Spun sugar looks so impressive and is really quite simple to make. Granted, it’s a bit messy but I have organized a system that works for me so I don’t hesitate to make it regularly for garnishing desserts. Spun sugar is made from sugar, water and corn syrup that are allowed to boil to a caramel. The caramel reaches a certain stage in which long thin strand of “angel hair” drop when you dip a fork or a cut-off whisk in it and wave it back and forth. The little golden drops that you see are called “angels’ tears”. Some of them get caught in the spun sugar and some fall to the (protected) floor. You have to be extremely careful when working with caramel as it is extremely hot and can cause severe burns. Do it at your own risk and avoid any contact with the hot caramel or you will burn.
Here is what you need:
A “broomstick” of sorts (I have a stick I bought especially for that purpose that you can buy from a hardware store).
2 large plastic bags to protect the floor (see note below)
A long strip of wax paper (optional, see note below)
A cut-off whisk you see in the image below or a fork (cut-off whisk is better).
Here is how I do it:
I work in the space between two opposite counters in the kitchen. In my kitchen it’s between the island and the counter adjacent to the stove)
Line the floor with 2 large plastic bags (I cut them open so they cover a larger area).
Place the strip of wax paper over the plastic bags to catch the “angel tears” droplet.
Hang the broomstick between the counters , placing the ends on kitchen towels so it stays stable. The plastic bags should protect the floor directly under the stick and extend on each end.
Spray the broomstick with non-stick oil spray.
Prepare the caramel:
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons white corn syrup
Place sugar, water and corn syrup in a small pot with a glass lid.
Have a bowl filled with ice water that you can dip the bottom of the pot into if needed.
Place the pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil, covered. Keeping the lid on allows steam to remain in the pot and prevent crystallization.
Continue cooking, covered, until the sugar caramelizes and reaches a nice golden colour. The colour of the caramel will be the colour of the strands. If you want it light, cook it less, if you want it deep amber, cook it longer. Keep in mind that the sugar keeps cooking after you remove it from the heat and it can go from golden to burnt in no time.
When the right colour is reached remove the pan from the heat. If you are worried about the sugar continuing to darken you can stop the cooking by dipping the bottom of the pot in the bowl filled with ice water. I tend to start stirring the caramel to allow it to cool. Be very careful not to come in contact with the caramel as it is extremely hot.
So you have removed the caramel from the heat and are cooling it down. Use the cut-off whisk to stir it and lift it up, allowing the caramel to drip back into the pot. At first it will drop back in a liquid form, but eventually will start to fall in long strands of “angel’s hair”. This is the stage you need.
Very carefully dip the whisk in the caramel, then lift it and wave it back and forth a couple of feet above the stick, allowing the strands to fall over the stick and drip down in long strands. Keep dipping the whisk in caramel and waving it back and forth over the stick. Any drips would fall onto the plastic bags on the floor. Every now and then you can set the pot down and gather the “angel hair” strands into “nests” with your hands and place them on a baking sheet, and then continue to work. If the caramel begins to harden you can place it briefly over low heat to loosen it up and continue to wave it over the stick. Continue until you have used up most of the caramel.
The caramel nests can sit on the counter for a while but keep in mind that humid kitchen will melt them down. To stay fluffy they need dry and cool environment (not refrigeration though, they will melt there). A dry, cool day is perfect for working with spun sugar.
That’s it. This is how I do it. I hope it works for you. Next time I am inspired I’ll post about creating hard caramel nests and other garnishes.
Note: I prefer to use plastic to protect the floor over newspaper. I don’t have newspapers here because we read news online. I also place the strip of wax paper over the plastic to catch some of the little golden droplets (angel’s tears) that I can then gather from the clean paper and use as garnish on the plate. You can skip the wax paper and let them drop directly onto the plastic if you wish.