Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Pinacle of Something

Can you guess what I have wrapped tightly, and sealed in a jar to ripen for a day? Give up?

I made fondant.

No, not the garbage you buy at the craft store-fondant! Sugar, water, cream of tartar. I have homemade candied cherries, so I guess the next logical step is to flavour my fondant, and use it for homemade chocolate covered cherries. Or peppermint patties. Or maple creams. You get the idea. As a happy bonus, I can be assured that it was made without contact from nuts in a candy facility, as will be the candies I make from it. So there.

I never believed this was something I could successfully make. I was under the impression that it would be some sort of impossibly difficult process, and that it isn't worth the bother. I suppose I achieved something today, but now I feel like everything that follows will be disappointingly mundane. "Oh, a mousse of goose confit with black truffles en croute-how positively boring!" Anyway, I made fondant, and I'm quite pleased with myself, as a matter-of-fact.

What I learned:

You need to be exact with the temperature. OK, I need to, but this isn't the sort of thing that will be easy to calculate with the "ball test." So 240 degrees F. That's the magic number. It also helps to butter the sides of the pot. This helps prevent crystals forming, and it pours easier at the end. You need to pour fondant, not scrape it. That's important, so remember it. You won't get every last drop from the pot, so save your cheapskate tendencies for re-using the plastic netting from bags of onions as a dish scrubber. Really, you don't do that?

The fondant needs to be poured onto a very (VERY) lightly oiled surface. Then, don't touch it for 30 minutes. No really, leave it the hell alone. When it comes time to scrape it, grab the heaviest spatula you own and start folding it towards the centre. This is hard work, but you need to work quickly once you start. If you don't possess decent upper-body strength, you may wish to pass on this project. Keep folding it over on itself. Then, tear off half, wrap the other in either a damp towel or a piece of cling film, and start kneading. It will change from clear, to opaque, and it may even become chalky-that's OK. Keep kneading the hell out of it. When you are satisfied that it is smooth, wrap it tightly in cling film and store in a tightly covered jar to ripen for 24 hours. There, you just made fondant and unlike the stuff from the craft store, it won't taste like ass. It is also incredibly cheap to do.

If you are uncomfortable with your sugar skills, you can replace the cream of tartar with corn syrup. This will help prevent crystals from forming, but if you're afraid of the corn syrup monster (you probably aren't too worried about calories if you're making candy) or somehow feel that using it is cheating, go ahead and do it the traditional way. At worst, you're out some sugar, which thanks to price supports in the US, is still somewhat inexpensive (like some other product I know that's being harvested outside the window I'm sitting at typing right now). Your call.

You Will Need:

2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar or 2 tablespoons light corn syrup

Butter the sides of a heavy 1 1/2 quart pot. Combine sugar, water and cream of tartar. Stir, over medium heat until it comes to a boil, and the sugar dissolves. Cook to 240 degrees F. Pour onto a lightly greased platter, marble slab, or in my case, a rimmed baking sheet.

Cool until it feels cool to the touch-about 30 minutes. Using a heavy spatula (or a wodden spoon if you're a weight-lifting champion) scrape the fondant from the edge, inward, folding over itself into a small square. Flatten it out with the spatula, and do it again, and again. Then, knead the hell out of it. Wrap in cling film, and place in a covered container ( a jar works great) for 24 hours to ripen. Tint and flavour as you like.

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