Monday, May 30, 2011

Homemade Cotton Candy

cotton candy 2 (1 of 1)

Cotton Candy is not just for carnivals anymore. In fact, turns out, it's becoming downright fashionable. According to this Boston Globe article, this early 20th century treat is getting a gourmet spin (spin, get it? spin?) in preparations like the $16 cotton candy drink at LA's restaurant Bazaar, to chef Lydia Shire's experiments with flavoring at her Boston restaurant Towne.

In my last post we talked about a newly released book on working with sugar by Gesine Bullock-Prado, called Sugarbaby. After being sent a review copy, I immediately fell for Bullock-Prado's witty recipe head notes. I also mentioned that the book takes you through the several stages of cooking sugar, providing recipes for each stage. For more on the book, see that first post. Because today, we're going to talk about the hard-crack stage and, yes, making home made cotton candy. As in cotton candy at home, without a machine.

cotton candy 7 (1 of 1)

The book is divided into sections according to the stage of sugar with which it is dealing. And each section begins with a description of what you can expect to see, hear and smell at that particular stage. For the stage at which you can make cotton candy, the sugar and corn syrup is pretty much as hot as you're going to get with sugar. So, umm, be careful. Bullock-Prado says that if you were to drop a bit of the syrup into cold water at this stage is would produce "rock-hard, crackling threads that break easily". But since you're going to be using a candy thermometer (a piece of equipment that's pretty much indispensable for this kind of project) you won't have to worry about actually testing it.

cotton candy 5 (1 of 1)

So home made cotton candy without a machine. First off, let me be clear that this is NOT the light and fluffy cotton candy that you need a several thousand dollar piece of specialized equipment to achieve. This is essentially spun sugar curled around a stick. But if you get your technique down, you can manage some pretty fine threads of spun sugar. It just takes some practice, which is something I could use more of when it comes to this recipe.

Instead of a machine, you're going to use what Bullock-Prado calls a "decapitated whisk", which is simply the least expensive whisk you can find, with the tines snipped at the top by a wire-cutter. So instead of a balloon shape, you'll have what R called "whiskers". You should bend the 'whiskers' out a little so they're further apart than they appear in the picture. That should help prevent them from clumping and sticking together. Here's a photo:

whisk (1 of 1)

My first stick of cotton candy was abysmal because I held the whisk too close to the parchment paper (1 foot away is recommended) and I didn't swing it back and forth fast enough to really get thin strands. In fact, I'm not sure I ever reach optimal swinging speed, and I'd be more conscious of the need for quickness next time. But really, you do need to hold the whisk well above the table.

cotton candy 6 (1 of 1)

Another tip I found to help, which Bullock-Prado doesn't mention, is that you shouldn't wait until you have enough spun sugar for a completed cotton candy. Rather, fling some sugar around, then wrap it around your stick quickly before it cools and prop the stick up in a class container. Fling some more sugar around, and add another layer. Repeat until you're happy with the size and look of your cotton candy. If you try to wait to roll it just once, in my experience, the sugar will harden too much and be difficult to roll.

cotton candy (1 of 1)

Also, be sure to let the sugar drip back into the bowl for a moment before you start flinging, in order to avoid glops of sugar (you'll notice some of my glops in the pictures, but trust me, my earlier attempts were much gloppier).

process 3 (1 of 1)

Again, I want to warn you that this is not going to be the light and fluffy cotton candy that you really do need a machine to get. So don't come back and complain about that, because you've been warned. But it is a really fun project, and definitely something different to attempt. Plus, it will help you hone your spun sugar skills so that if you ever have to decorate a French croquembouche, you'll be all set!

UPDATE: I should have been aware of this, but there is a companion site to the book where you can find all sorts of additional photos, tips and tricks. That Gesine really looks out for us! Here's the post on cotton candy. I'll also add that I flavored my cotton candy with about 4 teaspoons of crème de cassis because I have a bottle lying around that I want to use up. That's in part what gave mine that golden hue, but it's also a result of my overcooking the sugar just a bit. Be sure to check out Gesine's blog post about trouble shooting cotton candy for how to prevent that.

Homemade Cotton Candy
Excerpted (with permission) from Sugarbaby by Gesine Bullock-Prado, 2011. Stewart, Tabori & Chang

Makes 8 cotton candies

Sugar 800 grams/4 cups
Corn syrup 240 ml/1 cup
Water 40 m/1 cup
Salt 1.5 grams/1/4 teaspoon
Raspberry extract (0r any flavor you like) 5 ml/1 teaspoon
pink (or any other color) food coloring (optional) 2 drops
'decapitated whisk'

1. In a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar, corn syrup, water and salt. Stir until the sugar is melted. With a damp pastry brush, wipe down the sides of the pan to prevent stray sugar crystals from forming.

2. Clip on a candy thermometer, stop stirring, and heat to 320F (160C). Pour the molten liquid into a shallow heatproof container. Add the extract and food coloring (if using) and stir well.

3. Line your work table with parchment. I also spread parchment on the floor around the table to catch any stray bits of flying sugar.

4. Dip your decapitated whisk into the sugar syrup and hold it over the pot to let the sugar drip back into the container for a second. Holding the whisk a foot (30 cm) above the parchment, swing the whisk back and forth so that thin strands of sugar fall on the paper. Repeat this a few more times until you have a nice nest of spun sugar.

5. Immediately wrap the cotton candy around large lollipop sticks (if you wait too long, the sugar will become brittle and won't bend around the stick). Eat immediately or seal in air-tight containers - any moisture will make the cotton candy soggy.

39 comments:

Jess @ Sugar High said...

Gorgeous!

Jennifurla said...

This is so super cool, thanks for sharing this info what a cool treat.

Sarah said...

I just wated a youtube thing on homemade cotton candy. Sure looks like messy fun.

That cookbook is now on my list! :)

ACM said...

I'm really intimidated by this. But it looks so cool I might just have to try it!

czechvegan said...

Soo pretty, looks like a Christmas decoration!

Myrna said...

Spotted the book at my bookstore recently and loved the cover picture of turquoise spun sugar. You did a great job! Don't know if I'll try it, but I'm certainly buying the book=)

I'm Helga's daughter, Gesine said...

Thanks for the beautiful post! I wanted to add that I have a companion website for the book, since all the information (and pictures!) can't be in the book, I wanted to give as much guidance as possible through the website. The sugar "wrapping" when still warm is addressed in a troubleshooting post on that site: http://www.sugarbabycookbook.com/2011/02/cotton-candy-troubleshooting.html

Thanks for the wonderful posts on your beautiful blog!
-Gesine

Andrea said...

Hi Gesine, and thanks for your comment! I've updated both posts with links to your site so people will know exactly where to go for even more photos and more help. Love the book!

Andrea said...

ACM, don't be intimidated. It's just for fun anyway, and you'll have plenty of sugar to practice with. These photos are of my best attempts, but you know, it's all a learning curve.

Heidi @ Food Doodles said...

That's beautiful! It may not be fluffy cotton candy but I think that looks awesome :D

Koci said...

What a cool technique! Just the color and shape of the spun sugar is gorgeous, but I bet it tastes amazing as well. Yum!

andrea @ From the Bookshelf said...

WOWZER! How cool are you!

laura said...

woah - super cool! i’m bookmarking with my cookmarked.com account right now! thanks for sharing. :)

mnemonique said...

it is like magic!!! I love it, and the pictures are so beautiful! I am staring at them and admire them...

Have a great weekend!
Pozdrawiam
Monika
www.efektnimbu.blogspot.com
www.bentopopolsku.blogspot.com

prolix said...

Super picture of cotton candy and am going to try this recipe, thanks for your tips......

Bakery Equipment

Jess said...

I love it! Thanks for sharing the recipe!

Devadeva Mirel said...

awesome candy floss!

Lily's Treasures said...

Thank you so much for sharing the receipe and put the "grams" for us frenchies. This looks so yummy wanna try it.

Nourhan @ Miss Anthropist's Kitchen said...

Too cool, thanks for sharing!

April Bowman said...

I'd love to try this, but I can't read the directions because of the 'busy' wallpaper!

gasilhane said...

please do something about wallpaper, I want to read all( Looveee!

Andrea said...

Hi gasilhane, can you try reloading the page? It's supposed to come up white, but lately the white background has been missing a lot. Stupid blogger. I'm going to figure out how to just get rid of the demask background since this is happening all the time (too bad I suck at HTML!)

gasilhane said...

Oh sorry, it's ok now, I couldn't think reload(
Thank you!!

Gina // C is for Cupcakes Baking Co. said...

oh this is great! i saw this picture a few days on pinterest and have been wracking my brain trying to figure out how gold cotton candy was colored. finally clicking through and i find it was an accident? well, a happy accident to me, i love it!

thank you for sharing - this is something my girls and I are going to tackle - it does sound easy enough for my girls (7-17 to try with me...)

my only question is this. i have bought 3 sugar thermometers in one month - they keep shattering at the tip. I bought them at K-Mart for 3.99. Is it because they were cheap or am I doing something wrong?

Thank you for your help!!!

Andrea said...

Hi Gina,

Yes, the golden strands of cotton candy were indeed an 'accident.' This is a fun project, but make sure your girls aren't expecting the kind of fluffy cotton candy they get from a machine. This is much more like spun sugar. Just so we're on the same page!

As for the thermometer, I bought mine for around $25 I think, and I've had it at least 6 years and never had a problem with it. Maybe that's the way to get, especially if your more inexpensive models keep cracking. Hey, at least you gave them a shot!

RecipeNewZ said...

I found this post though Pinterest. The photo was so beautiful that I just had to come here to read the recipe! Love it! And love your site :-).

I would like to invite you to share this post (and your other posts :-) ) on a new photo based recipe sharing site that launched in May. The idea is simple: all recipe photographs are published within minutes of submission. And, of course, the images link back to the author's site.

It's called RecipeNewZ (with Z) - http://recipenewz.com

I hope you get a chance to visit and to share some of your delicious posts with our viewers. It would be a pleasure to have you on board :-)

Emil said...

This golden sugar is so beautiful - wow, looks like the perfect candy for a princess. I don't think I am able to make this so I better take another look at your beautiful pictures! ;-)

Anonymous said...

That's amazing! I was looking for a cotton candy machine to buy because im cotton cnady obsessed...untill i saw this and i now know that i dont even NEED a cotton candy machine! Your cotton candy looks much more yummy and its simple to make! I'm definetley buying your book! Thank you!!

Anonymous said...

Is this cotton candy going to taste like the fluffy soft ones that you can get from the machines? if not what does is the texture of this cotton candy?

Candy Boxes said...

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Anonymous said...

Wouldn't this end up hard and crunchy and not really like cotton candy?

John Smith said...

I really love cotton candy. Your golden cotton candy lovely to see and want to eat. Thanks for sharing this cotton candy recipe. Cotton candy pack in candy boxes.

Kristine Barboza said...

How long do these keep? I'm planning on making these for a party...can these be made the night before or is it better the day of?

Anonymous said...

Very beautiful! I think of this more as "spun sugar" than "cotton candy," because cotton candy does have that fluffy texture. I love the golden color...I wonder if it could be achieved with a less refined sugar that already has some brownish-gold in it. Something to try....

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