There are some techniques to making divinity that I have learned thru the years, so please forgive me if I over explain, because I want you to be able to skip over all the mistakes I have made in the past.
The most important issue with divinity is temperature. You need a candy thermometer, and it needs to be calibrated. A cheap one from the grocery store works fine, but you must calibrate it each time you use it. Altitude and barometric pressure will affect your results, but by doing a simple test your readings will be very accurate.
Almost fill a medium sized saucepan with straight sides. Place your thermometer on the side and bring the water to a boil. Ten minutes after the boil, take a reading from your thermometer. In fair weather and at sea level this will be 212 degrees F. If your reading is less than this, subtract that reading from 212 to get your calibration. If your reading is greater than this, add the difference to your calibration. Today I made divinity and first tested my thermometer. My reading was 203. My calibration is -9 degrees. We are almost 3000' above sea level, so about 5 of those degrees are explained by altitude, and the rest is probably barometric pressure--or maybe there is a fault in the thermometer, but it doesn't matter why. My calibration is -9. So, if the recipe says to cook to 248, as in Step 1 of the cooking, I cook to 239. Where the recipe says 268 degrees, as in Step 2 of the cooking, I cook to 259. There is a bit of tolerance in the target temps given in the recipe, but aim for exact and you will never err too much.
Another factor is humidity. Avoid making divinity on extremely humid days, but you can adjust for humidity by removing some water from your recipe. On a humid day here, I subtract about a Tbsp. from the 1/2 C called for. Do not make your divinity while simmering a pot of soup in the kitchen or soaking a sinkful of dishes.
There is a lot of water in egg whites. The ingredient measurements given are for using large eggs. If you use small eggs, add a little water. If you use extra large, subtract a little water.
Start beating your egg whites when your syrup temp is 225-230 so they will be freshly finished just before you add the hot syrup. Beaten eggs start losing moisture almost immediately, so you don't want to have them sitting around very long. Separate the eggs while cold from the fridge, and let them come to room temp before beating. Start beating at a low setting. Add the cream of tartar when the whites have gotten foamy, and then crank it up to high and finish to the stiff peak stage. The egg whites will form a stable ball on your beaters, and the peaks will be straight up. Do not beat beyond this point.
Use an electric stand mixer with a stainless steel bowl. Use the whisk beaters to beat the egg whites, and then you can switch to the paddle beaters when you start adding syrup.
Do not double this recipe unless you have a very heavy-duty mixer.
You need a 2 to 2 1/2 qt pot with straight sides and a fitted lid. My pot is 5" tall and 6" in diameter, has a lid and a pour spout.
Have a silicon mat or parchment paper on a cookie sheet ready. If you use a cookie sheet under your mat or paper, it will be easy to transfer the finished batch to another area to dry.
2 1/2 C extra or super-fine granulated sugar
1/2 C water
1/2 C light Karo syrup
1/4 tsp salt
whites only of 2 large eggs
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 rounded cup chopped nuts (I use pecans)
Stir sugar, salt, water and Karo together in a sauce pan and then turn heat to medium. Continue stirring frequently until the sugar is completely dissolved. Bring to boil, stirring occasionally, and then quit stirring, put the lid on the pot and let boil covered for 3 minutes. This will wash all the crystals off the sides of the pot. Remove the lid and hang the thermometer on the side of the pot. Cook to 248 F without stirring. Start beating the egg whites as you approach this temp. Add about 1/4 of the hot syrup to the egg whites in a very thin stream while beating on slow-medium and beat for a minute or so, meanwhile returning the remainder of the pot of syrup to the heat.
Continue cooking to 268 F. Remove syrup from heat and add all of it to the egg white mixture in a thin stream while beating at medium-high. Beat for about a minute on high and then turn off mixer. If there is any art to making this candy, this is where it begins. You need to monitor this syrup batter to find when it is ready to scoop into candies. Turn the mixer back on in about 10 minutes and observe how set it is. Mix for a few seconds and then turn off and raise the beaters and watch how the batter flows off the beaters. If it is FLOWING it is not ready. Wait a few more minutes and test again. When it is ready, the sides of the bowl will be between warm and not hot, and the batter flowing off the beaters will form a fairly stable column. The puddles in the bowl will heap onto themselves and not melt immediately into the batch. Turn mixer back on (slow) and add vanilla, mix well, and then add pecans a little at a time until well mixed. Remove bowl from mixer and take to your prepared mat. I use a little ice-cream type scooper to form the candies, or two spoons, and I dip these in water as I am dipping if it starts getting too sticky. I dip my fingers in the water also to help nudge the candies out of the scooper as necessary. Your candies should hold a mounded form. Do one mound and watch it for a few seconds. If it tends to flatten, your batter is not set enough. Just wait a while, and then try again.
As soon as your candies have dried (lost their stickiness) on the mat, place them in an airtight container. Freeze any that will not be consumed in a few days.
NOTE that a lot of beating is not necessary. Getting your candy batter to set is all about cooling evenly and not about beating. Most recipes call for beating on high for 15-20 min. or more. Sheesh! Not necessary.
If your batter gets overly set (grainy), mix in some water, a few drops at a time, until it is workable. If your batter is not set enough (flattens on the mat), just wait a while and try again. If it seems it will never set up, you probably did not cook the syrup enough, but you can still save it by placing in a buttered casserole and letting it set for 24 hours before cutting into squares.
This is my mother's fave candy, so I send her a double recipe each Christmas, and she keeps it in the freezer for months, just taking out a few pieces at a time. I ship it to her in Gladware or similar type containers, which keeps it very fresh until she receives it and puts in freezer.
Pen, I can't tell you how grateful I am for all your very detailed instructions. We've always started with the basic "beat it until it has cooled down enough to set up" recipe from my grandmother, and the only way I've ever been able to time that right is with beating by hand... I've experimented a bit using my stand mixer, but I end up with candy that sets up hard in about 1.8 minutes, so you can imagine the "all hands on deck!!!" situation as we rush to try to get the candy out of the bowl and onto the waxed paper.
It does freeze well. I just found some in the back of my freezer, and let's just say I'm pretty sure we didn't get around to making divinity last year... it's still delicious, LOL.
Be sure to freeze in airtight containers. I put mine in large lidded Gladware containers lined with SaranWrap and wrapped over. My mother says hers keeps all year until she gets a new batch from me at Christmas, but I wasn't going to mention that. The experts say it keeps "a few weeks" in the freezer. I think keeping quality depends on how airtight your container is. Critter, yours must have been well stored! Good luck to you and Darla, and please let me know your results.
I am making chocolate turtles tonight and toffee tomorrow--both much easier than divinity. Anyone need recipes?
Divinity looks like a little puff of cloud on a plate. We sometimes add a very little food coloring (usually red(pink) or green). The texture is... hmm... maybe just a little similar to those orange "circus peanuts," but far tastier... like a crisp version of a marshmallow?
I posted this several days ago, but I'll copy here.
Toffee is a magic candy. The love and appreciation you receive relative to the effort expended defies Einstein's theory of energy conservation.
The recipe is simple, but there is a little bit of technique--but not so much that first-timers can't make a perfect batch the very first attempt. Please read the NOTES at the end of the instructions.
heavy 2 or 2.5-qt saucepan with straight sides
11 x 17 silicon baking mat or parchment paper
silicon spatula or wooden spoon
1 C (2 sticks) butter - no substitutions
1 C granulated sugar (super or extra fine is best)
8 oz milk chocolate (I use Hershey candy bars)
1/2 C finely chopped nuts, lightly toasted (I use pecans) for toffee
1/2 C VERY finely chopped nuts, lightly toasted, for topping
This recipe can be doubled.
Lightly spray an 11 x 17 silicon baking mat with cooking spray (can use cookie sheet with parchment paper). If making a double batch, remember to prepare 2 surfaces.
Melt butter in saucepan over low or medium heat. Add sugar and stir well to dissolve sugar into butter. Continue stirring frequently until syrup begins to darken. Attach thermometer to side of pan and continue cooking and stirring until temp reaches 300 degrees F (at sea level). Immediately remove from heat and quickly stir in 1/2 C finely chopped nuts and pour out on prepared surface. Spread as thinly as possible in a solid oval or rectangle without leaving any openings. Free form is OK--you're going to break it up and not cut evenly.
Heat chocolate in a double boiler just till melted. Do not heat beyond melting point. Remove top pan containing chocolate from water, dry bottom of pan and pour over toffee sheet. Spread evenly and all the way to edges. You will have plenty of chocolate to overflow a bit onto the mat to be sure edges are coated. When toffee hardens, the sheet will lift cleanly off the mat. The chocolate can be melting while you are cooking the syrup.
Sprinkle 1/2 C very finely chopped pecans evenly over chocolate. You can use a metal spatula to press the nuts a bit into the chocolate. Any loose nuts not inbedded in the chocolate will fall off when cutting.
Cool uncovered in a cool room or porch. In high humidity this might take overnight. Can put in fridge for quicker setup, but do not leave longer than it takes to set up.
When chocolate is completely set, lift candy sheet off mat and transfer to a cutting board. Break candy into large pieces and then cut into smaller pieces using a large chef's knife. When cutting, use a single rocking stroke that completely spans the large broken piece to prevent shattering.
Store in airtight containers (such as Gladware) in freezer if not to be consumed in a few days. Do not store in fridge--chocolate might haze.
Can use 2 oz dark chocolate plus 6 oz milk chocolate or other chocolate combo that appeals to you, but I would avoid using all semi-sweet.
Cooking to temperature is the most critical part of this recipe. Toffee that is chewy or tough is toffee that has been undercooked. Syrup will get quite dark and be just on the verge of burning in order to get that very well browned toffee taste and the desirable brittleness. TEST your candy thermometer before making this or any candy.
We have made this recipe using fewer nuts (by about 25%), and it was still great.
I use salted butter. You might want to add a little salt if you use unsalted. DO NOT use European butter. It has a lower water content than American butter, and the butter will separate out of the syrup and you will get a horrible result. If European is all you have, add about 2 T water per recipe and you should be OK.
Some recipes call for the addition of water and/or corn syrup to this recipe. Don't use corn syrup and don't add water unless you are using European butter.
You can use a food processor to finely chop the nuts for this recipe. Take the time to be sure there are no pieces of shell in the nuts.
Buy fresh pecans at a local grower or sheller. Be sure to ask for the current year's crop, and taste a sample of the pecans before purchasing. They will sometimes try to pass off last year's crop from their freezer. Buy enough for a full year's cooking and baking and keep sealed and stored in the freezer at all times.
The candy pot I use is perfect for toffee and other candies. It is 5" tall and 6" in diam. with straight sides and a heavy bottom. We have 2 of these pots, and when the family gets together we make 2 recipes in each simultaneously, so we can turn out 4 recipes (about 4 lbs) in about a half hour, including prep time. We do this several times, so we have LOTS of toffee to eat and give away and have on hand in the freezer for months. I think I got the pots at Amazon.com. They are Krona Norpro, 8/10 stainless steel, and I think they were about $20 each.
Remove from freezer and wrap candies in clear plastic food bags (with open end, not zip top) and tie with curly ribbon for great Christmas gifting. This candy keeps great in the freezer for months. You can make this candy well ahead of Christmas. Actually it is even great straight out of the freezer with no thawing.
You have never ever tasted commercially prepared toffee that is this good.
I was looking online for tips on making divinity (namely, controlling for barometric pressure) and it led me back here to DG, of course! Thanks Pennzer! I've copied your tips and recipe to try this week. (My last attempt at divinity tasted good, but didn't set properly.)
Terry, if it doesn't hold its form well when you dip it out, just wait a while and try again. I wait anywhere from 15 min. to a couple hours sometime. Even when you beat it till it cools, sometimes it's just not ready--needs to dry out a bit.
this candy making is quite an art. My mother just used left over egg whites and went to it. baked the mounds and they were quite good. She mainly made them for dressing up the cookie platter. Very French I think.
I was very happy for the tip on calibrating the candy thermometer. I knew my fudge took longer than usual this year, and when I calibrated the thermometer (after the fudge but before making marshmallows), I realized it was off by 6 degrees.
Fortunately, the fudge was forgiving of the few extra minutes of cooking time I gave it (and I had made it enough times to test the softball stage using water, so it didn't overcook appreciably.)
This thread made me think of my mom and grandma:lol: My grandmother was the divinity maker on my mom's side of the family and she never made a bad batch. I was the weird kid who wouldn't try it though. Everyone else in the family had cookie tins at the ready around Christmas and Easter when she'd get busy making them.
It's my all time favorite ! Even beats out chocolate . Just put it on the table and I'll have a piece every time I pass by , even finding something to do in another room for an excuse to pass the table again .