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 voilĂ , it magically transforms that sugar. It still doesn't hurt to follow the same basic principles of divinity making, so I've included the tips from my old fashioned divinity at the bottom.

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.

Here's how to make it.

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Posted by on December 18, 2012
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