Today is essentially a “reference post” kinda day, as I need to start gathering notes and ideas into one centralized location (for reasons soon to be made apparent). If your looking for food pontification, it’s best if you come back at a latter day.
Stages of sugar boiling
- Thread:215° F–235° F
/108° C–118° C – The sugar is is quite fluid at this stage. Syrup and Jellies are often representative of this stage, and there are only a few actual “candies” can be made from sugar heated to only this stage. Around 235° F, very delicate structures can be spun from the sugar. Representative Types: Icings, fruit liqueurs, Syrups.
- Soft Ball:235° F–240° F
/118° C–120° C – A small amount of syrup dropped into chilled water forms a soft, flexible ball, but is quite malleable and easily shaped by hand or equipment, or even by looking at it crossly. Representative Types: Fudge, fondant, and pralines.
- Firm Ball:245° F–250° F
/123° C–125° C – Drop a bit of sugar cooked to this temperature into cold water and it will form a firm ball, one that won’t flatten when you take it out of the water, but remains malleable and will flatten when squeezed. It has a bit more structure to its form than sugar cooked to the soft ball stage. Representative Types: Caramel candies. But don’t confuse the candy with the boil stage mentioned below. The two are different beasts.
- Hard Ball:250° F–265° F
/125° C–133° C – The sugar will form thick threads as it drips from the spoon. The sugar concentration is rather high now, which means there’s less and less moisture in the sugar syrup. 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, and retains its shape. Molded candies now are possible. Representative Types: Nougat, marshmallows, gummies, divinity, and rock candy.
- Soft Crack:270° F–290° F
/135° C–145° C – The cooked sugar becomes less “smooshy” and more “stretchy” at this stage. Depending upon the temperature, the sugar can be worked, but it stretches and requires some effort to do so. Representative Types: Taffy, Pulled sugar candies such as candy canes.
- Hard Crack:300° F–310° F
/150° C–155° C – There is almost no water left in the sugar at this point, and it become quite difficult to work with. Often candies cooked to this stage are left to harden and that’s all the work that’s done to them. Representative Types: Brittle, Toffee.
- Caramel:320° F–335° F
/160° C–168° C – Caramel is defined here not as a type of candy, but rather what happens to the sugar when the Maillard reaction takes place. Think the crispy bit of sugar on top of flans and you’ll have a basic idea of what caramel sugar actually is.
Most, but certainly not all, of this information I gathered/yanked/copied from baking911.com. I