Category Archives: Poured sugar

KQAS 2012- Manus Christi

Manus Christi, or “the hand of Christ”, was a confection used as a preventative, similar to a vitamin. There are many different recipes some which include crushed pearls, cinnamon, flower essence, gemstones, gold and silver leaf.1 In the 16th century Manus Christi was a delicate crystallized sugar wafer, flavored with rose water. But more importantly, Manus Christi was a stage for boiling sugar. Many apothecary and confectionery recipes tell the user to boil sugar to Manus Christi height.

To make Manus Christi
Take halfe a pound of refined Suger, and some Rose water, and boyle them together, till it come to sugar again, then stirre it about while it be somewhat cold, then take your leaf gould, and mingle with it, then cast it according to art, That is in round gobbetts, and so keep them. 2

Modern Recipe
8oz by weight, granulated sugar
4oz by volume, rose water
Gold leaf flakes- optional

1. Mix sugar and water together and set on high heat
2. When dissolved, drop temperature to medium high heat
3. When temperature reaches 245° F remove from heat
4. Stir with a wooden spoon until candy starts to cloud and turn opaque.
5. Stir in gold leaf flakes at this time.
6. Drop cooling candy on a sheet of parchment in quarter to half dollar sized rounds.
7. Once cool, store in air-tight container at room temperature.
8. Also you can apply the gold leaf to the tops of the candies by dabbing a little water on the top and sprinkling the gold to the top. Do not use too much water as this could cause the candies to dissolve.

Technical notes
The most ideal texture and temperature to cook the sugar is to a firm ball. At the “soft ball stage”, the sugar takes longer to crystallize and it doesn’t set up into a wafer very easily. It is also prone to re-hydrating from moisture in the atmosphere and becoming sugar sludge. At the “hard ball stage”, the sugar crystallized very quickly and sets up too quickly. You have to pour the sugar while it is still quite hot and you do not get a smooth slick surface to the candy. The sweet spot appears to be “firm ball”, the stage right between the two. There is only 15 degrees between soft and hard ball stages and the sugar will progress through these 3 stages pretty quickly. At 245° F the heat should be killed and the pot removed from the stove. This produces a very smooth candy, with a fine grain crystal. It should dissolve on the tongue producing a slight effervescence mouth feel.

Creating Manus Christi is not generally difficult to recreate in modern times. Candy thermometers make it easy to know when the sugar has come to the correct temperature. A more period method of sugar temperature measurement can be achieved by paying attention to how the sugar is boiling. In a firm ball state, the sugar bubbles are well formed, but not rolling. The pot should look like boiling water, but the bubbles lack the force to spit sugar up the sides of the pan. The sugar is still clear and has not started to take on color. This could be described as “Manus Christi height”. If the boiling sugar starts to roll and look light brown, the candy has progress to a stage past the ball phase. This can be fixed by adding more water to dilute the sugar concentrate. The entire process requires careful monitoring of the boiling sugar.

This confection was produced using a small batch artisan refined loaf sugar. The confectioner that created the sugar is using an 18th century refining processes. This is as close to period refined sugar I am able to purchase. It has a higher moisture content, larger sugar crystal structure and has a harder texture. It also has a noticeably different taste than modern granulated sugar. One thing that needed to be done was breaking the cone into small chunks prior to dissolving. The resulting sugar has a grittier texture than modern sugar. The higher moisture content increased the time to get the sugar to proper temperature. This is due to requiring more time to get the sugar to the appropriate level of saturation.

1. Richardson, Tim. Sweets: A History of Candy. New York, NY: MJF /Fine Communications, 2005. Print.
2. A Closet for Ladies and Gentlevvomen: Or, the Art of Preseruing, Conseruing, and Candying ; with the Manner Hovve to Make Diuers Kinds of Syrups, and All Kind of Banqueting Stuffes : Also Diuers Soueraigne Medicines … London: Printed for Arthur Iohnson …, 1602. Print.

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Posted by on February 1, 2012 in Poured sugar


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KQAS- updated water horse documentation

The documentation for “Mungo, the water horse” has been updated to fit within the 3 page maximum page requirement. This is the documentation that will accompany the physical water horse subtlety, which is being submitted as a “sculpture”. I am not counting title page, toc, bibliography, recipes or glossary as part of the documentation.  There is simply no way we can do the pertinent part including those areas in 3 pages.

Updated documentation: Documentation Water Horse V2

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Posted by on January 31, 2012 in Poured sugar, Sugar, Uncategorized


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When sugar goes REALLY wrong

It was a spectacularly bad week for poured sugar. The chess board that I poured, allowed to dry and packaged up, went very south. When I noticed some of the lollipops had gone form clear to cloudy I went to check on the chess board.

This is what I was greeted with.

It started like this:

The entire piece crystallized. You can see parts of the colored sugar and lines because of the flash. Due to this, I elected not to pour a top coat for the Salamander piece. I entered this into the A&S competition anyway. I wanted people to see what can happen to sugar when it is left to the elements. The chess pieces that went with the board poured nicely. But they were also sealed with varnish after they were dry.

The piece ended up being a great conversation starter. And I think people learned something.

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Posted by on December 9, 2011 in Poured sugar


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When sugar goes horribly wrong

The last few posts have been about the poured sugar projects I have been working on for our Yule event Dec 3, 2011.  Many different things can effect sugar work. Humidity, stirring and undissolved sugar crystals getting into the mixture as it cooks. Even the best, most prepared cooks can run into problems when working with boiled sugars.

Crystallization refers to the formation of sugar crystals in a sugar syrup.  This will turn a smooth, clear candy into a lumpy, bumpy mess.  The lollipop on the left is clear and smooth.  The lollipop on the right is cloudy and gritty.

You often do not know that crystallization will happen until after it is poured. Once it has solidified, problems will be very apparent. The bishop chess piece does not have a smooth surfaced back. When it is broken, you can see the crystal formation through out the entire piece.

It is important to start with a clean cooking pot and clean molds. The use of “interfering agents” will help too.Interfering agents are added in the beginning of the recipe before the sugar syrup begins to boil. Common agents include corn syrup, glucose, and honey. Often acids like cream of tartar, lemon juice, or vinegar will be used. Vinegar helps keep clear candy “more clear”, longer as the cooking temperature gets above the soft crack stage. Most professional chefs use a sugar called isomalt, when doing poured sugar work.

Isomalt is out of period for SCA confectionery work. I prefer to use a wet pastry brush to brush down the sides of my pot as the sugar boils.  Once it hits 245, the chemistry changes and the boil does not throw as much saturated sugar water up the sides of the pan. I will add a tablespoon of corn syrup and a splash of vinegar to the mixture, especially when the weather is unpredictable and unseasonably humid.

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Posted by on November 30, 2011 in Poured sugar, Projects


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Poured sugar- Yule continued

The piece for feast has been mostly completed. Depending on the weather, I will decide whether to pour a top coat or just leave it as is. It is pretty humid and the sugar is absorbing moisture. This is causing weeping and severe crystallization. This second piece is based upon our menu scroll for feast.

Step 1- Grid lines

Step 2- Pouring the sugar glass

Step 3- Completed Salamander


Posted by on November 29, 2011 in Poured sugar


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Poured Sugar- Yule

Boiled sugar is an amazingly temperamental and often persnickety thing. It goes through stages. First it comes to a boil and hangs out at about 220° F for several minutes. This first boil is critical. If you do not keep it off the sides, you will end up with crystallization. If you stir the boiling sugar after it has dissolves, you end up with crystallization. If you look at it wrong, you end up with crystallization. As it sits and boils for a while, you brush the sides down with a wet pastry brush. After a while (this isn’t on a set schedule. things are determined by pan, heat, amount of sugar, humidity, blah, blah, blah), it will move up to the soft ball state at 250° F and will hang out there for a while. Once it crosses this magical barrier, you can stop brushing down the sides.

It will hang out there for a while. Next magic stat is the soft crack state at around 270° F or so. Hangs out for a little and then gets to hard crack at 300° F. Once it gets to this stage, it goes from creeping up the thermometer to Ka-BLAM Burnt Sugar quicker than you can blink. And unlike burnt popcorn, burnt sugar smells vile and the smell lasts for days. Ask me how I know this and why I almost set the house on fire several years ago.

Today I worked on a chess board of poured sugar and a little gumpaste. It was a proof of concept project as I hadn’t done something pour this intricate before. And I didn’t want to experiment with doing poured sugar work with the subtlety.

Step 1- clear sugar base

Step 2- grid lines

Step3- colored squares

Step 4- painted lines

Step 5- salamander and top coat

* Note: A watched pot never boils to the next temperature bracket. And a thermometer is critical. Though you can do it by sight, sound and a glass of water. But that is a post for another day.

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Posted by on November 28, 2011 in Poured sugar


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