So last night, I did it. Something I have been planning to do for about three years now but haven't. Something I have been scared out of my mind to do for about half my life.
I made divinity.
Divinity, for those of you not from the southern part of the US, is a fluffy white candy eaten mostly at Christmas time. It is basically just straight sugar, but in a beautiful, cloudlike package. A lot of people mix nuts in it, or food coloring, or sometimes, they spread it with peanut butter and roll it up for a peanut butter roll (I, actually, hate it with the peanut butter. To me it is just too much sweet, and a bit akin to buying a gorgeous purse and then putting it inside of a free carry all you got at the grocery store). Divinity is also famously tempermental. You cannot make it when it is raining or humid or in years when there is a Republican in the White House (I'm just joking about that last part...or am I?). A lot of people flat out refuse to make it because of a bad experience when it didn't work out for them. And a lot of people just don't want to make it. In fact, I don't think I've spoken to a person under the age of 70 who regularly makes it/likes making it.
But I like a challenge. And my dad likes it and I really wanted to stir some up to surprise him with on Christmas Eve. And I have this desire at Christmas time, to just make as much candy as possible. This is a byproduct of having grown up with my grandmother. My 86 year old grandmother is making candy as I type this, feverishly preparing for my aunts and uncles and cousins to arrive to her house. Every year, she makes about 7-8 different types of candy...fudge, divinity, seafoam (divinity made with brown sugar, which is her favorite), peanut butter rolls (ick), millionaires, molded heath bars, peanut butter balls and probably other things that I just can't think of now. And when you think that each of these recipes makes at least 50 pieces of candy....it is a lot of sugar up in the hizzy. She packs it all up in Christmas tins that she has accumulated over the years and stores it in her laundry room. She says that it is because it is colder out there, but well, I don't know. Maybe she wants us all to throw in a load of towels when we abscond with a millionaire? Anyway, she has it there for the taking and it is just like a heaven of candy--all right there for the taking. When I was a kid, I used to get so excited just thinking of it--the variety, the smooth chocolate-ness, the smell of the tins.
So every year I try to recreate. Last year, I failed miserably because a huge winter weather system knocked out our power for a week, and none of my projects came to fruition. I made peppermint bark gift boxes for my kids' teachers, but that was it. But this year, I am determined. So I bit the bullet and made the divinity.
And it was a little tricky, but nowhere near as hard as I thought. Perhaps I just got very, very lucky. The hardest part was molding it into pretty little puffs. You are supposed to use two spoons to kind of twirl it onto a piece of wax paper so that it comes out looking like the top of a soft serve ice cream cone. Yeah, mine...not so much (as you can see from the picture--that is one of the pieces I made sitting on my desk just now). Also, that is one of the latter pieces I made because you can see that it was starting to get stiff as I twirled it out--that is why you see a couple of bumps on its side (that and having been contained in a ziploc bag for the trip to work this morning). The first pieces (and actually about 70% of the batch) were smooth and puffy wonderfulness.
I used the recipe from Screen Doors and Sweet Tea, which is probably my favorite cookbook in my collection, and only used less than Joy of Cooking. Seriously, if you have a free afternoon, get this cookbook, a nice glass of tea or wine and settle into a comfy chair. The recipes are divine, but the writing is even more amazing. Anyway, I have adapted it here in case you are interested in creating your own candy bowls:
3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup hot water
3 egg whites
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
DO NOT CONSIDER MAKING THIS UNLESS YOU HAVE A CANDY THERMOMETER. Combine the sugar, corn syrup, and hot water in a heavy saucepan with a lid. Cook over medium heat and stir constantly until the sugar dissolves. Let the mixture come to a boil. Once it is boiling, turn the heat to low, cover the pot, and cook for 5 minutes. Then remove the lid and continue to cook until temperature is 270. Do not stir. (Note: the recipe didn't say this, but I cranked up the heat back to medium after removing the lid. Otherwise, I might still be in my kitchen waiting on it to hit 270. As it was, it took long enough for me to clean all my kitchen counters, and do a few dishes.)
While the mixture is cooking, beat the egg whites, salt, and vanilla extract until stiff peaks form. Make sure this is in a large bowl. Once sugar mixture is at 270, pour the mixture slowly into the egg whites. You want to have your mixer on while you are doing this. Once the sugar mixture is in the egg whites, turn the mixer up to 11 and beat it (JUST BEAT IT!). It is done when the mixture is glossy white and holds its shape (i.e., you can move the beaters and still see where they were).
Then it is twirling time. It might help here to have a willing compatriot because this stuff hardens fast. Using two spoons, dip it out and twirl individual pieces onto wax paper. Then, leave out to harden for an hour.
Voila! You have divinity.
Lastly, if you intend on making this, the first rule of divinity is you talk about divinity. You have to tell everyone within a 50 mile radius that you are making it so that they will know to stay out of your way. And also so that if they hear you praying frantically to some higher power, they will just realize that you are making candy, and not, you know, going into labor with an alien baby.
Now go make candy!