Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Divinity: Candy-making with the Grandparents

I'd like to introduce you to my grandparents: George and Virgie. They are incredible; they defeat the laws of nature. George is 93 and Virgie is 91. I am very lucky to have them so close, all of my life. I wanted to share a family recipe with you - one of our Christmas candies that Virgie makes: Divinity. We made two batches, their traditional way - by hand, and my lazy way - via stand mixer. This is the recipe card. It's gotten some ware over the years, but it's still in good shape. It's in Virgie's perfectly scripted handwriting. We begin with the eggs. Here, George is separating them. You will need two egg whites. Be sure that no yolk gets mixed in. Set aside until after the sugar syrup is prepared.
In a heavy/sturdy pan - like this one, that's as thick as bones - combine a half cup of water, a half cup of light corn syrup, and 2 cups of sugar. Heat until boiling, stir until a rolling boil begins. Reduce heat to med-high and set a timer for 7 minutes.
Here's when you get to check the sugar mixture to see if it's at the right stage - hard crack or hard ball stage. Spoon a little of the sugar into a bowl of cold water. Please be careful not to get the sugar on yourself. It will burn worse than fire.
This is an indication that the sugar isn't to hard crack stage yet. After you drop the hot sugar into the cold water, fish it out. If it strings from your fingers, this is soft crack. Keep on boiling.
Virgie likes to test OFTEN because she gets to sneak a taste of sweetness. This woman is a fiend for sugar. Sugar is to diabetics as crack is to crackheads. Oh, Grandma.
Eureka, the hard crack stage. You will know that the sugar has reached the appropriate stage when you pull it out of the cold water and it's solid like hard candy. Virgie taps it on the edge of the bowl to verify, and then promptly "hides" the test piece in her mouth. Now, take the pan off of the heat, and find those egg whites. On the left, you'll see George whipping the egg whites with his preferred hand mixer. I am partial to a stand mixer. Whip your egg whites until they leave stiff peaks.
For those of you working by hand, get your friends and neighbors. You'll need them and their muscles. First, stir in a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Once that is incorporated, gradually (or have someone gradually) pour the hot syrup into the egg mixture while you or your stand mixer whips and whips and whips. After the whipper's arms get tired, have someone else take over. It helps if someone else holds the bowl during this aggressive, whipping action. Don't scrape the pan - the sugar left in the pan is at a different temperature. Just let as much drip out as possible.
Whip until the mixture is thick, shiny, and smooth. You can test to see if it's at the right consistency by dipping out a spoonful onto some wax paper. If it stands on it's own and drys fairly quickly, then it's perfect!
This was our first test. It was too runny and never set up. If this happens, just keep whipping. Be careful not to over whip because it will ultimately become crumbly - no good.
When it's at the right consistency. WORK QUICKLY. The divinity dollops will harden very fast.
This is the work of my brother, my dad, and I. We do not have the skilled hands of my grandma. When she dips them out, they have smooth edges and a curl on the top.
After they are cool and dry, you can store them in an air tight container. They make great gifts and look fancy on a platter of sweets.
And as always, the cooks get to lick the paddle. Happy holidays to you and your family.

1 comment:

  1. your grandma is too cute :) and i'm impressed you made successful divinity- that stuff is hard!!