So for 2 days last week I took a sugar pulling and sculpting class over at ICE ak Institute of Culinary Education, here in NYC. Yes its a culinary school, but they had regular classes for regular folk who don't know basic knife skills or how to treat sugar. Oh yeah it was great. It was kinda pricy but it was a b-day present to me.
It was an intensive 2 day class. Let me tell you, after this experience, I have MAD respect for people who work with sugar/chocolate on those foodtv challenges. It is HARD! it is beyond hard. You need patience, physical stamina, upper body strength, and callousy hands that don't feel shit anymore! I learned a lot about sugar, how to cook it and use it, sculpt it, pull it, blow it and make it look pretty. I also worked with isomalt, you may have seen it on foodtv during those sugar challenges. Its hella expensive, but its super shiny, it's a little easier to work with than granulated sugar and it was originally intended to be used for diabetics. Sure the confectioners took it over and told the diabetics to stick to their splenda.
The class was pretty small, there were 6 people there. But they had space for 8. The teacher was super informative and knew her stuff. She was able to pick up the gooey sugar with her bare hands! She had been doing this for years, and when she demonstrates it, it looks so easy, but when you try, damn, talk about screwing up royally.
I did'nt take a lot of pics, cause my hands, and fingers were getting burned and busy working with the sugar, I barely had time to jot down all the notes on stuff she said. I took whatever pics I could.
Sugar in liquidy form. It's HOT!
Though I should start by saying, we put band aids on our fingertips, on our thumb and index finger. It was to help with the heat. Then we put on latex gloves, the gloves DO NOT protect you from the heat of the sugar. It protects the sugar from your grubby greasy fingers. Damn you sugar! I wish I could put band aids all over my hand, but they only help so much. So when you see the ppl on foodtv working with the gloves on, damn, they feel the heat and they can deal with it. Mad respect for them.
The first day we worked with isomalt, it doesn't take much to melt it, ratio is 10% water to the amount of isomalt. I tasted some, it's really not very sweet and its big chunks. We boil it to hard crack temp which is around 320F. Yes. then we add the food color which was green, naturally isomalt will turn white. So that's our 2 colors for the ribbons we were gonna make.
Working that sugar was HOT! That sugar was HOT, scalding hot at times. You just have to work through it, cool it a bit and then use your hands to pull it. We tried to pull a lot of ribbon, sometimes it didn't work out well. Sometimes we did it wrong and had to start all over again. Sometimes we got it right, and when we tried to cut it, it would crack. Doh! start all over again. That's all there is to it.
Our teacher told us that when they teach it at the school. she teaches them how to do it, and the next 6 weeks is them doing it over and over again. to the point where they have it down. She basically said its all practice and repeative unti you understand the sugar, and the sugar will talk to you on what it will do for you. Kinda funny but true. It will let you know what's up. She also said by then your hands will have formed callouses, and your hands will get used to the heat and it won't hurt as much. Also you will have developed some upper body strength. Ever see how they make candy on foodtv? Sometimes they have that guy pull it on a hook? (like taffy) or they'll put it in a machine and let it pull it around and around? Can you image my girl arms trying to do this? My god they are still sore from it. I'd get a great workout from pulling sugar alone! That and the fact that you're working the sugar under this infra red heat lamp, yes you start to sweat, and you have to stand too. Damn my whole body hurts!
We made a showpiece of sorts. I learned about casting the first day and the different kinds of casting there was. Molds, and more molds, that's what it is. Just be creative in how you make your shape. Hell you can use tuna cans to make circles.
So I made my min sugar show piece. Yes its award winning and it will be featured in the foodtv sugar challenge. no, i will not be handing out autographs. my fingers are killing me!
Side view. of it. I was just gluing stuff on and making it abstract
Detail of ribbons I made. Its isomalt. I made leaves they're in the background.
blowing sugar, its a ball!
The 2nd day we were doing sugar blowing, sculpting in that we were making a flower. A rose actually. Goddamn who knew a rose was so technical?! There is an exact formula for making a rose. If you look at a rose, you see the center is the inside bud part, so that's one petal, then its 3 petals around that, then its 5 petals, and then its 7 petals. so that's 16 petals you have to make by hand to start off with. And then you have to open up the petals too, cause the rose isn't closed right? some of the petals open up while others don't, so you have to alternate and try to make it look "natural". Though in competition they actually count all the petals tomake sure you've done it correctly, hence why most ppl make mars flowers, which are abstract flowers, so they don't have to worry about them being biologically correct, cause damn that is hard! Besides abstract flowers look WAY cooler.
Blowing sugar is kinda fun and frustrating too. Cause you get to make cool shapes and animals, but at the same time it can break, pop, and is very fragile. But damn they do look good. They had these special double pumps for blowing sugar, with copper and wooden tubes. They also had ones they made from the pump from a blood pressure valve pump thing and a copper tube. I think I can make one of those at home.
My sugar rose. It took forever to make!
So I made this show piece. I just glued some stuff together. The vine/branch thing is carmel, and we added purple color to it and pulled it. I made some more leaves and stuff and glued the flower on. I gave it to my mom, and knocked into it during CNY, DOH!
Abstract bubble pieces
Leaves on branch and a swirly thing
my flower. home depot would be proud. made of granulated sugar.
So I'm gonna keep practicing, I bought a silicone matt so I can do this at home. I have to buy a bulb for the heat lamp, and get some gloves and lots of band aids. Luckily sugar is pretty cheap, no isomalt right now, too pricy.
Hope you were all amused. Maybe you'll see me with my own bakery in the future making things like this, sugar sculptures and all.