So I began my mission for the day - gathered my ingredients and set out to make Betty Crocker's Divinity.
Now, to me this was the most difficult part, especially if you don't own a candy thermometer. Well worth the couple of bucks one costs. If you don't have one, get one. Fooling around with soft ball, hard ball, crackle stage is just to subjective for me. I used a candy thermometer. My Mother gave me a candy thermometer many years ago along with a meat thermometer. My husband, the grill master, asked me one day if the Boston butt on the grill might be ready.....I said...."check it with the thermometer.....that's the only way to know for sure." That was my first mistake. You guessed it.....How in the name of goodness he got that big fat candy thermometer in that roast I'll never know.....but he did. So my candy thermometer was ruined by the grill heat or the trauma to it..... it never worked again.
A candy thermometer is made of glass and larger than a meat thermometer. A meat thermometer is heavier glass and has metal on it. A candy or deep frying thermometer is made to clip on the side of the pan. The clip is moveable. You want to position the thermometer within your mixture, but not resting on the bottom or side of the pad. The temperature numbers correspond with the stage of cooking....soft ball, hard ball, etc.
Once the sugar has dissolved, the mixture will become clear and continue to boil gently. Please be very careful with this mixture.....it's sugar syrup and so hot. I don't even want my grandchildren in the kitchen when I'm making something like this. Sorry I didn't set the timer, but the process probably took 10-15 minutes to reach 252 degrees. (The recipe calls for pecans. I like to very lightly toast pecans before using them in a recipe. Just barely toasting them really brings out the flavor, be careful not to overdo.)
While your sugar syrup is cooking, beat two eggs whites into stiff peaks and set aside. You can use a hand mixer or a stand mixer. I used a stand.
Be very patient and don't be tempted to turn up the heat on your sugar syrup. Once the temperature reaches the soft ball stage, watch it closely. The temperature will start rising quicker once it's reached that point. When the temperature reaches 252 degrees F or "hard ball stage" remove from heat.
A lot of cooks forego the thermometer and use old tried and true methods of "syrup spins a thread" when a small amount is dropped from a spoon, or by dropping a small amount into a bowl of cold water and watching it form a hard ball. For me, the thermometer works best.
I've tried dropping a small amount in cold water.....and found that I did it probably did it ten times before I could decided if it was right or not.
Remove the syrup from the heat and pour in a small stream into your beaten egg whites, beating all the while. This is where a stand mixer helps. Be careful with metal bowls, this is a hot mixture.
Continue beating until mixture loses its gloss. This step of the recipe is somewhat subjective also. If you don't beat long enough and try to start dropping the candy, it will spread out and be thin and won't hold it's shape......if you beat it too long, it will become stiff, candy will be grainy or crumble.
This isn't a step you can walk away from either. Once you've started, you're committed! Continue to beat. Sometimes the mixture will look glossy and when you spoon through it you'll see it beginning to look dull.
At this point, I stopped using my mixer, put in the vanilla and chopped nuts. Continue to fold over and over with a wooden spoon. A long handled wooden spoon is much easier to use and your hand won't get tired so quickly. The mixture will get a little stiffer and it's sticky.
Drop a small amount onto some wax paper and test to see if it holds it's shape. If not, just keep beating and try again in a minute or so. It also seems to help if you drop a teaspoon by touching the waxed paper with your spoon so the candy so of adheres to the paper. Using a twisting motion to swirl the top of the candy while dropping from the spoon. You have to work quickly once the candy is ready to drop.
The candy on the left was dropped too early, it's losing it's shape. The candy on the right is the correct consistency and holds it form better.
Once you've completed dropping the candy, it has to completely cool or "dry." This can take a couple of hours. So remember when you drop it, put your waxed paper on a cookie sheet or drop it somewhere out of your way. I can remember my Mother making Divinity and it was always placed in the "back bedroom." I always thought it was just to cool it.....now I realize it had to be gotten out the way in the kitchen too! One time she made Divinity and the cookie sheets were placed on the bed in the back bedroom and it was forgotten for a couple of days. I can't imagine how, but I do remember the thrill when we found it!
The Divinity turned out heavenly! Sweet of course and simply melted in your mouth. The slight toasting of the pecans really enhanced the flavor of the nuts. This recipe was a little time consuming, but most definitely worth the effort. Too bad there wasn't a way to eliminate some of the calories....but then it wouldn't be Divinity would it!