I'm studying the Grand Diplome at Cordon Bleu in London

Posts tagged ‘Boiling sugar’

Day 4 – Starting Patisserie – Thurs 19th Jan

Thursday saw our first patisserie demo and practical.
Chef Matthew took the demonstration and likes to joke with his students. He made the whole demo fun as well as educational.

The topics for today were sugar syrups and fruit salad. The fruit salad required a simple flavoured stock syrup, called a stock syrup, flavoured with vanilla, orange and lemon rind, cinnamon, star anise and cardamom.

We also practised boiling sugar through all the stages of sugar cooking from thread to soft ball to hard ball to crack to caramel. We were shown, and were to try ourselves in the practical, the method of testing what stage the boiling syrup had reached using our fingers! And without getting burnt.

The technique is to hold your hand in a bowl of ice water until numb, then quickly dip your fingers in the boiling syrup and then straight back into the ice water. The syrup on your fingers will set in the water and you can see what stage the sugar is at. Each stage corresponds to a small temperature range.

  • If you touch finger and thumb together and a thread runs between them when you part them, then it’s at thread stage (102 – 113 °C).
  • Soft ball is when you can roll the sugar on your fingers into a soft lump or ball (116 – 122 °C).
  • Hard ball means the ball is hard to the touch (124 – 130 °C).
  • Crack is where the sugar sets into a piece that cracks when you try to bend it (132 – 154 °C).
  • Beyond this is caramel and the sugar starts to colour, starting at pale amber and getting darker as it gets hotter until, eventually it burns and is black (160 °C +). Once it gets to 160 °C, you shouldn’t use your fingers any more.

Once the fun with the sugar was complete, the chef started on the fruit salad. He segmented an orange, used a melon baller on the melon and then cut all the other fruit to the same size as the melon balls. Into the fruit salad went the halved orange segments, the melon balls, apple, pear, plum, mango, redcurrants, strawberries, kiwi, banana and halved grapes.

Very interesting technique on the grapes – with about 10 grapes on the chopping board, the chef held them in place with a flat hand, then halved them by running the filleting knife horizontally between the hand and board.

The chef also made a decorative fruit platter:


In our practical we made the stock syrup for the fruit salad in pairs. Not much to it really.

Then we had a go at testing boiling sugar with our fingers. A little scary the 1st time but it does indeed work, without burns, and I was successfully able to extract sugar at the soft ball, hard ball and crack stages.

While the syrup was cooling we made our fruit salad. The aim was to cut all the fruit in pieces the same size which wasn’t too hard. Yummy fruit salad to take home.

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