My grandmother, Ann Baker Robnett Johnston, queen of her world renowned Beaten Biscuits with Boone County Country Ham, was also famous for her Christmas Divinity with Missouri Black Walnuts. This candy is not called Divinity by accident….no, it is indeed on purpose. Divinity is defined as “being of the quality associated with being a god or goddess”.
My grandmother’s divinity was indeed heavenly!
Photograph courtesy of whatscookingamerica.net
Divinity is an age-old candy our grandmothers made that is a light as a feather confection. It is a simple recipe, calling for readily available ingredients. Only two things are required for success: a dry day and a calibrated thermometer allowing you to cook the syrup to its proper temperature. Divinity, nougat and marshmallow are all from the same candy family. Divinity like candy is shaped into a roll, dipped into caramel, and then rolled into chopped Pecans for that famous Pecan Nut Roll you see advertised along the highways of America!
The following recipe is my Grandmother’s, but the directions have been altered many times. As mixers and equipment have improved over the last 50 years, I have changed procedures. Trust me, it is much easier now! Grandmother used to drop small amounts of the cooked mixture into a cup of ice cold water and test it with her fingers, knowing exactly when it had cooked to perfection. Today, I cook it to 250 degrees F on the candy thermometer. That particular temperature is a tricky one, you see, according to the following chart from http://www.homefamily.net , it is right on the edge of two stages.
244 to 248°F
Firm ball A ball that holds its shape and will not flatten when removed from water
250 to 266°F Hard ball A hard ball that holds its shape when removed from the water but is still pliable.
So, testing with the cold water method can be very tricky! Yet, Grandmother’s Divinity was always DEVINE!
3 large egg whites (at room temperature)
1 cup light corn syrup
3/4 cup water
4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup chopped Black Walnuts
Line a 15×10-inch jellyroll pan with waxed paper, butter the waxed paper well, and set aside.
Place egg whites into the bowl of your stand mixture and set aside to wait for use.
In a heavy 4-quart saucepan, combine the corn syrup, water, sugar and salt. Place over low heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the sugar is completely dissolved. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, without stirring, until the mixture reaches a rolling boil.
Warm the candy thermometer before taking the syrup temperature. Cold metal can shock the syrup which may also cause crystallization. Clip on your calibrated candy thermometer. Reduce heat to medium to maintain a full (but not rolling) boil. Cook syrup, without stirring, to 252 degrees (F). Just before your syrup reaches this temperature (around 250 degrees), begin beating the egg whites with your whisk attachment until soft peaks form. Remove the whisk and replace with your paddle beater. Grandmother’s old MixMaster had two beaters, that was it….no whisk, no paddle.
Remove the completed syrup from heat and allow the boiling to completely subside (about 1 minute). Next step is a great tip I read somewhere, sorry , don’t remember where! Pour the syrup carefully into a heat-proof large Pyrex measuring cup to make pouring in the next step easier. Do not scrape the pan.
With your mixer on high speed, slowly begin to add the hot syrup to the egg whites. Once you begin to pour the syrup, do NOT stop and do not scrape the mixing bowl. When all the syrup has been combined, continue to beat the mixture until it begins to lose its gloss and holds its shape in stiff peaks. This takes about 10 minutes of continuous beating.) Note: all of the notations to not scrape the pan or the bowl should be taken seriously unless you want little hard crystals scattered throughout your candy! Trust me!
Next, add the vanilla and, if you choose to tint it for the holidays, the food coloring. Beat well. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand and fold in the nuts, if desired.
Using two large spoons, drop spoonfuls of the mixture into mounds onto the waxed paper. Allow to rest undisturbed for two hours, or until the mounds are at room temperature. Carefully peel from the waxed paper and store on layers of waxed paper in an airtight container for up to two weeks. Divinity also freezes exceptionally well for longer storage.
If you are really into candy making, a great webpage for understanding the chemistry of sugar, check out http://www.baking911.com/candy/101_intro.htm
Make some candy this Christmas! Your kids and grandkids will remember you fondly!