Hand-Pulled Cotton Candy: How to Make a Global Sweet

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Hand-pulled cotton candy, a.k.a. dragon's beard.


Welcome to my first video post, in which I'll show you how to make hand-pulled cotton candy (hereafter denoted as HPCC). HPCC is made by stretching and folding cooked sugar while continuously dusting with powder to keep the strands from sticking together. Each time you fold the candy you double the number of strands. 14 turns, which results in 16,384 strands, is not uncommon. The most well known HPCC is dragon's beard candy from China, which you can find in New York's Chinatown if you look hard.

For years I thought dragon's beard was specifically Chinese. Recently, however, Behroush Sharifi, the Saffron King, gave us a sample of pashmak, Iranian HPCC flavored with sesame flour. Our Turkish intern, Naz, saw the pashmak and told me about a Turkish version called pishmaniye, flavored with buttered flour. Turns out HPCC is a worldwide phenomenon. Using chef Peter Pang's instructions for dragon's beard as a foundation, I developed the Cooking Issues recipe. Here it is ( N.B.: I'm not that good at it yet):



I tried to make the video comprehensive, so you might find that it runs a little long. If you're in a hurry, the recipe is at 30 seconds, the pulling starts at 4:45, and the fast-motion pulling starts at 6:46.

For the recipe and technique, watch the video; some teaser pictures below:

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Staring through 16,384 strands of candy (2 to the 14th turns).



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FCI alumnus Nick Wong angling for dragon's moustache as the new HPCC term.



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HPCC flavored with malt vinegar powder, mustard powder, smoke powder, and cornstarch sprinkled with citric acid and salt and wrapped around chopped peanuts. Not savory and not a gimmick—straight-up truly delicious. Eat-all-day delicious.



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HPCC mid-pull. Here we are using 75 percent cornstarch and 25 percent Valrhona cocoa powder. For a darker, richer flavor we use 50/50.




This post also appears on CookingIssues.com. All photos courtesy of Cooking Issues.

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As Director of Culinary Technology of The French Culinary Institute at The International Culinary Center, Dave Arnold helps chefs achieve their most ambitious goals using new technologies, techniques, and ingredients. He also writes for the FCI's Cooking Issues blog. More

Dave Arnold began tinkering with restaurant equipment after earning his MFA from Columbia University's School of the Arts. After meeting chef Wylie Dufresne, Arnold became even more passionate about all things culinary (the high-tech cooking movement in particular) and focused his engineering and inventing skills on professional and home cooking.

Arnold is an award-winning food writer and contributing editor for equipment and food science at Food Arts, and he lectures around the country at universities and industry conferences. He has been featured in Food & Wine, TIME, The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, Esquire, The Economist, and Popular Science, among other publications. He lives in New York City with his wife and two sons, and he received a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Yale University.

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