By fusing food science and a love for all things decadently sweet, Ann Reardon is the epitome of the adage, “if you can think it, you can create it”. Ann is a household name among YouTube personalities, famed for her extravagant dessert creations and beginner-friendly cooking channel, ‘How to Cook That’.
She generously shares insider tips as a pastry chef and food scientist in the aptly named channel, inviting you to be part of an exclusive members-only dessert hub reserved for professional pâtissiers. Instagram-worthy desserts are de-mystified, and doubts are debunked, by Ann in her newly released cookbook Crazy Sweet Creations.
GRAM interviewed Ann who said that while she’s renowned for her social media presence and online cooking platform, creating a cookbook that collated her recipes and notes in a physical format provided her with a sense of permanency in the age of constantly evolving digital media.
“I love the thought of how in 200 years someone could be holding my book and I’m long gone, but it gives a sort of insight into how we live in this time now.”
She credits her background in food science and dietetics in providing her with the underlying knowledge of the how’s and why’s of her recipes, which she then passes on to her viewers and readers.
“I know that people appreciate that. They like to know, okay, if I do this and that goes wrong, this is why that’s gone wrong, and I can fix it by doing this.”
With this reassurance in mind, I pushed myself past re-frosting supermarket mud cakes and made something beyond my comfort zone. Keen to make a mess out of my kitchen and justify it by calling it ‘work’, I set about trying my hand at recreating Ann’s infamous ‘Candy Sugar Balloon Bowls’ hoping to jazz up my next potluck contribution.
Be warned: it awakens the mad scientist in you. I quickly learned this wasn’t going to be one of my usual GRAM recipe trials and was more so a food experiment than anything else. My hibernating fine motor skills were awakened, and I found myself following each direction with precision and attention.
The anticipation, if anything, is probably the hardest part of the process. I eyed each sugar bowl like a hawk, waiting to see when my error will surface with the failed experiment. These errors, came in the form of silly (but crucial!) details, like forgetting to oil my balloon or choosing an incorrectly sized bowl. I eventually recreated Ann’s sugar balloon bowls with varying degrees of success.
However, in the spirit of science, repetition is key and after several attempts, I finally produced something Instagram ‘I’m-better-than-all-of-you’ worthy.
Remember that, if it fails, the universe isn’t against you: it’s just a matter of tweaking the science.
Courtesy of Ann Reardon’s cookbook ‘Crazy Sweet Creations’, page 102. Serve your favourite desserts in this sugar bowl any time you’re feeling extra. Crazy Sweet Creations is published by Mango Media and available from Dymocks for $46.99 and also online.
Candy Sugar Balloon Bowls
▪ 1 1⁄3 cups (300 g) sugar ▪ 1⁄2 cup (200 g) glucose syrup or light corn syrup
▪ 1⁄3 cup (75 mL) water ▪ Clear flavouring (optional) ▪ Liquid food colours (red, blue, yellow)
Equipment: ▪ Candy thermometer
▪ Helium quality balloons
Fill your helium quality balloons with water to make them the desired size. Remove any remaining air by holding it upright and letting a little of the water squirt out the top. Then tie the balloon and place it upside down on a small bowl resting on some baking paper. Dry the balloon with paper towel and then rub it with a little cooking oil.
Mix the sugar, water, and glucose syrup together in a saucepan. Place over high heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Wash down the sides of the pan, using a wet pastry brush to remove any sugar crystals from the sides. Add a cady thermometre to the side of the pan and heat the syrup without stirring until it reaches 150°C (300°F). Remove from the heat, then stir in your desired flavour and add drops of colour. If you are using multiple colours, do not stir, just allow them to mingle as you pour.
Wait until the bubbles have subsided, then slowly pour the mixture over your water-filled balloons, allowing the excess to drip down onto the baking paper. Be careful, this mixture is very hot!
Leave to cool completely (approx. 15 minutes). Holding a balloon over the sink, make a small cut in the balloon near the knot and let it empty while you hold the sugar bowl. Repeat with each balloon.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature until ready to use. Hard sugar candy absorbs moisture from the air, so if you leave it exposed, it will become sticky. Serve filled with ice cream and fruit or any dessert of your choosing.
Balloon Science: At the sugar’s high temperature, it would normally melt a rubber balloon but the water inside the balloon quickly absorbs the heat, moving it away from the balloon fast enough that the rubber doesn’t melt.