Monday, December 16, 2013

making divinity candy

I wrote this last year after Christmas, but never got it posted. THANK GOODNESS I wrote it all out, because these details are valuable. Caution..... it's long, with L O T S of details. Bare with me.

Divinity is my favorite candy to eat around the holidays. Everything has to be JUST right for it to turn out. Factors: type of bowl, temperature of the eggs, humidity outside, no rain, stiffness of egg whites, temperature of the caramelized sugar, a long thread, not a lot of people in the kitchen, speed of dropping the pieces, and so on.

Before Christmas, I asked my Grandmama Huff to wait to make divinity so she could teach me how. When I walked in to the kitchen, ready to experience the magic of making divinity, everything was laid out. Dishes, spoons, the pot, stand up mixer, chocolate chips, sugar, cookie sheets with wax paper, room temperature eggs, and Karo. When I asked Grandmama, "Okay, what do you want me to do?" she replied, "I want you to just watch." Thank goodness my only job was to stay out of the way.

Throughout the first batch, Grandmama told me all the tricks along the way and I took notes. L O T S of notes. When we get close to the end, there is a very narrow window of when to drop the pieces. If the dough is still shiny, the pieces will not hold it's form. If you wait to long, the dough becomes too sticky and hard, which makes it impossible to drop into pieces. Our first batch was too shiny, so most of the pieces spread out and didn't hold form. Starting over with a second batch was a must; we were going to get it right.

Here are all my notes of  e x a c t l y  what to do:

3 cups sugar
1 cup white Karo
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon hot water
2 egg whites
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

1. To start: Beat room-temp egg whites in stand up mixer (preferably a Sun Beam because it is easier to add the caramelized sugar while it's still turning) until VERY firm. At the same time, heat Karo, sugar and water on the stove, in a cast iron pot, do not stir.

2. Watching the thread: As the sugar begins to caramelize, dip a clean metal spoon and let the sugar drip back into the pot while holding the spoon high above the pot (above the height of your head). As the temperature of the sugar goes up, a thread of sugar will form dangling from the spoon high above the pot. Keep checking the thread. You are looking for a thread to dangle down to the pot, it will break off and "dance" above the pot. This means it's at the exact right temperature. (Keep the stove on at med. heat)
Side note: Most divinity recipes call to use a candy thermometer with the sugar on the stovetop. Adding another tool, which has it's own particular ways, takes away from focusing on the mixing/pouring process.

Watching the thread drop into the pot

3. Mixing: With very firm eggs whites in the mixer, turn down to slow speed. Spoon some of the hot sugar into the eggs whites (about 5-7 spoonfuls). Put the sugar back on the stove. Make sure the sugar is mixed into the egg whites. Check for a thread again, then add more. Repeat many, many times until all the sugar is added into the egg whites. Make sure to get a long thread each time.
Caution: The mixing bowl is very hot, only touch the rim, not the base.
Pouring a little at a time
4. Continue mixing: Continue mixing at high speed. Watch closely. Add vanilla and salt. Keep dough off the sides of bowl. Notice the dough is shiny, watch for shiny to start turning dull/flat. To test, take a spoon, wrap the dough around it and set it on a plate (see picture). See if the wrap holds it's form... this is how you'll know if it's getting close.
Holding it's form around the spoon
Watching to see if the dough will hold its form on a spoon
Adding vanilla

5. Dropping: Remove bowl from mixer. Continue to stir and get dough off the sides. When the dough is not shiny, move QUICKLY. Using two small spoons, drop pieces onto wax paper. Take dough off sides first, as it will begin to harden quickly.

6. Variations:
(a) Adding pecans or chocolate chips. Adding one pecan to the center (or crushed pecans can be added similar to choc. chips). If the dough is not 100% holding form, add chocolate chips and stir 1-2 times through dough. This will make a choc. ribbon, but should not be mixed thoroughly. If the dough is hardening fast, do not add choc. chips, this will make the dough too hard and will be crumbly if dropped.
(b) Dropping techniques. Dropping can be done in one big piece and then after it completely dries, cut it into individual pieces. This is how my Grandmother Joyce used to make it. This would be a great variation if the dough was drying too fast and it needed to be dropped before it was too hard.
Note: Taking requests for variations is dangerous, variations are more successful if the decision is made depending on the dough.

7. Drying: Allow the pieces of candy to dry entirely before putting them in a tin. You will know if they were dropped at the right time if they are not sticky on your fingers.

Divinity making is not easy. Learning to get a thread over the pot of caramelized sugar is a specialized skill.

My grandmother learned how to get a thread from her mother (my great-grandmother). In the family, my grandmother's grandmother is the one who taught her to make all the candy, and how to make divinity. I'm really excited to have learned how to get a thread and make divinity the same way my Great Great Grandmother did! Amazing!

No comments:

Post a Comment