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Brand new to Sugar pulling! Lots of questions.

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 
Hello everyone,
I have just recently started to try cake decorating as a hobby and I have been researching sugar pulling. I'm sure that these are amateur questions but I could really some help.

I have seen a few recipes for sugar pulling. Some say to use plain sugar, other want you to use isomalt. I know the chemical difference between the two but is one better than the other? Will I get different results with sugar vs isomalt?

What temperature should the warming box be on average? I know its never exact but a rough estimate would be great if anyone knows.

How long do pulled sugar decorations last? Once they are made (if they are not going directly on the cake) what is the best way to store them?

Any other tip or links to informative sites would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
post #2 of 16
i am also interested in sugar pulling. i know isomalt is good for molds and poured sugar stuff ... but wasn't sure if it was appropriate for pulling sugar. are there dvds or books that others can recommend on the subject? i was specifically interested in decorative sugar work, but i wouldn't turn down some home-made lollipops ...
post #3 of 16
I've taken a class on pulled/blown sugar, and done a few things here and there. I have yet to use isomalt. I think one of the nice things about isomalt is the consistency with the product, not having to worry as much about your ingredients and what not. Maybe there are other benefits, I don't know.

When I was at Sweetwise, they said for keeping the sugar warm, you could stick it in the oven at about 180-220, just watching your product to see how it reacted. I actually don't have a box, just a warming lamp I clip to my vent hood, and keep my sugar on a marble slab under that. I have a small fan beside it for cooling pieces, and a small butane blow torch for various things.

I think the key is to just jump in and do it. Yes, it definitely helps to have the tools, but you don't have to spend an arm and a leg to get going with it.

I keep notes every time I try too. Humidity outside, temperature, weather, cook times and temps... it's helping me see a little bit of a pattern. My work is easier in the winter when it's less humid in my house thanks to the heat pump working.

It can keep indefinitely, as long as it is stored in an airtight container, preferably with some silica packets or something to absorb humidity. It definitely needs to be kept dry.

I have a recipe if you want it. I've used it successfully for pulling, blowing, and for hard candys. It flavors and colors well.
post #4 of 16
Thread Starter 
Thanks sammieb! I recipe would be fantastic. I was going to use one off of the web but I would prefer to use one that someone recommends. Thank you for all the advise!
post #5 of 16
32 oz (2 pounds granulated sugar) 16 oz (2 Cups water) 8 oz (1 Cup glucose or light corn syrup) 2 Level Teaspoons Cream of Tartar

Before starting fill your sink full of cold water.

Bring sugar and water to a boil over low heat stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved. When the water comes to a boil stop stirring and do not stir anymore after this.Add your candy thermometer at this point.And raise the heat to medium.

I use a stainless pot and leave the lid covering it during cooking. The humidity gathers on the lid, then condenses and rolls back down washing sugar crystals off the side of the pot. You want it all dissolved so your sugar stays clear.

When the temperature reaches 285F add the glucose or light corn syrup and the cream of tartar dissolved in a tablespoon or two of water.Continue cooking to 305F.

Remove from the heat and allow the bubbles to subside then plunge your pan into the sink full of cold water for 10 seconds make sure the water comes half way up the sides of the pan. Dry the sides and bottom of the pan well after removing it from the sink do not want that water in your sugar mixture,

You can add flavors first, then coloring after you add your glucose and the temp starts to rise again. Or if you want several colors out of one batch, after you pour, before you pull, add color then.

Good luck! If you have any more questions, I'll do the best I can to answer! I know there's people infinitely more brilliant on this subject, but I had a hard time getting answers when I was starting in on it too.

Have fun!!
post #6 of 16
Isomalt is less likely to crystallize. It is the only product I use for sugar decorations.

I have a plywood board that is lacquered that I put my Silpat on and use a warming lamp to keep the Isomalt in a workable temperature. The Isomalt will not stick to the Silpat. I found that putting the Silpat on a metal work table or my granite slab cools the Isomalt too quickly.

I have a pair of silk gloves that I wear under my latex gloves that help insulate my hands from the heat of the Isomalt. The silk gloves are usually used as an extra layer under heavy snow gloves so they are found in winter outerwear departments of stores like Cabelas.

SammiB is right that decorations will keep forever as long as they are kept in a cool and dry environment. Silica packets are necessary for storage.

For decorations I make a batch, color it and pour it into hockey puck sized disks and let them cool. I will make 5-6 different colors then store them in an airtight container with silica packets. This way I can take out one disk of the colors I want, put them under the warming lamp and start pulling. I have some disks that I have had for a year and they are still perfect. However, this is only for decorations that are not going to be eaten. If I was making candy I would make it from fresh sugar.
Tina
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Tina
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post #7 of 16
Oh yes, the one thing that I could not part with for pulling is the silpat. LOVE it. At the class I took they actually had a square wooden frame that they had stapled a silpat to the top of. That way the sugar was only resting on the silpat, no surface underneath to affect the temperature. Very handy.
post #8 of 16
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the tips everyone. I gave it a try a few days ago. You are defiantly right sammieb, you do just have to jump right in and try it. I only did a small batch (1/4 of the above recipe) it turned out alright, though I think a little to soft. And it was also pretty cloudy towards the end. Is it the crystallization that causes it to look cloudy? Or the temperature? My thermometer is not the best so the temperature may have been off a little.
post #9 of 16
Hmmm, if it was looking cloudy it was likely the crystallization. Was it cloudy when it was in the pot and when it was poured, it was it opaque after pulling it? The more you pull sugar the more opaque it becomes, but I wouldn't describe it as cloudy.
And as for being too soft, do you mean while pulling or when eating? If it's too soft to pull, that just means it's too warm and needs to cool a little. You can always reheat the sugar after it solidifies, in a warm, not hot oven, or slowly in the microwave (though it can be uneven in there and have hot spots so be super careful when handling).
If it's too soft when eating, or sticks to your teeth a lot that means it most likely didn't get hot enough. Though on the other end of that if it gets too hot it becomes brittle quickly when you pull it. I prefer max temp about 305. You can try sticking your thermometer in a pot of boiling water to see how far off temp it is. It should at least give you an idea.
So glad you jumped in and tried it though! I fell in love with it. I don't get my equipment out often, but when I do I play for hours. I picked up a brooding lamp and heat lamp bulb from Tractor Supply Co., and a silpat and marble slab, for less than $50 and it really makes it a lot easier if you want to continually do it. No where near the hundreds of dollars the heat boxes and fancy equipment can cost!
post #10 of 16
Thread Starter 
Your right! It is addicting! I spent 4 hours in the kitchen playing with pulling sugar. I actually pulled off a pretty fantastic looking red rose (I forgot pictures in the excitement!) BUT the problem was that once I made something, if I didn't freeze it, by the next morning it was melted on my counter. By the way, I also learned that freezing does not work at all, it makes everything very sticky and brittle. I am guessing that I just didn't get the sugar hot enough when it was cooking it. I have invested in a better thermometer now (and tested it) and I'll give it another shot today!
post #11 of 16
When I took a sugar class we were taught that 320F is the magic temp for sugar. Isomalt can go a bit higher, depending on the amount you are cooking. 305 seems low, might be the problem with the soft sugar. Humidity can play a huge part in the quality of the sugar too, and that isn't easily controlled.
You can use lacquer on the finished piece, if you aren't putting it on anything edible. Just make sure it's alcohol free.
post #12 of 16
Funny how different people have different temps too! I wonder if location and humidity have anything to do with the difference? Anything i cook above 310 quickly becomes too brittle to pull. It begins to just snap apart, and heating it more to soften it makes it too hard to handle.

I would imagine it being a sticky blobby mess is more humidity than anything. Freezing isn't a good idea, as something comes back to temp and water condenses on it it will most definitely make it sticky. If there's a piece you want to keep for a while, air tight container, with some powdered chlorine or a silica packet in will definitely help. The more humidity it is exposed to, the more it will get gummy and sticky.

I've made a few pieces before that have kept for weeks, but the instant they hit buttercream they turn messy and cloudy. I learned to have a barrier in between the two.

Here's another fun thing for pulled sugar if you just wanted to mess around. There's some super cheap make your own mold kits at Hobby Lobby, and you can make a mold of whatever small items you want, then push some pulled sugar in there. I made these butterscotch flavored acorns that way last year: http://cakecentral.com/gallery/2169167/fall-themed-birthday-cake. Oh! And the plate the pumpkin is sitting on is poured sugar too! it was my own birthday cake, and my present was doing whatever I wanted. icon_smile.gif Have fun! I'm so glad you're enjoying it!
post #13 of 16
Thread Starter 
Wow SammieB! That cake looks amazing! I will be satisfied if I can pipe the design I want on my cake without it looking awful. I find that I am having no problem rolling the fondant, working with the gum paste or even playing with pulling sugar but I can't get the piping to look right to save my life. But practice makes perfect, so I spent an hour or so tonight piping random designs onto some parchment paper. It will get better with time icon_smile.gif I decided to skip the guitar cake for now (it seemed like I was going to bite off more than I could chew for my first real cake) and instead I am going to make a simple 3 layer 9 inch round instead. I'll try something more complicated the second time around.
post #14 of 16
I have the best recipe for both sugar and isomalt! Message me if anyone wants it. It was given to me from a sugar instructor never had a problem with it!
post #15 of 16

Ive worked for 3 full days with this pulled sugar.  I have made 5 batches and it goes hard to quickly for me to work with.  I use a heat lamp.  What am I doing to my sugar that makes it go hard so quickly?  If I reheat it it seems to go brittle.  Am I putting it too close to the heat lamp?  Maybe something I can use in the the ingrediants that will keep it from going so hard??  HELP>>

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