Thursday, August 20, 2009

The dos and don'ts of making candi sugar

For the third time ever, I made a batch of candi sugar for an upcoming Tripel brew on Sunday. The first time I did this, I had great success and I was loving life. The second time wasn't quite as easy because I did 2 lbs. worth compared to the 1 lb. batch the first time. Not learning, I went ahead and did 3 lbs. last night. The problem isn't the amount of sugar I'm using, it's the cook.

To those readers (I have readers?) that don't know what candi sugar is or how to make it, I'll explain. Some Belgian beers are made with sugar as a fermentable. The sugar can be regular sucrose from either beets or cane or it can be invert sugar. What is invert sugar you're saying?

In a nutshell, the process of inverting sugar breaks down the sucrose into glucose and fructose. The rumor is that the glucose and fructose are easier for the yeast to eat and produce alcohol. However, "Brewers yeast have their own invertase (enzyme) and readily convert table sugar (sucrose) into its monosacharide components of fructose and glucose which can then be fermented.". Competing thoughts on the subject are rampant. Additionally, there are other brewers that say you can not duplicate in your kitchen what is produced commercially due to the trace minerals and other chemicals in household sugar.

Forgetting all of that, let's talk about my mistake(s).

3 lbs. of Schnuck's sugar (most likely beet)
Just enough water to make into a stirable solution
1 healthy squirt of lime juice

Cook in a non-stick pot until the solution reaches 300 degrees Fahrenheit or the hard crack stage (1st mistake). Pour onto a jelly roll pan (2nd mistake). Cool this COMPLETELY (3rd mistake). Break the sugar into pieces and freeze for storage.

1st mistake: Make sure you get the entire pot up to 300.

Lesson: Don't rush it. Just because the probe reads 300, stir it up and make sure.

2nd mistake: When you use 3 lbs. of sugar, it makes a lot of hard crack syrup. Since I used a single pan, that makes the hard sugar very thick and hard to break apart. We're talking over 1/4" of a substance that's about as strong as anything as you can make in your kitchen.

Lesson: Seperate the batch into multiple pans to avoid having bulletproof sugar.

3rd mistake: Hard crack candy only cracks and breaks well when it's had a chance to totally cool down. If it has any warmth at all, it will bend then break. A contributing factor to this is also the 1st mistake.

Lesson: Put your pans in the fridge. It won't do anything but help.

I worked on getting the sugar pieces out of my single pan last night for almost 30 minutes and that was on a non-stick pan. Hopefully, I remember this for next time or we'll just use table sugar.

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