How to Spin Sugar

Let’s do this.

How to Spin Sugar | bloggingoverthyme.com

Today, I am going try my darnedest to teach you how to spin sugar.  As I mentioned yesterday, I really hate writing how-to posts, because I rarely feel like I have the authority or experience to tell you how to do anything, let alone do anything that involves sugar.  It is a whole different ballgame.

Unfortunately, I don’t have many step-by-step photos (ok, basically zero) of the process.  Photography and burning hot sugar don’t mix.  Bad things happen.  In fact, I had to awkwardly hold out that rolling pin with one arm, while awkwardly focusing the camera and pressing the shutter with the other (see third photo).  It was fairly uncomfortable and I don’t recommend it.

I’ll try to make up for it with words.  Lots and lots of words (sorry!).

How to Spin Sugar | bloggingoverthyme.com

Spun sugar is essentially a thicker version of cotton candy (which is much more fine and requires a machine).

There are a few ways to spin sugar.  One method is to slowly drizzle caramelized sugar from a fork (in a very, very thin continuous drizzle) and repeatedly grab the strands towards yourself (as I learned how to do in culinary school).  This is not the method that I recommend, as it is a lot more terrifying (and potentially burn-inducing) and it is much more difficult to master.

Instead, I’m going to share a method that is much more user-friendly and is relatively straight-forward.  Did I mention that it is also kind of fun?  It involves quickly drizzling the sugar back-and-forth across a rolling pin.  Ideally, you want to create as thin of strands as possible, but don’t worry too much if you have an occasional droplet.  [I had several as you can see.]

How to Spin Sugar | bloggingoverthyme.com

The best way to do this is to place a clean rolling pin on your kitchen counter–so that it hangs over half-way over the edge.  You can hold down the other half of the rolling pin with whatever you have on hand, I actually held it down with a bunch of upside-down bananas (it sounds ridiculous, but it worked brilliantly).  Alternatively, you could use pot handles or tape down wooden spoons, if that is easier.

Since you’ll be drizzling sugar essentially over your kitchen floor, you’ll want to cover the immediate surrounding area with newspaper or paper towels so that caramel doesn’t become a permanent fixture in your kitchen floor.

The trickiest part of making homemade spun sugar is having the caramel at the right temperature.  Too hot and it won’t drizzle properly (and will form large clumps).  Too cold and it won’t drizzle at all.  It will take some practice, but I promise, eventually it will fall in a very thin drizzle from the fork and form sugar silk strands.

Sugar is pretty amazing.

How to Spin Sugar | bloggingoverthyme.com

Once you have drizzled a fair amount of sugar over the rolling pin (this will depend on your preference for the size of the decoration), you’ll want to slowly bring the ends together with your hands and form a loose ball of spun sugar.  Don’t wait too long, as the sugar will harden and potentially break.  In the end, the shape and style is up to you.

If you need to spin more sugar and the caramel has hardened too much, just pop it back onto the stove for a quick second to warm it back up again.

Spun sugar is highly susceptible to humidity and heat, so I highly recommend making it at the absolute last second.  If you have an airtight container, it can be stored for a short amount of time, if necessary.   It will be at its lightest and best texture (it tends to get heavier, stickier, and loses height over time) immediately after it is made.  Whatever you do, have fun with it and don’t take yourself too seriously.  You can always make another batch.

Spun Sugar Motto: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again!

Homemade Spun Sugar

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water

Tools:

  • rolling pin (or long wooden spoons)
  • fork

Directions:

  1. Place a clean rolling pin on your kitchen counter--so that it hangs half-way over the edge.  Hold down the other half of the rolling pin with whatever you have on hand (upside down bananas work ridiculously well) .  Alternatively, use pot handles or tape down wooden spoons.
  2. Line the kitchen floor below with newspaper or paper towels.
  3. Combine the sugar and water in a small, heavy saucepan.  Stir over low heat until the sugar dissolves.  Increase heat to medium and cook (without disturbing) until the caramel reaches a very light amber color (watch carefully, as this will happen very quickly).  Use a pastry brush to brush the sides of the pan with water to prevent crystallization.  Remove caramel from heat immediately.
  4. Allow caramel to cool just until very, very thin wispy strands form when drizzled with a fork.  Dipping your fork repeatedly into the sugar mixture, whip the strands of sugar back and forth quickly across the rolling pin to form long, hanging strands of sugar.
  5. Repeat until you have accumulated enough sugar to pick up with your hand.  While it is still pliable, grab the two ends of the sugar and bring together forming a fluffy, free-form shape.  If the caramel hardens too much as you work, place back over low heat just until it begins to loosen up a bit.
  6. Use immediately or store in an airtight container.
  7. To remove any hardened caramel from the pot or utensils once you are finished, fill the pot with water (and place the utensils in the pot) and bring to a low boil, until the caramel has dissolved.

Be extremely careful when working with any hot sugar, as you can burn yourself relatively easily.

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26 Responses to “How to Spin Sugar”

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    1
    Meg Jones | The Spatularette — February 11, 2014 @ 7:26 am

    This is a great How To!! Spinning sugar is super intimidating but you make it seem doable. Thanks for sharing!

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    Tieghan — February 11, 2014 @ 8:51 am

    Fo someone who does not like how tos I would say you did an amazing job! I honestly cannot wait to give it a try. I am pretty freaking nervous though!

    • Laura replied: — February 12th, 2014 @ 1:32 pm

      Oh yay! Just don’t touch the sugar–as long as you don’t do that, you’ll be fine!

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    Joanne — February 11, 2014 @ 9:11 am

    and now I actually kind of feel like I can DO spun sugar! However, I will also make sure to have paramedics at the ready. Just in case.

    • Laura replied: — February 12th, 2014 @ 1:33 pm

      Hahaha!

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    Peggy Gilbey McMackin — February 11, 2014 @ 9:43 am

    Fantastic Post! Unique and Well Done, I just love the photos. Thanks for sharing!

    • Laura replied: — February 12th, 2014 @ 1:33 pm

      Thank you so much!

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    cynthia — February 11, 2014 @ 10:21 am

    This is so incredibly cool, Laura! And your photography has been just phenomenal these past few weeks. I totally feel you on writing how-to posts — I feel super inadequate to write them too! And then it doesn’t work out for someone and I’m consumed with guilt. lol. :( But hey, for every person who’s a master at spun sugar, there are 20 like me who don’t know the first thing about it and appreciate your time and effort tremendously. I’m so excited to try this out at some point :):)

    • Laura replied: — February 12th, 2014 @ 1:35 pm

      You’re so sweet! And yeah, you pretty much outlined all the reasons why I hate how-to posts–HA.

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    6
    pippa@popovertopippas — February 11, 2014 @ 10:46 am

    I’m not sure you should be encouraging sugar work… the dangers far outweigh the benefits in my opinion:)

    • Laura replied: — February 12th, 2014 @ 1:33 pm

      Maybe I should have included a picture of your hand at the bottom with a warning?

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    Nicole ~ Cooking for Keeps — February 11, 2014 @ 10:56 am

    I still can’t get over the beauty of this. You’ve got me wanting to try it!

    • Laura replied: — February 12th, 2014 @ 1:41 pm

      Do it, do it!!!

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    Mom — February 11, 2014 @ 2:41 pm

    Both of these posts have been amazing! Also, scary! But the way you describe it makes a lot of sense! Hopefully Max was prevented from entering the kitchen as the sugar slowly dripped down toward the floor, although I guess it stops just short of doing that if you have the temperature correct and everything else! Makes for a stunning presentation! Very impressive, Laura!

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    Allu — February 11, 2014 @ 4:09 pm

    awesome! I’d probably tape some parchment paper over the rolling pin/pot to make clean up easier :). Just a thought!

    • Laura replied: — February 12th, 2014 @ 1:41 pm

      You definitely can do that! The sugar comes off relatively easily without it though! :)

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    10
    Erika — February 11, 2014 @ 6:27 pm

    Like whoa.. those photos are phenomenal and can I just say that I feel like I could spin sugar like a pro now.. great how to…

    • Laura replied: — February 12th, 2014 @ 1:40 pm

      Haha! So glad it made sense–wish I had more pictures, but oh well ;)

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    ashley - baker by nature — February 11, 2014 @ 7:17 pm

    Girl you are on a roll! I am totally doing this!!!

    • Laura replied: — February 12th, 2014 @ 1:31 pm

      Report back!! :)

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    Amanda @ Once Upon a Recipe — February 12, 2014 @ 12:21 am

    I can’t say that I’ll be attempting this anytime soon, but you are definitely amazing! Your photos are gorgeous!

    • Laura replied: — February 12th, 2014 @ 1:39 pm

      Omg, thank you! And yeah, I totally get it ;)

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    Kathi @ Deliciously Yum! — February 12, 2014 @ 11:51 am

    Wow, these pictures could not be any more gorgeous! This is definitely one of my favorite posts in the blogosphere. I’ve always been intimidated to try this, but I think I’ll be making this very soon!! Thanks for sharing :)

    • Laura replied: — February 12th, 2014 @ 1:38 pm

      Oh my goodness. That is such a huge compliment, thank you :) Speaking of gorgeous food, I just checked out your homemade beignets–agghh!

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    Mandy @ lady and pups — February 14, 2014 @ 12:26 am

    This is the most pretty little thing I’ve seen!!!!! i can almost picture the behind-the-scene mess where I lick off the caramel off my hands and face and hair and feet and… floor and everywhere. But no one will have to know that..

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    Alvin Borthwick — March 2, 2014 @ 1:11 am

    So you’re trying to teach people how to spin sugar Laura… Well, I’ve got news for you. With your easy going descriptive writing style, you could spin anything…take my word for it.

    I’ve read quite a few different how to’s on spinning sugar; and I think your ability to impart is the best by far. I say that because I could more easily understand and follow you. Thanks Laura

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