Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Recommended Posts

I need some advice on a safe(ish), easy, and fast way to cut buttermints   I often make buttermints for friends for the holidays, and have run into problems cutting them into bite size pieces before the sugar cools and starts to crystallize too much, so I'm looking for ideas on how to do it more quickly so I can do larger batches.  Note that I am doing this at home and have very little budget, but on the plus side I don't need to end up with perfectly uniform pieces. :)


The basic process for making the buttermints is:

1. cook butter and sugar to 260 degrees

2. pour out onto buttered marble slab and let cool slightly

3. add color and flavor, and pull like taffy while it cools further

4. when it just starts to show signs of crystallizing, roll into ropes and cut before it crystallizes much further (I have maybe 2 minutes if I'm lucky to get all the cutting done)


The main problem I run into is that when handling the candy during steps 3 and 4, my hands need to be buttered so the candy doesn't stick to me, and even if I quickly wash my hands, any cutting tool needs to also be buttered to prevent sticking, and basically it's nearly impossible to maintain a good grip on anything.  The second problem is that the candy at this point is hard enough that if I try to snip it with scissors it will tend to slide along the blade instead of getting cut, yet it is still plastic enough that if I pick it up it will tend to sag under its weight and thin out too much while I'm concentrating on getting the scissors to cut right.  My best results so far have been with leaving the candy on the marble and cutting it with a pastry scraper, but pressing down hard enough to cut all the way through with a slippery (due to the aforementioned buttered hands) pastry scraper while trying not to gouge the marble underneath is not particularly fun.  I did try pruning shears once because the curved blade holds the candy in place instead of sliding along the blade, which worked fine except for the fear of lopping off parts of a finger made it too nerve-wracking to be done quickly.


Basically, I'd love to find something that works like this, but for something with the consistency of a hard caramel:




Any ideas?



Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Trufflenaut said:

My best results so far have been with leaving the candy on the marble and cutting it with a pastry scraper, but pressing down hard enough to cut all the way through with a slippery (due to the aforementioned buttered hands) pastry scraper while trying not to gouge the marble underneath is not particularly fun. 


If a major concern is not gouging the marble, then what about buying a quartz slab? The price is lower than marble, and it's more durable (though not good for the cutting instrument, but no stone is). You could transfer the candy to the quartz and hack away with more power.

Link to post
Share on other sites

With a quartz slab, I would still have to deal with trying to keep a slippery pastry scraper stable while cutting - I've occasionally had it slip sideways while cutting and fling a piece or two across the room. :)  A knife and cutting board might work, but an optimal solution would be something hinged and table-mounted, so I can just slide the candy through and chopchopchop without having to worry about keeping a tool stable.  I was thinking my optimal solution would be something like this, but in an easy to clean and spring-loaded version: https://kwcigarfactory.com/desktop-guillotine-cigar-cutter/  

Link to post
Share on other sites

Some of my batches start to crystallize while pulling, and some don't. I think I sometimes pull them too long. If I leave in a "lump" and pull out and cut as I go, it usually works better. Also, by the time i cut, there is very little butter left to slip. Try using corn starch or powdered sugar or a mix, if it sticks. If you pull out a rope, you can cut with a knife rather than scissors.

  • Like 1

Ruth Kendrick

Artisan Chocolates and Toffees

Link to post
Share on other sites

Out of curiosity, have you tried the pillow mint formula from Chocolates and Confections? PM me if you'd like it. It doesn't include butter, but it is a similar product, being a crystallized pulled candy. I've always been able to make it through the whole batch no worries.


Also, do you mind if I ask for your exact recipe? Your post has me curious now. Does it include any cream of tartar? I'd like to give your recipe a try. Ive always seem with butter mints that they crystallize during storage, having 2 minutes to cut just doesn't seem like enough working time. 

  • Like 1
Link to post
Share on other sites

I haven't tried the pillow mint formula (though it does look interesting to try).  The recipe I'm using is from "Candymaking" by Ruth Kendrick and Pauline Atkinson - it only has water, butter, sugar, peppermint extract, and coloring.


After making several batches successfully, then having a string of failures (when the batch fails, it suddenly goes from a pullable gooey mass to a pile of crystallized sugar that falls apart at the merest touch in a span of about 10-20 seconds - it would be pretty awesome if you weren't crying over the wasted effort), I did a little bit of research, and found an article that mentioned having to pull the sugar outside in winter for it to work successfully, as it needed the cold air to cool it down as fast as possible during the process.  I've since gotten into the habit of pulling the sugar in front of the AC vent at full blast, or outside if it's a cold night (by southern california standards) and have had a much higher success rate.  For the working time, if you try cutting them when too warm, it's easier to cut, but more oozy (you have to keep everything moving or it will slowly flatten out onto the table), and if its too cold, it becomes much more solid and difficult to draw out into a rope and cut ("crystallizing" may be the wrong word at this point - it gets much more solid and brittle at this point, and you can feel a grittiness on the surface), so basically the 2 minute window is the temperature range between "too soft to hold shape after cutting" and "too hard to cut effectively".  After cutting, the candies harden up into something the consistency of a very hard caramel, and overnight they crystallize into soft pillows of awesomeness.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Remember, the description in the book says these are the trickiest candies in the book to make. We meant it! It does help to be where it is cold to pull them. I also use a dough scraper to turn the batch until it is cool enough to handle. You might play with the temperature a bit. I am at 5000 ft and cook to 256. We might have put a too low temp in the book.

  • Like 1

Ruth Kendrick

Artisan Chocolates and Toffees

Link to post
Share on other sites

Upon rereading your directions, you say that you pull until it starts to crystallize. You are pulling too long. You should stop pulling when lines form and it begins to look satiny. If you pull until crystallizing, you will have real problems.

Ruth Kendrick

Artisan Chocolates and Toffees

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Similar Content

    • By Trufflenaut
      Here's a fun little recipe I put together - it's a bit casual and unrefined, so I won't be at all offended if any experts jump in with improvements, but it's pretty easy to make, and makes a really tasty treat
      Toffee covered Marshmallows:
      1 lb. bag large marshmallows (large homemade marshmallows should also work - feel free to give it a try)
      1 1/2 cups sugar
      1/4 cup light corn syrup
      1/2 stick butter (or 1/8 lb., for non-US people who wonder what the heck a stick of butter is)
      A splash of water (yay for exact measurements!  )
      Also needed: 4 or 5 skewers (preferably metal), and a reasonably heavy coffee mug
      1. Remove the marshmallows from the bag, separate them, and put them in a plastic bag or other suitable container in the freezer.  It's OK if they are touching in the bag, but make sure they're not squished together.
      2. After a few hours, add the rest of the ingredients to a saucepan (use just enough water to wet the sugar so it doesn't burn as easily) and cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally.
      3. Cook the mixture until it just starts to turn brown - if you have a candy thermometer, this will be around 290F/143.333C.  If you don't have a candy thermometer, just occasionally put a drop of the mixture on a white plate to check the color (then put "candy thermometer" on your shopping list, because candy thermometers are awesome)
      4. Once it starts to just barely (but definitely) start to turn brown, take the pan off the heat, turn the stove burner down to very low heat, and put the pan back on (you want just enough heat to keep the mixture from cooling too much, but not so much heat that it continues cooking) - this is the toffee that you will dip the marshmallows into
      5. Take the bag of marshmallows out of the freezer, stick a marshmallow on the end of a skewer, and dip it into the toffee.  You must dip it quickly, so that the marshmallow doesn't melt, and also try to avoid dipping it in far enough that the toffee gets on the skewer (toffee on the skewer makes it really hard to remove the marshmallow cleanly)
      6. Find someplace to stick the skewer while the toffee cools (this only takes a minute or so, but the toffee will stick to anything it touches until then, and it will probably drip until it cools).  My recommendation is to put the aforementioned coffee mug on a plate (to catch drips), and place the end of the skewer in the coffee mug (see photo below) to hold it.
      7. Once you've dipped the fourth or fifth marshmallow, the toffee on the first one you've dipped should be hard, and you can use a fork to ease it off the skewer so you can dip another marshmallow
      8. Continue dipping marshmallows until you run out of marshmallows or toffee, or get tired of trying to keep them from sticking to each other in the coffee mug.

      -The heat from the toffee mixture slightly cooks the marshmallow, so you'll end up with a slight campfire-marshmallow flavor once you get through the thin candy shell - it's really quite tasty!
      -The toffee should drip off in long thin drips like in the photo (these easily snap off once the toffee cools.  If you are instead getting thick oozing drips that make it look like the marshmallow is trying out for the part of "elephant" in the school play, you are dipping the marshmallows in the toffee for too long and they're melting - dip quicker
      -keep the marshmallows at least one inch apart in the coffee mug - if they make the slightest contact with each other, they'll stick permanently (and they make this really cool marshmallow-toffee bridge when you try to pull them apart).  This will happen at least once in the process - just consider them samples for quality-control purposes
      -For those who are afraid of boiled sugar recipes, try this one out - just take your time and be very careful not to drip any toffee on yourself, and you should do fine.  Feel free to message me if you have any concerns - I'm happy to help people get into candymaking
      -The toffee shell is quite happy to suck up any humidity in the air, so once they're made, they need to be eaten within a few hours or they start getting sticky on the outside - this is either a good point or a bad point
    • By tikidoc
      This is not fancy, but I get requests for it every year around the holidays and it gets rave reviews, and it can be made in under 30 minutes. I just started my holiday baking/treat making and made two batches today.
      1 lb. unsalted butter
      2 cups chopped and lightly toasted pecans
      1 cup slivered almonds
      1/2 tsp salt
      3 Tb water
      2 cups granulated sugar (I use raw sugar)
      12 ounces chocolate - I use good quality semisweet chips, but you can use whatever you want, either chips or finely chopped. You could even use milk or (gag) white chocolate, if you prefer.
      Line a half sheet pan with foil or a Silpat type liner.
      Melt butter in a saucepan, add salt, water and sugar. Bring to a boil. Once the sugar has dissolved, add the almonds. Boil until it reaches 315F, stirring constantly. The last 10 degrees or so, it will darken in color and start to smell like toffee.
      Dump it on the sheet pan and spread to cover the bottom. Sprinkle the chocolate all over the toffee, give it a minute to melt, then spread evenly over the toffee. An offset spatula works well. Sprinkle the chopped pecans evenly over the chocolate, lightly press to set them in the chocolate. Cool 6-8 hours and break into pieces.
      Happy Holidays.
    • By Brasil
      MARIA BONBONS (Brazilian Candy)
      Serves 60 as Dessert.
      Easy to make. Even kids can do it!!

      3 packages Maria cookies
      1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk

      ½ cup seedless raisin
      2 c (12 oz pkg) chocolate Morsels
      1 T vegetable shortening

      Grind cookies in a food processor until you get coarse flour.
      Place ground cookies in a big bowl. Pour condensed milk while mixing with a wood spoon until you get dough.
      Make small candy balls. Place couple raisins inside the balls while shaping them.
      Coat candies with chocolate:
      Line baking sheet with waxed paper. Melt morsels and shortening in small saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth.
      Dip each candy into chocolate using a fork; place on prepared baking sheets.
      Let stand until chocolate is set.
      SERVE: Place in candy cups to serve.
      Make about 60 candies.
      Keywords: Dessert
      ( RG1730 )
    • By artiesel
      Does anyone know if using a high-protein flour, rather than AP flour, in a quickbread formula could create a gummy texture as a result of the protein slightly developing as it absorbs water?
      I was attempting to reduce water activity in the formula by using flour with 14% protein rather than 8-10% protein. Am I out in left field on this one?
    • By Douglas K
      I made my fifth ever batch of chocolate over the weekend, a 45% milk chocolate. I did the usual warming of everything, and the batch started off without a hitch. After running 24 hours I got ready to cool the chocolate to temper, and the stone seemed awfully hot. Sure enough the chocolate was 147 degrees F. Normally it comes out at around 120. The chocolate seemed kind of thick, but this is my first batch as low as 45%, so not sure if that’s normal. The chocolate tempered just fine, and tastes fine for have gotten so hot. I’m wondering if I got a minuscule amount of water in the batch? I’m not sure how that would have happened, though thinking of everything ad nauseum I can think of possibilities. The ingredients themselves are all ones I’ve used before without issue, though first time with the roasted nibs, but they came from the same reliable source as all my other nibs. Just curious if anyone else has seen this happen.
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

  • Create New...