Every December the videos of people using hot sugar to glue a gingerbread house together start to circulate online. And every year I shudder, thinking of all the severe sugar burns I’ve given myself over the years.
Hot sugar is no joke, so should you use it to glue your gingerbread house together, or should you stick with a different kind of glue? (no pun intended.)
Here are some things to help you decide whether hot sugar is a good option for you.
Is hot sugar a good way to glue gingerbread houses?
Hot sugar is a strong glue, but whether it’s good FOR YOU is a different issue.
I have a lot of sugarwork experience from the time that I did custom wedding cakes, and I wouldn’t bother using hot sugar to glue a gingerbread house together. For me, it’s too much work and too much of a burn risk for not a lot of benefit.
Some of the things to use to make your decision should be:
- Hot sugar needs to get up to around 340 degrees before it’s ready to use as glue.
- If you get hot sugar on your skin it doesn’t rub or rinse off, it sticks, and it keeps burning where it’s stuck.
- To dip the gingerbread pieces into the sugar, you’ll need a pan that’s big enough to stick the pieces into it without tipping the pan very much. That will also involve a lot of sugar that might be better used somewhere else!
- If you have kids or pets who are going to be around while you’re heating and using the melted sugar, you should remove them from the area. Hot sugar is a serious burn hazard, and getting knocked by a small child or a pet while you’re working can result in burns to you or to them.
- Sugar goes from being cooked to being burnt very quickly, and once it burns, there’s no saving it. You should use a sugar thermometer to make sure you’re not overheating the sugar, or you’ll end up with carbon.
- If your weather is really rainy or humid, the sugar can soften with the humidity. Even though it sticks to begin with, it might not stay stuck, it’s no different from other types of sugar glue.
- Do you have time for royal icing glue to harden? If not, and you have a large pan, protective gloves to cook the sugar, and you’re willing to work with hot sugar, it might be the fastest option to glue a gingerbread house together.
Basically, hot sugar is fast-setting, so you’ll be able to build the house quickly if you have a pan that’s large enough for the pieces to be dipped into.
However, it’s not fail-proof, and when you fail with it you run the risk of ending up with burnt sugar at best, and getting a pretty severe burn at worst.
And I’m not kidding about the burns, don’t think I’m exaggerating. This is NOT an activity to do with young kids, and you should definitely use gloves for your own protection while working with the gingerbread pieces.
Have a large pan of cold water in the sink nearby so that if you do get some hot sugar on your skin you can plunge your hand into the water to cool the sugar down.
This will cool it off and help to stop the burn on your skin, because while the sugar is on your skin it will stick there and it will be hot enough to keep burning you.
I once got a burn on my finger that was so bad it made the pharmacist I showed it to turn white and wobble a little. And I was pretty experienced with hot sugar!
What about using hot isomalt as glue?
Isomalt is a type of sugar that’s made from beets, and it doesn’t crystallize the same way that cane sugar will. Sugar artists use it because it’s easier to control as far as that goes, but it still needs to be heated to around 340 degrees F to get to the point where it’s workable as a glue.
You can also buy pre-cooked isomalt and melt it in a microwave using a silicone container, then use the melted sugar as your glue.
Make sure to wear gloves and take the same precautions that you would if you were using regular white sugar!
If you’ve never done sugar work before, I would suggest that you DON’T use it to glue your gingerbread house together for the simple reason that it’s dangerous!
Sugar is harder to control heat-wise than people make it out to be, and I really, really don’t want people to get sugar burns because they’re not fun.
Especially if you were planning on doing this as a fun activity with kids, don’t do it!
Use royal icing and give yourself time for the house to solidify, it’s better than spending your holiday getting treatment for your burns!
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