Understanding Sugar Syrups vs cooked sugar Stages
Precautions when working with cooked sugar
Be extremely careful when working with cooked sugar. Along with your mise-en-place, have a metal bowl of very cold ice water on your work station before starting to cook the sugar mixture. If sugar syrup falls on your skin, do NOT try to rub it off with your hand or using a towel. This will remove the syrup and your skin with it. Instead, immerse your hand into the cold ice water bath, and immediately see your doctor or go to the emergency. The severity of the burn depends on the temperature of the cooked sugar syrup.
Understanding sugar syrups
Sugar is one of the most essential commodities which is used invariably in making all kinds of sweet dishes. When you use the term 'syrup' it simply means a mixture of sugar with water. Sugar syrup density measurements are based on the amount of sugar added to 1 liter of water. To measure the density you need to use a hydrometer which gives you a specific gravity scale. Specific gravity has no units.
One very popular sugar syrup that is called simple syrup used for moistening each cake layer during cake assembly, is the syrup with a mixture of 1 part sugar (by weight) to 1 part water (by weight), boiled for 1 minute. This syrup is used cold or lukewarm when sponge cake is dry.
Sugar syrups are used for making ice cream, sorbets, to glaze pastries, to thin out liquors, to moisten cakes, to dilute chocolate or food coloring, meringues, caramels, chocolate mousses, etc
Simple syrup can be stored in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks.
Understanding cooked sugar syrups
Cooked sugar is a solution of water mixed with sugar in which the concentration of sugar is very high, another words for syrups with sugar concentration ratios of 2:1 (2 parts sugar to 1 part water) or higher. It is called cooked sugar, because this sugar mixture will be cooked to a specific temperature according to the recipe that you are following. The more this sugar mixture is cooked at a higher temperature, the stiffer it will be once cooled to room temperature because most of the water will evaporate during cooking.
Cooked sugars are used to make showpieces using pulled sugar, glue for show pieces, etc.
Taking care of sugar crystallization
Before boiling sugar with water, to prevent sugar crystallization, make sure you stir the mixture to dissolve the sugar, before the mixture comes to a boil. You can do this anytime, but before the mixture begins to boil. Other ways to prevent sugar crystallization, is to add an acid ingredient in the mixture, eg; lemon juice, vinegar, or cream of tartar OR a bit of glucose. Another way to prevent sugar crystallization is to brush all around the pot using a brush moistened with water just after the mixture begins to boil. Don't worry if water drops into the mixture from the brush. Think about it, you just added a bit more water from the brush into the mixture. This will only delay the syrup from reaching the proper temperature by a few seconds or minutes.
Working with a Candy Thermometer
To accurately measure the temperature of the cooking syrup, use a candy thermometer. Always test the accuracy of your candy thermometer before using it. Fill a pot with water and once the water comes to a boil, dip the candy thermometer in the water and take a reading. A properly working candy thermometer should read 212deg. F. If for example, your candy thermometer reads 210deg. F at boiling point, you know that your thermometer is 2deg F off. Another words, add 2 to whatever the reading is and you should be fine.
The sugar goes through nine stages in the process of its cooking;
- Thread - This is the first stage of cooked sugar and it reaches this stage at a temperature of 110 degrees Celsius.
- Soft Ball - It is the second stage of cooked sugar with a temperature of 116 degree Celsius.
- Firm Ball - This is the third stage of cooked sugar and it reaches this stage at a temperature of 120 degree Celsius.
- Hard Ball - This is the fourth stage of cooked sugar and it reaches this stage at a temperature of 126 degree Celsius.
- Soft Crack - This is the fifth stage of cooked sugar and it reaches this stage at a temperature of 130 degree Celsius.
- Crack stage - This is the sixth stage of cooked sugar and it reaches this stage at a temperature of 134-138 degree Celsius.
- Hard Crack stage - This is the eight stage of cooked sugar and it reaches this stage at a temperature of 143-155 degree Celsius.
- Caramel - This is the seventh stage of cooked sugar and it reaches this stage at a temperature of 165-170 degree Celsius.
Correcting an over-cooked syrup
Lets suppose that you should have cooked the sugar syrup to 116 deg. C and you look at the thermometer and it says 125deg. C. What do you do? There is a very simple solution. Here's a hint. You over cooked the sugar, which resulted in having less water in the sugar syrup. Does that help? If not, here's what you do. Simply add more water and continue cooking the mixture from the beginning until the correct temperature. That's all!
Other uses with sugar
Candy is the simplest of all sweet dishes made by using only sugar and water. Candy is prepared by mixing sugar in either milk or water to form a syrup. This syrup is then cooked until it gets to a stage when it starts to form caramel.
The sort of candy being prepared depends totally on the components used and the time taken for the mixture to boil. Candy comes in a number of textures, from chewy and soft to brittle and hard. For making candy, the sugar needs to be cooked and it reaches various stages one by one as the temperature is raised. The candies formed at higher temperatures have a greater concentration of sugar and you will get hard and brittle candies. On the other hand, at lower temperatures, the candies are softer.