Learning how to pull sugar designs with isomalt is an advanced cake decorating technique that will widen your decorating repertoire. However, if you've never tried it before, you will certainly appreciate some pulling sugar tips.
To the uninitiated, working with pulling sugar and isomalt can seem like a daunting process, with a supply list a mile long and so many precautions you practically need to sign a waiver.
The Bluprint course Introduction to Isomalt breaks down this intimidating cake decorating medium into simple, easy-to-follow steps using a sugar substitute called isomalt. Instructor Charity Pykles-George, AKA the Sugar Sorceress, is a sugar artist of high renown: a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in London and Paris and Le Ritz Escoffier in Paris, and a sugarcraft instructor who has traveled around the world. Under her thorough guidance, you'll take the process step by step, from reviewing the necessary materials to taking the isomalt from boiling to beautiful cake decorating medium.
Here are just a few quick pulling sugar tips to help the process feel less like pulling teeth.
1. Reach the perfect temperature
It cannot be stressed enough: it is very important to monitor the temperatures of your isomalt while boiling. A candy thermometer or instant read digital timer is absolutely necessary in helping you attain a firm consistency without crystallizing the mixture. The target cooking temperature is 338 degrees F (170 C); to ensure that you reach this point without boiling over, remove the pot from heat when thermometer reads 333 degrees F (167 C). These 5 degrees will compensate for the residual heat, which will continue to warm for a few moments after the mixture is removed from heat.
2. Maintain consistency
Consistency is key with pulling sugar--literally. Too soft and your sugar won't hold its shape; too stiff and it can be difficult to work with and crack easily. So what signs should you look for when pulling sugar? While there is a temptation to work with sugar on the softer side because it is easier to manipulate, it can quickly lose its shape after formed. Try to err slightly on the more firm side (without being to stiff to work with) so that it will hold its shape. Having a warming box or temperature-controlled oven to maintain the heat can help the sugar from becoming too stiff.
3. Store isomalt properly
In its uncooked form, isomalt can be stored for up to 2 years if stored properly. Since it tends to absorb moisture from the air and environmental elements, store it in a sealed container or airtight freezer bag. Adding food-safe silica gel packets can help in further prolonging the shelf life of your isomalt.
4. Use distilled water
Using distilled water for isomalt might seem like a fussy recipe request, but it is one that is worth the trouble. The minerals in tap water can have a reaction when exposed to the high temperatures reached when cooking isomalt, and can cause yellowness in the finished product. Not such a big deal if you're making colored designs, but if you're creating bubbles or seeking dramatic clear designs such as a delicate swan, you want a realistic white-translucent hue.
5. Pack some heat
A culinary torch is among the cooler instruments to have in your cake decorating kitchen, and it's amazingly helpful when pulling sugar, helping to keep your medium soft and malleable as you shape it into a myriad of designs, from ribbons to delicate flowers. Plus, you can also use it to brown meringues or make creme brûlée. A sugar warming box might seem like a cumbersome thing that you can do without, but it will make the difference between professional grade and amateur work.