For Halloween I decided to do something for the adults, since there are already looots of goodies out there for the kiddos. This dish balances super-sweet spun sugar and chocolate ganache with the tartness of sour cherries. Mostly though, it's fun and creepy deliciousness - the perfect end to a Halloween party dinner!
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Step 1: Ingredients
- Pure cane granulated sugar
- Canned or jarred sour cherries in syrup
- Plastic spiders
- Heavy medium saucepan
- Parchment paper
- Black gel food coloring
- Chocolate ganache or thick chocolate frosting
- Gel icing (optional)
- Sugar pearls (optional)
Step 2: Caramelize the Sugar
Caramelize your sugar. Pour 3 tablespoons water, a few drops lemon juice, and 1 cup sugar into a heavy medium-sized saucepan away from heat, stirring to combine. Heat the mixture on medium-high. Do not stir at all ever again. Trust me. Once everything becomes clear and beings to boil, turn the heat down just a bit. Cook for roughly 8 minutes until it turns a dark amber color. If the sides are cooking faster than the center, you can swirl the pan gently. Note - caramelized sugar decorations are best prepared the same day they'll be served.
Remove from heat and immediately dunk the pan into an ice bath to keep the sugar from continuing to cook. Remove it from the water, and set it next to a sheet of buttered parchment paper.
Step 3: Make the Webs
After the mixture has cooled to a slightly thicker consistency, use a soup spoon to drizzle the caramelized sugar onto the parchment paper in a spiral pattern and then criss-crossing to form the web. I found that it worked best drizzling from 2-3 inches above the paper. Get a new spoonful for each web. Set the webs aside, still affixed to the parchment paper.
Step 4: 'Spin' the Sugar
Very lightly butter the handle of a spatula, and prop it into the pot of caramel to stand it up. Position it over a sheet of buttered parchment paper. Dip a fork into the caramelized sugar, and then drizzle it over the spatula handle. Flick it very quickly back and forth, stretching as you go, so that it leaves thin strands of hardened sugar on the handle.
Step 5: Make the Egg Sacs
Once you have a good tangle of strings, put your finger underneath, and gently slide the spun sugar off the handle.
Quickly, while the strands are still warm, shape them gently into a ball. Leave the ball loose rather than squeezing everything tightly together. Set them aside in a cool, dry place. Humidity is the enemy of spun sugar.
Step 6: Paint the Spiders
Using a toothpick dipped into black gel food coloring, draw a little spider onto each web. You can also add a few little sugar pearls by dabbing a tiny, tiny bit of gel icing to the back of the pearl. Leave the webs to dry out for a few minutes.
Step 7: Assemble the Dish
Assembly - Wait to assemble until just before serving. Put a big dollop of thick chocolate ganache (or thick frosting if you'd prefer) in the back-center of a small plate. Spoon some sour cherries in heavy syrup around the front-right of the ganache. Place a spun-sugar egg sac the the left of the cherries with a plastic spider standing guard over it. Stick a sugar web into the ganache, and you're done!