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There is a candy called "smoke sugar", that was made by a character in a story - it was a bubble of blown sugar, with a breath of hickory smoke in the center. The ingredients as listed were powdered sugar, grape acid (equivalent to citric or tartaric acid), and hickory wood for the smoke, and probably water as an unlisted ingredient.

I was wondering how realistic this candy is, especially to be made by a home cook. I did some research into making sugar-glass, which is made by heating sugar and water, and a small amount of acid to make a candy with. I also saw that blown sugar bubbles are sometimes used decoratively. I'm less sure if sugar-blowing requires special equipment to keep the molten sugar at the right temperature, or tools work with it without burning anything - or how dangerous it might be, with a possibility of inhaling the molten sugar. Perhaps the blown sugar globes I saw pictures of are made by commercial kitchens, or at least high-skill enthusiasts, who might have the necessary equipment and skill to make it safely.

I am also uncertain about the feasibility of adding the hickory smoke to the center. It seems to me that keeping the sugar-glass at workable temperatures for blowing globes with would be tricky enough without also trying to produce, and catch, hickory smoke to enclose in the bubble. I'm picturing using a mouthful of smoke to blow the breath that expands the globe (drawn into the mouth similarly to cigarette smoke, perhaps?), since the globe would have to be sealed off while still hot. But perhaps there's a better way?

Of course, the story character had pyromancy to keep the sugar at the right temperature, and control the smoking of the hickory wood, and tolerance to very high temperatures to keep from burning himself. But is this kind of candy possible for someone lacking these advantages?

I will likely cheat a bit to make something similar but easier by adding a drop of liquid smoke to regular sugar-glass for the flavor profile, to satisfy my curiosity. But I was wondering about the feasibility of the recipe technique as described in the story.

32

Almost exactly what you describe can be done, it’s shown in this video.

The sugar isn’t hot blown, it’s isomalt, a lower-calorie sugar substitute used in lower calorie candies and by foodies because it is formable into interesting shapes, like your sphere. It's a sugar alcohol, derived from sugar, and is considered "natural" (see What does "natural" actually mean?).

In order to make your spheres by this method, you would need isomalt, wood chips, a smoking gun, a way to pump air, protective gloves, a heat source, scissors, a small cutting form and a fan. It will also probably require boatloads of practice. The video links to a kit with most of what you would need.

Don the gloves, warm the isomalt, and then knead the isomalt by stretching and folding, taking care to get it all to the same temperature. After it’s well kneaded, form it into a ball just bigger than a golf ball.

Poke the ball with a finger, creating a deep hole to wrap around the nozzle of your blower gizmo. Warm the hole and fit it over the nozzle of the blower gizmo. Now it’s a little like filling a balloon, but he shows a lot more finesse.

enter image description here

Once you’ve got the sphere blown, cool it with a fan.

Warm the scissors and cut the sphere from the blower.

He cuts a larger hole for filling the sphere with smoke, but I don’t see that that step is really necessary, if you’re smart with the scissors step. But, what do I know?

Fill the ball with smoke using the smoking gun.

Turn it hole side down onto a plate and serve immediately.

I'm sure with practice you could plug the hole for an even cooler presentation, but you'd still have to serve it pretty quickly.

enter image description here

You can flavor isomalt, and you can add interesting color designs. It seems like it could be a pretty fun project.

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    Two by two, hands of blue… – PLL Aug 2 '16 at 3:36
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    This sounds like something Heston Blumenthal would do! – CJ Dennis Aug 2 '16 at 5:19
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    @CJDennis It's very much like something Heston Blumenthal would do! :) – Jolenealaska Aug 2 '16 at 7:36
13

I have seen smoke presented under glass domes. Clearly the smoke wasn't put in there while making the glass.

enter image description here source: http://www.weekendnotes.com/onyx-dessert-lounge/

Probably the steps are:

  • Make a bunch of spheres or near-spheres (with openings at the bottom) out of sugar and let them cool
  • plate the rest of the dish - some sort of soft stuff to support the edges of the dome might be good
  • get the smoke source together and attach a small hose to it
  • put the dome on the plate, lift the lower edge enough to get the hose in, pump in smoke
  • serve

Most of this is straightforward, meaning you just need to learn how to blow the sugar. Once you get good at that, I suppose you could try working up to full bubbles rather than domes. I would still probably do it as

  • make a near sphere and let it cool
  • make a small thin patch the size of the hole
  • put smoke into the bubble
  • patch the sphere

Since you don't have actual magic, I think this is as close as you can get.

  • 10
    Will the smoke even stay... smoky? Won't it defuse into the candy, leaving just a sooty layer coating the inside if left standing too long? – SnakeDoc Aug 1 '16 at 16:44
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    @SnakeDoc : I suspect that the picture was done just before it was being served. I suspect that you're right about any attempts to do this significantly ahead of time. – Joe Aug 1 '16 at 16:50
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    Are you sure that's smoke at all in the picture? Looks more like fog, perhaps created from some dry ice inside. – leftaroundabout Aug 1 '16 at 16:51
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    @leftaroundabout Oh wow, dry ice "fog" may, in fact, be a better option for the OP. I know OP said they wanted Hickory smoke, but dry ice may produce a better effect. OP may even be able to put a small piece of dry ice into the bubble, and have it keep producing "smoke" while the dessert is being eaten. Maybe use some hickory flavored liquid smoke to flavor the candy portion, then use dry ice to create the effect. – SnakeDoc Aug 1 '16 at 16:53
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    @SnakeDoc: I joined this community specifically to warn your readers not to serve their guests dry ice for dessert! If it gets in somebody's mouth, they might lose their tongue permanently due to third-degree burns. That would put a damper on even the most convivial dinner party. – TonyK Aug 1 '16 at 19:07
5

Making the spheres is doable, and getting smoke in is also do-able. However the smoke won't last very long. Smoke is particles suspended in the air, these particles would deposit onto the inside of the shell.

You would want to make the spheres ahead of time, leaving a hole in them, then put some smoke into them just before serving.

You may want to consider that sugar spheres will be opaque, you won't be able to see the smoke inside. Once cracked the smoke would escape, which might be cool, but not as cool as seeing the smoke inside a clear shell.

3

Presumably you'd blow sugar like you'd blow glass - with a blowpipe (likely not as long as needed for glass, since temperatures are a lot lower), from a molten vat at the correct temperature, and without sucking back. That should be feasible, but somewhat challenging.

Smoke in the middle would be ephemeral (sure, you could presumably work out blowing it in there - but it won't stay "smoke" for long.) You could get a read on the time it might stay smoke-like by catching some smoke in a bottle and waiting. Eventually the particulates and droplets will all settle on the walls of the container, leaving clear gasses.

  • 3
    For sure it will not remain smoke for long. Some friends tried that trick one Christmas in glass and it stayed smoke for only about 4-6 hours before settling--not long enough to present as a gift. – Cascabel Aug 1 '16 at 14:49
3

There is the same concept for ice balls with smoke inside in this drink recipe: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ur08cq2qHV0

Maybe it can give some useful tips.

  • The funnel + burning chips in the video is an especially good idea, if OP manages to make candy balls this technique could be used to fill them with smoke! – Sarumanatee Aug 1 '16 at 14:40
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    Hello Viktor, your post got a "not an answer" flag. We have a policy against link-only answers. I will dismiss the flag for now, but please summarize the technique here. – rumtscho Aug 1 '16 at 15:59
  • Viktor, I also answered this question with only a video. To do so well requires some effort on your part for the answer to be well received. It's too soon to suggest that my answer will be well received, but it is an example of how it can be done. – Jolenealaska Aug 1 '16 at 18:42

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