As sugar cooks, the water added to it evaporates. If you are not ready to use the sugar when it reaches the proper temperature, simply add a few tablespoons of water and allow it to continue to cook. This way you can "hold" the sugar until you are ready.
Using an invert sugar allows you to use half the amount of regular sugar called for in a recipe. Examples of invert sugars are honey, glucose, and corn syrup.
Powdered sugar: Also known as confectioners I sugar or 10-x, this is granulated sugar ground to a powder. You can't make it at home because no home processor will grind it to that powdery texture. It is used to sweeten because it dissolves more easily than granulated sugar. It is also used to thicken because it usually contains cornstarch.
Brown sugar: Brown sugar is either light or dark. Brown sugar is a mixture of granulated sugar and molasses. You can substitute brown sugar for granulated sugar any time the flavor of the recipe will not be altered by a slight taste of molasses.
Corn syrup: This is starch extracted from corn kernels and treated with an acid or enzyme to create a sweet syrup. Its presence will keep sugars from crystallizing. Corn syrup is an invert sugar, meaning it takes half as much of it to sweeten as much as regular sugar. Corn syrup helps baked good retain their moisture and increases shelf life. It lasts indefinitely if you keep it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Honey: Honey is another invert sugar. It is used to add sweetness and moistness to baked goods. It also helps to extend shelf life because it releases its moisture slowly and absorbs humidity. The darker the color, the stronger the flavor.
Vanilla sugar: This is granulated sugar to which dried vanilla bean has been added. It can be stored indefinitely at room temperature in an airtight container.
Sure-Jell (powdered pectin): Fruit pectin for homemade jams and Jellies. It contains dextrose (corn syrup), fruit pectin, and furnaric acid (which assists in the gelling process). Most grocery stores carry it, it is also available as Sure-jell Light or Slim-Set.
|Cooked Sugar Tests and Temperatures|
|Thread||215°F||Forms a brittle thread when pulled.|
|Pearl||220° - 222°F||Forms pliable thread. Pulls off in sheets from a spoon.|
|Soufflé||222° - 234°F||Boiling sugar creates small bubbles resembling snowflakes.|
|Soft Ball||234° - 240°F||Sugar syrup forms ball in water but flattens out when removed.|
|Firm Ball||242° - 248°F||Sugar syrup forms ball in water and holds shape when removed. A very soft ball can be rolled between your fingers.|
|Hard Ball||250° - 268°F||Sugar syrup forms ball in water and holds its shape in a tight, slightly pliable ball.|
|Soft Crack||270° - 290°F||Sugar syrup forms stiff threads in water.|
|Firm Crack||293°F||Sugar syrup has lost all of its water. Following stages are critical and temperature should be watched very carefully.|
|Hard Crack||300° - 310°F||Sugar syrup forms hard, brittle threads when dropped into water.|
|Liquid Sugar||320°F||Melting point of sugar.|
|Light Caramel||330° - 350°F||Syrup turns a very pale amber color darkening to a rich golden.|
|Medium Caramel||350° - 370°F||Syrup continues to darken, turning from light brown to a dark mahogany.|
|Dark Caramel||370° - 400°F||Syrup becomes very dark brown, nearly black and gives off a very burnt aroma. Used only for coloring, not for confections.|
|Black Jack||+400°F||Black color, dark smoke. No practical use for this.|