Celebrity sugar artist Richard Ruskell swears by isomalt when it comes to creating your own pulled sugar art. “I work with isomalt all the time,” Ruskell, Corporate Executive Chef of the Montage luxury resort in Beverly Hills, CA, told attendees of his Oct. 1 demonstration of “Halloween Horror Decoration” at the Oklahoma State Sugar Art Show.
Isomalt is a sugar substitute originally developed for diabetics.
In the cooking process, sugar melts and will re-crystallize. “Isomalt won’t do that,” Ruskell says. “It doesn’t absorb humidity like sugar does. Isomalt also takes a beating much more than sugar.”
During his demonstration of how to create witches and other Halloween figures out of pulled sugar, Ruskell offered the following tips:
When using sugar, cook to 312 F. When using isomalt, cook at 325 F. With isomalt, add less water.
Cook your sugar and then color a lot of pieces at one time. This saves labor down the road. Portion your sugar pieces, color and place each in its own baggie with silica gel to keep it from sticking together.
There are two types of finished looks: Pulled until satinized to get glistening pieces of pulled sugar; or opaque sugar. “Today’s new school method is opaque sugar; it won’t have that glossy look. I do people in opaque sugar to make them look more realistic. They look like people – not shiny figures.”
Use Wilton White Icing Color to make opaque sugar.
When coloring sugar, Ruskell prefers paste colors because liquid color “just boils away.” He uses AmeriColor.
Try using two propane torches – one large, one small. Use the small torch for fine detail work.
Always wear gloves and long sleeves when working with pulled sugar. “Remember pulled sugar is dangerously hot. Sugar will land on your skin and stick to it. If that happens, the first thing you should do is run cold water over it.”