While it is a form of sugar art that requires concentration and practice, pulling sugar can result in unique and beautiful candy pieces. Once you master the method, you'll find that pulled-sugar candies make great homemade gifts and party treats. Pulled-sugar candy can be flavoured, coloured and shaped to create simple or elaborate designs that are sure to impress.
Cooking Sugar Syrup
To pull the sugar, you must first cook it into a syrup that will become harder as it cools.
Combine 3-1/4 cups of granulated white sugar with 1 cup of distilled water in a heavy saucepan, and stir the ingredients constantly over low heat until the sugar has dissolved, then increase the heat to medium. Bring the syrup to a boil and, with a ladle, skim off the white foam that appears. With a clean, wet pastry brush, brush the inner sides of the pot to remove sugar residue. Repeat brushing and skimming foam until the syrup is clear.
Add 1-1/3 cup of light corn syrup and 1/2 tsp of cream of tartar to the clear syrup, and increase the heat to the highest level. Using a candy thermometer, allow the mixture to cook until it reaches 152 to 154 degrees Celsius, and do not stir it any further. To cool down the pot quickly, remove it from the heat, and place it in a larger pot or bowl of ice water for 30 seconds.
To transform the sugar syrup into a medium that can be shaped and moulded, it must be pulled. Some sugar artists prefer to work on a marble slab surface that has been lightly oiled, while others prefer heat-resistant Silpat mats. In either case, it is very important to use heat-protective cooking gloves and offset spatulas when you are working with hot sugar syrup to avoid burns, as well as a heat lamp to keep the syrup warm and malleable.
Pour out the prepared sugar syrup onto your surface of choice, and spread it apart using the spatulas, folding it back over onto itself. This folding is necessary to cool down the sugar evenly and prepare it for pulling. When the sugar is cool enough to handle, continue folding it over on itself until it reaches a satiny smooth finish. This means the sugar has crystallised, and it can be shaped. Once the sugar has reached its satiny stage, it is very important to not pull it too much more, or it will harden and be difficult to work with.
Colouring and Flavoring Pulled Sugar
What good is edible art if it does not taste and look delicious? Flavouring and colouring the pulled sugar should happen at the pulling phase before the sugar has crystallised. To make candies with more than one colour or flavour, be sure to divide the sugar mass into halves or smaller portions to be flavoured or coloured individually.
Peppermint, almond and lemon extracts are popular ingredients used to flavour pulled-sugar candies. Add a few drops of flavouring to the sugar mass after a few pulls, and continue folding and pulling to integrate the flavour.
The same method can be used to colour the sugar. While the syrup has a caramel colour during the shaping process, it will turn a creamy white as it hardens. To add colours, use edible colour gel after a few pulls, and work it into the sugar as you pull and fold. Leave one section of sugar uncolored to create white, and be sure to keep sugar sections under the heat lamp when not pulling them to keep them malleable.
There are many fun and exciting ways to shape pulled sugar into candies. A simple method is to roll the sugar into a rope, and snip off pieces to make drops. Candy canes can be made by pressing together a peppermint-flavoured, red rope of pulled sugar with an uncolored white section, then rolling them into a thin rope and snipping off smaller ropes before bending them into a cane.
It is also possible to curl a rope of sugar around a dowel to create a sugar curlicue. Ribbon candy can be made by pressing several different-coloured sections together, then rolling them flat and shaping them with a dowel into a lovely ribbon of colour. Sugar roses are simply flat coins of pulled sugar wrapped around an inner cone, which can be as big and elaborate or as small and simple as you wish.
With time and practice, an experienced sugar puller can create intricate and complex three-dimensional designs that are limited only by the imagination.