Tonawanda News

June 6, 2013

PINSPIRED: Sugar hearts pretty, but messy

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The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — I struggled over whether to dub this one “pin it” or “don’t pin it.”

Because really, they’re kind of neat. Sort of cute. Mostly easy.

But also pretty messy. A little annoying. Perhaps a bit wasteful.

As an amateur cake-, cookie- and cupcake-decorator, I’m always on the lookout for new and easy ways to dress up a baked good. The original pin I found was visually interesting, and you never know when you might need a little something extra to perk a cake up. I pinned it and forgot about it until this week, when I needed something relatively quick for this column.

The sugar hearts needed only three ingredients and equipment I already had. Score.

For this recipe, you need white sugar (the amount varies, but I suggest at least three cups), egg white (I used whites from two eggs) and paste/gel food coloring (I use Americolor, but Wilton is available a little more readily at many craft stores). Put 1/2 cup sugar in a bowl. Add a bit of food coloring. Stir until blended. This is a little more annoying than it sounds, because the coloring will clump up and make little food-coloring clots in your sugar. Just keep breaking them up and stirring until your sugar is a nice uniform color.

Add egg white. The instructions I was going by suggest a teaspoon, but I found I needed a bit more. Careful, though, because it goes from “too dry” to “too wet” pretty quickly. Stir. You want the sugar to be the consistency of wet sand. 

When it is, line your work area with a piece of parchment paper and plop a scoopful of the sugar mixture down. Pat flat, making it about 1/4-inch high and as level as you can. Some instructions suggest using a rolling pin. That did not work well for me. Your hands should work fine.

Take a very small cookie cutter and press it into the sugar. The mixture should be cohesive enough that when you lift it, the sugar shape should come along with it. 

Hold the cutter over the parchment-paper-lined cookie sheet. Tape on the sides of the cutter until the shape falls onto the sheet. Repeat until you’ve cut out as many hearts as you wish of that color.

It sounds easy — and I suppose it is — but it’s messy. There’s a reason why visiting the beach usually leads to sand being found in odd places around the house for weeks afterward (at least for the Keppeler family): It sticks to everything. This sugar mixture, with the same consistency, works the same way. 

I’m usually draconian about working very neatly with my decorating stuff, but this left my counter strewn with purple sugar, my hands covered in it and me muttering under my breath as I kept up the careful tap, tap, tap necessary to get the dratted hearts to come out of the cutter in one piece. (Especially when I started, I was getting one successful shape for every three that fell apart. I later got the hang of the consistency and method, but the tapping was still annoying.) 

If you only want one shade, skip to the baking specifications. If not, return to the rest of the colored sugar in your bowl. Add another 1/2 cup of sugar and stir again until the color is uniform. Add about 1 teaspoon (or more) of egg white. Repeat patting and cutting process.

You can do this as many times as you like to get as many shades as you like. It’s far more gradual than it originally seems. I did six different increments and while the color is distinctly lighter, I thought I’d get a better range for all that repetition. (You could probably add more white sugar each time to get more difference in shades.) However, since you’re adding a full 1/2 cup of sugar each time, you’re ultimately using quite a bit of sugar unless you cut out a ton of hearts. (I did 10 in each color.)

Once all your hearts are on the parchment-line sheet, pop it into an oven preheated to 200 degrees and bake for 10 minutes. Remove and let cool. The shapes should sit at room temperature overnight to harden.

And ... they’re kind of neat. The finished product holds its shape well. I could see them working really well to top a frosting swirl on cupcakes, maybe customized to wedding colors.

But are they worth the trouble? I don’t know. They’re messy and more time-consuming than you expect and I wound up with an unused bag of egg-white-mixed purple sugar in my fridge with no idea what to do with it.

Still, I think ... pin it. You never know when a little extra sweetness might come in handy.

Jill Keppeler is a writer for the Tonawanda News. Find us on Pinterest.com by searching “Greater Niagara Newspapers.”

• WHAT: Sugar hearts • DIFFICULTY: Messy • TIME: Depends on how many colors. Ten minutes in the oven. • RESULT: Pin it.