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Cooking sugar

The fifferent stages of cooking sugar.

Cooking with sugar (saccharose).

When you start with refined white sugar and you dilute it in water, you obtain syrup. The larger the amount of water, the longer it takes to cook in order to obtain the chosen degree of concentration. using 250 cl of water for 250 grammes of sugar is a good place to start.

At the start of the cooking process, the water will limit the temperature to 100°C. The temperature will increase as the water evaporates. Above the temperature at which caramelisation takes place, the sugar will start to burn and will have an increasingly bitter taste.

How do you find the right place?

In the past, sweet manufacturers did not have thermometers, let alone density meters.
From experience, they were able to precisely determine the degree at which the sugar was cooking by observing its reactions.
Does the hot sugar create long strings or solid bubbles if you dip a skimmer into it and blow on the holes?
If a drop of sugar is put in water, does it become hard and brittle, does it stick to your tooth?
These are the tests that confectioners still use and they have given us a whole range of vocabulary in French to describe the stages of cooking sugar:
lissé, petit perlé, filé, soufflé or grand perlé if you are under 115°C.
Boulé and grand cassé for higher degress and of course all the stages of caramel.
It is not always easy to understand all the different terms, and some recipes use old-fashioned terms that are even more imaginative. For example, you will find, recipes written with quills with precise details about the appearance of the filasse or the spider web that the sugar should form if you wave a spoon dipped in the bubbling syrup in the air.
For beginners, the best solution may simply be to use a thermometer!

Here are the different stages that the sugar will pass through.

Syrup, density of 1.125 to 1.2624.

Lissé, opening your fingers, the sugar forms a very fragile thread. 103°C, density of 1.2964.

Petit perlé or filé, opening your fingers, the sugar forms a longer thread. 110°C, density of 1.3199.

Grand perlé ou soufflé, opening your fingers the sugar forms a solid thread. Bubbles form on a skimmer if you blow on it after dipping it in the syrup. 115°C, density of 1.3319.

Boulé, between the fingers, sugar lifted with a spoon forms a soft ball. 120°C, density of 1.3570.

Grand cassé, a drop of sugar placed in cold water becomes hard and brittle. It breaks without sticking to your teeth if you bite into it. 145-150°C.

Caramels: the colours raneg from pale yellow to intense brown. From 151 to 170°C.

To carry out finger tests, confectioners often dip their thumb and forefinger into very cold water, then very rapidly into the sugar and then back into the cold water.
As soon as sugar reaches the caramel stage, that is when it begins to turn yellow, it has become too hot for this test. The colour also gives you information about the progress of the cooking process.
Beware: burns from hot sugar can be very serious. In case of contact that can cause a burn, place your hand (or the affected area) into cold water to stop the heating process.
Sugar remains hot for a very long time and continues to cook. The longer you allow the heat to remain on your skin, the deeper the burn will become.
Be careful when cooking with children…

Tip: to prevent the sugar from crystallising, either add acid (lemon or vinegar) or honey - 1 soupspoon for 250 g of sugar.
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