Sometimes this show is over the top. I get it; I really do. We find ways to really break down cooking steps and try to improve the littlest things with a lot of work. This episode is not that: This time, we are going back to ancient China to do a riff on a dessert called Dragon’s Beard, aka hand-pulled sugar.
This technique uses the same methods of making hand-pulled noodles and applies them to sugar. By taking a single ring and doubling it, we are increasing the strands of candy with each turn: Two strands become four, four become eight, then 16, 32, 64, 128, and so on, until you have around 16,000 stands (give or take) in a matter of minutes. This does require a little bit of gumption and patience to pull that sugar, but the result is absolutely stunning, like fine strands of hair draping from your hands.
The key is making the sugar malleable while still retaining strength. To do this, invert the sugar. The second and most important thing is to not touch the mixture when it’s cooking. I know there’s a temptation to stir, but as soon as you do, the process is sunk: The air and agitation from stirring turn a clear workable sugar into crystals, making it impossible to work (trust me, I did it, and it failed). This is why you should dye the water your desired color before adding it into the sugar. Sometimes you’ve got to learn the hard way.
Traditionally, in some countries, this treat is paired with crunchy peanuts. But it’s so light and airy, like cotton candy, that you can just use your fingers to eat.