For a cake or dessert centerpiece, there is nothing more elegant and impressive than edible decorations. Sugar is a clay, the baker a sculptor. Sugar can be formed into just about any shape you can imagine. When liquefied and heated, it becomes pliable enough for a few moments to be sculpted into objects, ribbons and decorations. The process of molding sugar is known as pulling, as you pull the molten sugar in order to form smooth lines that then harden into a brittle sugar sculpture.
Bring to boil 1 1/4 cups sugar and 100 ml of water over high heat. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pot. Once it reaches boiling point, stir in 1 tsp. of lemon juice and food coloring of your choice. Watch the thermometer carefully until it reads 298 degrees Fahrenheit. Let the mixture reach this temperature or it will not properly harden when cooled. The trick to candy making is bringing it to peak at a high temperature. If you do not use a thermometer, you risk gooey candy.
Pour the boiling candy syrup onto a silicone mat. You can use a piece of parchment paper, but make sure the paper sticks to the counter. Hold it down with tape or weights. Do not use wax paper, which will melt and stick to your candy. Put on a pair of pastry gloves or kitchen sink gloves to keep from burning yourself once you begin to pull.
Allow the sugar to cool briefly (less than a minute), only so it is solid yet bendable. If you let it sit for more than a minute it will harden and you will have a sheet of sugar, perhaps pretty for a cake plate, but not for sugar pulling purposes.
Begin to pull. Fold the sugar back and forth to get the feel of it, and then cut off small pieces and begin to stretch, pull and twirl the sugar into any form you desire. You must work quickly. You can use tools such as dowels to help you create ribbon curls, or bend it in droplets to make flowers.
Reheat if the sugar cools before you finish. Place the sugar under a heat lamp or in a pot over low heat on the stove or in the oven. Do not let it melt, or you will have caramel. Let it warm enough only so that it is pliable again, and then repeat the pulling of small pieces into ribbons or shapes.
Mallory Ferland has been writing professionally since her start in 2009 as an editorial assistant for Idaho-based Premier Publishing. Her writing and photography have appeared in "Idaho Cuisine" magazine, "Spokane Sizzle" and various online publications. She graduated from Gonzaga University in 2009 with Bachelor of Arts degrees in history and French language and now writes, photographs and teaches English in Sao Paulo, Brazil.