Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Never Fail Divinity

Divinity, made a little easier by using marshmallow creme.

Never Fail Divinity

First things first. {pulls out hissy fit soapbox} Calling a recipe "no fail," or "never fail" is bound to be risky because without fail, somebody is gonna come along who doesn't follow the directions and yet, will blame the recipe, or even me, for their failure.

The truth is, this never fail version of divinity has been around at least as long as, or maybe even longer, than me, and it truly is no fail - if you follow directions. Thousands of folks have been making it successfully for many years, but like any divinity, shortcut or not, you must beat the hot sugar. You must beat it until it is no longer shiny, but begins to dull in appearance. You must beat it until you beat in enough air that it cools and begins to thicken. You will know when its ready, and if it's thin as syrup, it's not ready. Keep beating. Yes. You must beat it until you think your arm is gonna fall off! I you do that, I promise, it works. {tucking away the soapbox}

Divinity is a candy that is primarily made only around the Christmas holidays in the South. There are a number of reasons for that, the primary one being Southern weather, particularly in the Deep South where humidity rules the atmosphere most of the time. Humidity equals wet, and wet equals candy that often won't set.

Even in the cooler and less humid months, it can be a challenge to make old fashioned divinity - that being a divinity that is purely sugar, corn syrup, water, egg whites, chopped pecans, a little vanilla - and a goodly amount of elbow grease. Of course, divinity isn't necessarily a Southern confection, but pretty much every Southerner has a recipe of their own, and a memory, centered around a tray of sweet, sugary divinity.

Perfect homemade divinity is not an easy task to pull off in my opinion. Besides weather, timing is everything, beating it just right, knowing when to stop beating, and being able to spoon it down very  quickly before it begins to set, all make a difference. Every single Christmas I plan to make my Mama's old fashioned holiday divinity and every single year the weather doesn't cooperate on the day I have set aside to make it. If it's about to rain, has just rained, or is raining, forget about it.

If it's hot and humid outside - the norm in the Deep South - it doesn't matter what you set your air conditioner on inside, your divinity will still likely fail and never set. Yes. We run our air conditioners in the month of December down here. So, every year, before you know it, the holiday has come and gone and no divinity comes from my kitchen.

Besides that, it's practically a team effort to get it right and you really almost need more than two hands to make it. My mother-in-law, her sister and a friend of theirs, gather each year to make massive batches of divinity for Christmas, and it's quite a production, taking them literally hours to do.

Anyway, because of all that, many of us have turned to shortcut methods using the microwave, or adding in things like baking powder, packets of gelatin and marshmallow creme, or whatever works to easily stabilize things and not have to deal with the less convenient, old fashioned ways. This shortcut version has actually been around a long time and it uses marshmallow creme, an ingredient that anybody who makes fudge is familiar with, for some of those very same candy-making challenges. Making a true, homemade fudge is also difficult and temperamental but add in marshmallow creme and voilà, it magically transforms that sugar.

My husband actually likes this version of divinity better than the old fashioned divinity and says, "this is the way that divinity is supposed to taste."  Well, in my opinion, none of the shortcut versions will ever meet up to Mama's old fashioned, homemade version, but I do have to say, this one really is pretty darned good.

Here's how to make it.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Place marshmallow creme in a large, metal or heat safe bowl; set aside. In a medium saucepan, add the sugar, water and salt.


Heat over medium high heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a full rolling boil. Let boil without stirring for 2 minutes, and no longer. Immediately pour the entire sugar syrup over the marshmallow creme and using a wooden spoon, begin to carefully beat the syrup into the creme.


Important: Beat the mixture until it begins to dull and no longer has a sheen. Just like any other divinity, you must beat it long enough, so don't lose patience with the process! Mixture will thicken once you beat in enough cool air and it begins to look dull and not shiny. If you try to drop it when it is still too hot and thin, it will not hold its shape and it is not ready! Continue to beat it. You will know when it is ready.

Once thickened, mix in the vanilla and pecan and work quickly to drop mixture by spoonfuls onto the parchment and garnish with a pecan half, if desired. Candied cherries are also very pretty. Set aside to dry for several hours before storing. How many you get will depend on how you drop them - generally somewhere between about 24 to 40.


Don't worry that your divinity isn't picture perfect little rounds of white clouds. The rustic looking drops is what gives it character and defines it as homemade. Divinity, whether made the old fashioned way, or using a shortcut, should never be hard or dry and brittle, or grainy and clumpy looking, but light, airy and with a creamy, soft bite. Leave uncovered overnight to allow it to air dry before storing. I like to place the whole tray into the cold oven and leave them there overnight.


This version of divinity is not only easy, but it can actually be made no matter the weather. I hope that you enjoy giving it a try and adding it to your holiday sweets tray.

Here's how to make it.

Recipe: Never Fail Divinity

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 20 min |Inactive time: 1 hour | Yield: About 24+ pieces

Ingredients
  • 1 (7 ounce) container of marshmallow creme
  • 2 cups of granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup of finely chopped pecans
  • Whole pecan halves, for garnish, optional
Instructions

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside. Place marshmallow creme in a large metal or other heat safe bowl; set aside. In a medium saucepan, add the sugar, water and salt. Heat over medium high heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a full rolling boil. Let boil without stirring for 2 minutes, and no longer.

Immediately pour the entire sugar syrup over the marshmallow creme and using a wooden spoon, begin to carefully beat the syrup into the creme. Beat the mixture until it begins to dull and no longer has a sheen. Mixture will thicken once it begins to look dull. Mix in the vanilla and chopped pecans and work quickly to drop mixture by spoonfuls onto the parchment and garnish with a pecan half, if desired. Set aside to dry for several hours before storing.

Cook's Note: Despite using a shortcut of marshmallow creme to stabilize the divinity here, you still MUST beat the divinity just like with any method, until it loses its sheen and thickens. If you try to drop the divinity when it is still thin, it's not ready. Don't lose patience with the process. Continue beating it until it loses its shine, begins to cool and thickens. You will know when its ready to drop.

Tip: I like to use a stainless steel bowl. It holds the heat better which makes it much easier to drop the divinity, but because it holds the heat, it will take a little extra elbow grease to beat the sheen out of it. I also use two stainless iced tea spoons to drop, one to scoop, the other to push off the spoon. I place the whole tray into a cold oven overnight so that the divinity will dry well, then store in an airtight container. May also use candied cherries for the garnish, or very well drained, and dry, maraschino cherries.

Source: http://deepsouthdish.com

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Posted by on December 18, 2012
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13 comments:

  1. Yum, I love divinity Mary, but I've never tried to make it. My mother always made delicious divinity, but it was tricky like you said. The weather had to be just right as far as the humidity. So I've not tried to make it. Your easy version sure looks as good as the old fashioned kind. Great job!

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  2. I am just getting into divinty and this looks like the perfect begginner recipe!! Happy Holidays, Mary! anne

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    Replies
    1. I hope you give it a try Anne! Merry Christmas to you too!!

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  3. Can you beat this using a mixer or do you have to use a wooden spoon? Thanks

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    Replies
    1. Sure! I just do it by hand to avoid the extra clean up. :) Enjoy!

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  4. This brings back so many memories of my late grandmother. She used to make a special batch of divinity without pecans for me every Christmas because I am allergic to pecans.

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  5. I made this and just as it was loosing its gloss, I added the vanilla and it immediately clumped up. It looked great until I added the vanilla. Maybe I'll add it earlier... Taste yummy- just looks terrible! Ha!

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    Replies
    1. Goodness, that is odd! If that happens again, try warming it a little and beating it a little more.

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  6. WoW, I just completed my first batch (ever) of using this recipe for divinity. It's long process, but it's done, woo hoo. I've just drop them and might I say they're a sight to see. I add chopped candied cherries, pecans, and a hint of coconut. I think I'll leave out the cherries next time.....great recipe though, Thanks <3

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    Replies
    1. Thanks so much! It is rather a process, that's for sure.

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  7. I've just completed my first batch (ever), they came out just great, just a tad too sweet. I think I'll leave out the candied cherries. I just chopped them in my food processor, gave the candy wonderful color though. Great recipe, it will be my go to for candy...Thanks <3

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