Sugar cookery

Sugar Cooking Stages

While making various confectionaries the degree to with the sugar is heated has a significant role. For different types of confectionary product, a different level of heating is paramount.

Temperature (Celsius)Name/ StageUsage
106-112 Thread Sugar Syrups, used for pouring over desserts such as gulab jamun
112-115Soft BallCaramels, fudge, Pralines, fondant, butter creams, Italian Meringue
116-120Firm BallCaramels, butter creams, nougat, marshmallows, Italian meringues, gummies, and toffees.
122-130Hard Ballcaramels, nougat, divinity and toffees.
132-143Soft crackbutterscotch, firm nougat, and taffy.
146-155Hard crackbrittles, toffees, lollipops, glazed fruit, hard candy, pulled poured and spun sugar.
160-182Caramelpralines, brittles, caramel-coated molds, and nougatine.

How the stages gets the name?

Depending on the level of heat to which the sugar is boiled to the characteristics of the sugar changes. The stages of sugar is named after these qualities that the sugar develops due to the heat treatment.

  • Thread stage – The concentration of sugar is approximately 80% at this stage. If the sugar syrup is dropped into cold water, it forms a liquid thread which shall not ball up.
  • Soft ball stage – The concentration of sugar is approximately 85% at this stage. When the sugar syrup is dropped in cold water, it forms a soft & flexible ball. The ball will flatten of in moments after removing from water.
  • Firm ball stage – The concentration of sugar is approximately 87% at this stage. When the sugar syrup is dropped in cold water, it forms a firm ball. The ball will not flatten even after removing from water. However it will be malleable and flatten when squeezed.
  • Hard ball stage – The concentration of sugar is approximately 92% at this stage. the syrup will form thick, “ropy” threads as it drips from the spoon. A little of this syrup dropped into cold water will form a hard ball. If you take the ball out of the water, it won’t flatten. The ball will be hard, but you can still change its shape by squashing it.
  • Soft crack stage – The concentration of sugar is approximately 95% at this stage. As the syrup reached soft-crack stage, the bubbles on top will become smaller, thicker, and closer together. When you drop a bit of this syrup into cold water, it will solidify into threads that, when removed from the water, are flexible, not brittle. They will bend slightly before breaking.
  • Hard crack stage – The concentration of sugar is approximately 99% at this stage. The hard-crack stage is the highest temperature you are likely to see specified in a candy recipe. At these temperatures, there is almost no water left in the syrup. Drop a little of the molten syrup in cold water and it will form hard, brittle threads that break when bent.
  • Caramel – The concentration of sugar is 100% at this stage If you heat a sugar syrup to temperatures higher than any of the candy stages, you will be on your way to creating caramelized sugar (the brown liquid stage)—a rich addition to many desserts.
Further Reading
 https://www.joyofbaking.com/StagesOfCookedSugar.html 
 https://www.exploratorium.edu/cooking/candy/sugar-stages.html 
 http://lawsofbaking.com/glossary/stages-of-sugar-cooking/ 

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