about 1/3 cup of water…

…and cooked to a medium amber. You always have to be careful working with caramel no matter how long you’ve done it. Just a little will give you a nasty burn, so tread carefully and always make sure the kids are out of the kitchen!

So much for the public service announcement. Now, at that point I took the pan off the heat. As the caramel cooled it cooked a bit more to a dark amber, which is what I want. I just let the pan continue cooling, past the point where it would be much use for anything. It was still fairly hot but thick like mud.

At that point I inserted my wrecked whisk and gave it a swizzle…

And started spinning like Charlotte’s Web, y’all.

As the strands fell I moved the wrecked whisk back and forth over the dowel rod so it settled in a heap. When it stopped falling I grabbed the strands with my other hand and pulled them. Now, that may not be your thing as the caramel is still warmish-hot. Though if you venture to touch the strands six inches or so from the whisk wire tips, you’ll find that they’re almost completely cool. Still, don’t do anything you’re not comfortable with. I’m mentally imbalanced.

For longer strands, of the kind you would wrap around a croquembouche, use a long tub and two or three rods to catch and hold them.

While they’re fresh they can be wadded up into little nests.

And that’s spun sugar! (Note: spun sugar was the most impressive thing I made for my parents, aunt and uncle at a banquet that my twin sister and I threw when we were eleven. My mom still talks about it.)

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27 Responses to You mean we’re not doing spun sugar?

  1. Roger says:

    I’ve seen this method for spun sugar (never tried it, at least not yet) – where and how do you ‘wrap around a croquembouche’? And if you wrap it, doesn’t that impede the ‘break off’ method of eating said item? I’m picturing the spun sugar as being slightly malleable, not hard (unless it crisps up as you let it sit)…. little help, Joe?

    • joepastry says:

      Hey Roger!

      If you lay down much longer threads across several dowel rods, the length of a longer tub, you can bunch it all together into a long sort of thing that you can curl around the the croquembouche like a toga. Of course different people do different things. Some people wrap it around the bottom or crown the top with sort of a “fro” of spun sugar. Do a google image search for croquembouche and you’ll see some of the different treatments.

      - Joe

  2. Roger says:

    Thought #2, if I make my planned Easter Croquembouch, I can make a ‘nest’ of spun sugar to put around the base, and then put some Easter Eggs in the nest! Genius, I say!

  3. Mom in High Heels says:

    Wow! You make that look so easy. I’m sure it’s not though!

  4. Frankly says:

    I love the use of the whisk! I have only ever seen this done with a fork or a spoon. I use a fork because its easier but now I’ll have to keep an eye out for a whisk I don’t mind wrecking, thanks!

    • joepastry says:

      It’s a fun little tool to have around, Frankly! Let me know if/when you try it!

      - Joe

  5. Heather says:

    Awesome .
    Just a question – do you keep returning to the caramel in the pan to get more out or has the caramel become to thick to spin and the whisk too glugged up ?
    Thanks
    Heather

    • joepastry says:

      Hey Heather! You definitely can return the whisk to the pan and do it again. Usually you can do it twice or three times before the tips of the whisk get gunky and the caramel hardens a bit too much. In that case you just return the caramel to the stove while you chip off the hardened caramel on the whisk and go back after it!

      - Joe

  6. rainey says:

    You know, I’m used to seeing croquembouche with spun sugar too but your version was so clean and fresh and modern looking I didn’t miss it one tiny bit. Still, it’s lovely to get the additional tutorial. ;>

    And you did spun sugar at 11?! At 11 I was burning my hands to raw meat attempting to pull taffy fresh from the pot. I am so impressed that you bright and capable enough to pull off spun sugar. It took me so much longer to work my way past the ignorant impulsive stage to any degree of competence at all. =o

  7. Susan says:

    When I was a kid my Mother wouldn’t miss a cooking show hosted by Julia Child. The episode I saw and was fascinated by was when she showed her viewers how to spin sugar. She set up a broom stick set across the back of two chairs and flung the hot sugar syrup over the stick creating long strands that looked like brown glass. I don’t remember all the details of her covering or buttering the stick, just that she did it then gathered it up in her capable hands and formed it into a nest.

    After reading your treatise on caramelized sugar I went hunting online to see if I could find the episode. Unfortunately, it wasn’t available but I did find this where she makes Gauteax in a cage:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JOAHWuZH13E
    Enjoy!

    • joepastry says:

      What neat thing! I’ve never heard of that. I smell a future project coming on!

      Thanks, Susan!

      - Joe

    • Jim says:

      Loved this!!! Julia Child… how could I have forgotten what an absolute treasure she was. Thank you so much for adding this link Susan!

  8. Lisa says:

    and Joe.. how long does this last? what about humidity?

    • joepastry says:

      Hello Lisa! You hit on the Achilles heel of spun sugar: humidity. Sugar is hygroscopic, meaning it absorbs moisture, even from the air. In a very humid environment spun sugar will soften within a few minutes of being made. In a very dry environment it will keep for hours, but the general rule of thumb is to prepare it as close as you can to serving time.

      Cheers,

      - Joe

      • Just Justin says:

        Living in Florida, I can comfirm humidity can wreck havoc with carefully laid plans. Spun sugar, cotton candy/candy floss, a souffle… heck, even waiting for paint to dry can be messed up by the weather, even in a controlled environment.

        I had a meringue, perfect out of the oven, turned into a chewy mess by a passing tropical storm, even though it just went from the kitchen to the dining room. (It was still tasty)

        • joepastry says:

          Yes, about like I’d expect in Florida, JJ.

          I’ll find out in about a week when I head down there. Though I expect I’ll be fishing instead of making caramel…at least I hope so!

          - Joe

  9. Donna Ayo says:

    can it stay at room temperature at 8 hours long?thanks

    • joepastry says:

      Once it has been fully chilled I think it would hold that long, yes, provided the temperature stayed below 80 or so Fahrenheit.

      - Joe

    • joepastry says:

      Oops! I thought you were talking about something else! Sorry.

      If the air is very dry the spun sugar might last that long. Generally it’s best after it’s just made.

      Sorry for the mixup!

      - Joe

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