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Old 11-23-2004, 09:09 PM   #1
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Candy Problem--Audeo, can you help me?!?

Audeo, Oh Great Candy Expert, I hope you or someone else can help me. I just tried making a batch of Croquant (a cream and butter free combination of carmelized sugar and sliced, toasted almonds--like a brittle). Everythiing was going swimmingly, until I poured the hot mixture onto a jelly roll pan sprayed with non-stick cooking spray (per the recipe). Rather than hardening to a clear amber color, the mixture bubbled and foamed and dried very cloudy and has a gritty texture (a "gone to sugar" type of consistency).

What did I do wrong? The recipe called for 3 c sugar, 3/4 c water and 1 1/2 c almonds. I achieved the perfect amber color in the pot on the stove, but then it went downhill! Thanks!

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Old 11-23-2004, 09:51 PM   #2
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Geez. No pressure here!

PA, I'm assuming you made a caramel with the sugar-water ratio. So I'm suspicious as to whether you "scraped" the pan before pouring into the oil-coated sheet. (It only takes one wee crystal of sugar to ruin an entire batch of any syrup-based confection!)

Indulge me, please. Give me you entire recipe, along with your entire cooking technique (how you combined the sugar and water, the heat level, the final temp, when you added the almonds, start to finish) and then I can hopefully offer some thoughts here.....
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Old 11-23-2004, 10:44 PM   #3
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Thanks, Audeo!

I did brush the sides of the pan down as the sugar cooked, but didn't before I poured the contents onto the pan, so that may be it. Just one crystal can ruin it, eh? That stinks! Here's the recipe:

3 c sugar
3/4 c water
1 1/2 sliced almonds, toasted
Cooking Spray

Combine the sugar and water in a medium, heavy saucepan, being careful not to splash the sides of the pan (which I was). Stir gently over high heat just until the sugar dissolves. Do not stir beyond this point (I didnt). Using a clean pastry brush dipped in water, brush inside walls of pan to loosen any sugar particles.

Cook sugar misture over high heat until light golden brown, about 10-15 minutes.

Remove pan from heat; gently stir in almonds. Immediately pour mixture onto a jelly roll pan coated with cooking spray. (At this point, I used the back of the wooden spoon to smooth the mass out so that it was thin and somewhat even.) Cool completely and break into pieces. Store in an airtight container up to 5 days.

I didn't know if it would have anything to do with using the nonstick cooking spray rather than butter or parchment.

Thanks for your insight! By the way, based on your T-giving menu (which sounds wonderful!) I saw on another thread, how on earth do you get all of that cooking done, plus work, plus kids? You're one busy lady! :D
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Old 11-23-2004, 11:48 PM   #4
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Did you know that you make pralines by stirring the cooked sugar and nuts until it crystallizes?

I'm thinking you may have stirred it just a bit too much and caused the sugar to crystallize.
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Old 11-24-2004, 06:39 AM   #5
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Psyguyy, I'm thinking that very well may be the case! That's an excellent point I never thought of. I did stir it a lot in the pot and then once I got it onto the jelly roll pan I spread it around a good deal. Would this cause the fizzing and bubbling?
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Old 11-24-2004, 07:25 AM   #6
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The fizzing and bubbling was probably from the non-stick spray. A lot of them have alcohol in them and it doesn't completely evaporate until it's heated.

I think Pam is one that has alcohol in it.

On the other hand, it's hard for me to imagine that there was enough of the non-stick spray to actually fizz and bubble when the hot candy hit it. Did you spray a lot of it in the pan?
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Old 11-24-2004, 09:58 AM   #7
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Now that the fog on the brain has cleared a little...

Your trying to make Croccante, Italy's spin on an almond-based brittle. Psiguyy, without a single bit of surprise on my part, has hit upon one potential woe in stirring. Another is potentially temperature control. Are you using a thermometer here?

I've seen brittles range in target temperatures from 238 (soft ball) to 300 (hard crack) and I personally prefer a cooler finish, so that I can pull a brittle slightly to thin it.

Okay. Here's what I would recommend....

One of things I always do when cooking syrups is to first rub a ring of butter inside the saucepan at a level where you expect the syrup to bubble up to when boiling. For me and my usual saucepan, that would be about 2 inches up from the bottom for this recipe. Having made this yourself, you'll have an idea of where the syrup reaches in a boil. Just take a stick of butter and run a light strip of coating, the width of the stick, around the inside perimeter. It doesn't take much butter at all for this and won't be enough to worry about in mixing into your syrup. When you do this, brushing down the sides with a damp pastry brush is practically unnecessary.

After the sugar is completely dissolved in the water and boiling, stop stirring and clip on a thermometer! I would also lower the cooking heat level to medium high, which will probably increase the cooking time to about 15-20 minutes, but add a little insurance to keep the sugar from burning. As you probably noticed, once the color of the syrup starts to darken and turn amber in color, it darkens quickly!

I would remove the syrup from the heat when the thermometer registers no higher than 240 degrees (F). Then add the sliced almonds and stir gently, but only enough to distribute the almonds somewhat. And the drier the day, the more quickly this is going to setup. And if your recipe tells you to "stir quickly", it means to work quickly...from the time you add the almonds and incorporate them to getting the stuff poured out.

Psiguyy's right about the alcohol in sprays, for sure! But unless you're spraying a layer so thick that it runs when you tip the pan, I wouldn't worry about using the stuff. But just a light coating on the sheet will do. (If you have some almond oil on hand, use that...!)

For this amount of syrup, I'm surprised that the almond amount isn't more like about 3-4 cups. The difference in using more almonds would make this recipe "crispier". And it would also change the behaviour of the syrup slightly in that more almond mass would cool the syrup more quickly.

So....

Don't stir during the boil;

Use a candy thermometer and stop cooking at 240 degrees;

And gently stir in the almonds, more or less folding them into the syrup, scraping from the bottom to cover the nuts.

Good going there, PA! I sure look forward to hearing how the next batch comes out!

And LOL about the menu! I wish I were just half as organized and efficient as you assume me to be!!!
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Old 11-24-2004, 11:52 AM   #8
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You guys are the best! Thanks for all of the advice! I'm ashamed to say that I don't own a candy thermometer :oops: . It's on the Christmas list. I was surprised that the recipe didn't call for the use of one, relying, instead on "eyeballing" it. I don't know if I'll get a chance to give it a try for Thanksgiving as I planned, but I've been receiving a chorus of "we have enough food, already!" so I don't think I have to worry about anyone missing it and going hungry!
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Old 11-24-2004, 01:49 PM   #9
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Well, PA, you can also do this the good ole fashioned way. Thermometers are a relatively new addition to kitchens, considering generations upon generations of folks have been cooking and making candy long before us!

Get a clear drinking glass of cold tap water and let a drop of the candy mixture fall off of a spoon into the glass. If the syrup forms a ball...! A soft-ball stage is precisely that. Take that "ball" of syrup out of the glass and press it between your fingers. Is it soft? For a hard-ball stage, the ball will be...well...hard! As syrups become hotter, they begin to form threads when dropped off of a spoon into the water, and the hotter the syrup gets, the more brittle that thread becomes.

I hope that helps you, even though it won't be missed tomorrow!

Oh heck!!! I just remembered that I promised Goodweed that I would tell him the basics of spinning!!! (Gotta get that down and posted quick! Sorry Goodweed...it's coming!)
:oops:
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Old 12-15-2004, 10:51 PM   #10
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Well, I tried this recipe again, and ended up with the same results! I brushed down the sides of the pan throughout cooking, hardly stirred the almonds into the sugar, and then didn't spread any more than I had to once it was on the pan. At first it appeared clear, but then began to bubble/foam and ended up very grainy and sugary.

I'm so frustrated! I've come up with a couple of conjectures as to what might have happened, but am not sure. Psiguyy, audeo, others, any thoughts?

1. The cooking spray is causing the problem. When I have time, I'm going to try this recipe again without the cooking spray, using parchment instead.

2. Still too much mixing to combine nuts and sugar. What about spreading the nuts on the parchment and then pouring the sugar over it?

3. My water quality. It's notoriously poor. It's very cloudy and filled with all sorts of stuff. DH reminded me that I had this same problem last spring when I tried to make some free-from hard sugar designs for a dessert garnish (sugar, ginger-infused water, cooked to amber color). Could the water impurities be causing problems? Would bottled water make a difference?

I'm determined to get this right yet! Thanks for your help!
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Old 12-16-2004, 06:45 PM   #11
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Are you telling us you can actually SEE stuff in your water? If that's the case, the solid stuff in the water is probably seeding your cooked sugar.

Try a couple of things. Use bottle water and scrap the cooking spray in favor of parchment paper OR just use cooking oil or shortening in the pan.
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Old 12-17-2004, 09:37 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Psiguyy
Are you telling us you can actually SEE stuff in your water? If that's the case, the solid stuff in the water is probably seeding your cooked sugar.

Try a couple of things. Use bottle water and scrap the cooking spray in favor of parchment paper OR just use cooking oil or shortening in the pan.
Yes, I wee stuff in our water :oops: . Apparently the water company is working on upgrades. So far all we've noticed a change in is our water bill. As soon as I have time, I'm going to try again with bottled water and parchment. I'll keep you posted!
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Old 12-18-2004, 10:21 AM   #13
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Hmmm....

In light of this water, issue, I echo Psiguyy's advice. Go buy some bottled "Drinking Water" and NOT distilled water.

This now certainly sounds like sugar bloom (grittiness at the end) and could definately be cause or exascerbated, at least, by heavy impurities. Are you seeing any foamy stuff at the surface when the syrup is boiling? If so, get a large spoon and gently scoop off the foam and discard. When cooking simple syrups, the impurities in sugar will foam and rise to the surface, but if this is heavy stuff, I suspect it would not.

Definately try bottled drinking water, PA. By virtue of your husband's recollection of last year's similar outcomes, that certainly supports the water change, IMO.

Nix the spray, too. Try using just oil, spread with your fingers into a thin layer. And you might use the underside of a jelly roll pan to spread the stuff on...easier to pull that way.

I can't wait to hear how these changes work out! Please do let us know, PA. And good luck!
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Old 12-18-2004, 02:04 PM   #14
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Hey Audeo, why not distilled water? Just wondering if there is something I should know as I distill almost all my water.
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Old 12-18-2004, 05:18 PM   #15
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In regards to the use of distilled water for consumption, it depends on how pure the distilled water is. Pure distilled water is actually dangerous stuff. It can kill you. Pure water is a very strong solvent AND it leaches many things you would not expect.

Home stills are designed to add minerals back into the water. For instance, I have yet to see a home still that didn't have some kind of "filter" at the outlet. I always thought it was stupid to filter distilled water since our stills in the labs didn't have filters at the outlet. That was until I thought about the dangers of drinking distilled water. It struck me that the "filter" is there not to filter something that's already pure, but to filter IN contaminants to make it safe to drink.

Hopefully Audeo can elaborate further. This stuff is off the top of my head from what I learned in college many years ago.
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Old 12-18-2004, 05:50 PM   #16
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How very interesting. This topic of distilled water just woke me up from a nap.

Psiguyy hit the nail on the head with my understanding of the solvent and absorptive qualities of really distilled water. In fact, if you place a saucer of distilled water out for a while, it absorbs a lot of carbon dioxide and becomes very acidic. Place a litmus paper strip in "aired" distilled water and tap water and be amazed at the difference. In my experience, unless I'm making a very clear, hard candy (such as pulled sugar), distilled really alters the flavors and can be downright unpredictable in the outcome. Only when making pulled sugar do I use distilled. And I personally and professionall feel that consuming distilled water (as your primary source of drinking water...and in large quantities) regularly is dangerous. But you can probably find as many alternative med folks touting its wonders, as you can the rest of us in mainstream med passing warnings.

Drinking water, at least here, has some standards it must adhere to from the FDA. "Spring" water, however, has come under a great deal of fire due to its almost complete lack of regulation and therefore its unreliability as to mineral content.

The hotter you cook a syrup, the more critical the need for clean water. Sugar carries its own impurities, which tend to foam up so you can scoop them away, while water impurities tend to sink and become magnets for crystalization. I'd bet just about anything that this is the very source of your problems, PA, especially since the impurities are so large that they are visible. This alone explains your problems, in my opinion.

I've always had good success in using drinking water and we are very fortunate here to have very good tap water, too, so I don't have to worry much over the water quality.

My apologies for not expanding on this earlier, and I hope it answers the questions here...for now!
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