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When I was a little girl, I loved sugar cubes. My brother and I loved to suck on them until the sugar started to dissolve and the cubes began to cave in, and there was little left but a few juicy shreds of crystals to crush in the mouth and then savor the sweet syrup that remained. When we adopted our son Nick from Russia, sugar cubes were one of the special treats that he adored. We made sure to serve them at dinner parties so he could have one or two as a treat.
This is how to make goodies like sugar cubes, but molded into pretty little forms. These you can serve not only at your dinner parties, but you can also give them out as little favors or very special tiny gifts.
Molded Sugar Gems
• Cookie cutter or fondant cutter
• 1″ dowel
• Wax paper
• 2 cups sugar (I used organic sugar so it was not white, but rather buff-colored which made the gem colors less bright, more organic looking; it is also coarser, which also affects the look.)
• Food coloring
Use a small cookie cutter or fondant cutter – I used a scalloped circle about 1″ in diameter. I also found that something to push the sugar out of the mold was very helpful. I wished I had a 1″ dowel, but the stone pestle from my mortar and pestle worked well.
You will want a sheet of wax paper on a wooden board to place the sugar gems on. Plastic wrap or foil work less well because they are not porous so the drying will be longer. Paper towel is not recommended; the paper will absorb the sugar liquid and will become a part of the sugar gems.
Into a bowl, put 2 cups of sugar and 4 teaspoons water. If you want colored sugars, put 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon of sugar into each of four bowls, and add one teaspoon of water and one drop of food coloring to each bowl.
Stir until the sugar and water are thoroughly mixed and it has the texture of damp sand. Add more water, a teaspoon at a time to the large bowl, or to each of the small bowls, a quarter teaspoon at a time. Perfectly dampened sugar has the exact same texture as wet sand that you make sand castles of. Not so dry it falls apart, and not so wet it is runny, but damp enough so all the crystals hold snugly together. I had to experiment until I found the perfect dampness; it was slightly damper than I imagined would be right. If you find you have added too much water, simply add more sugar a small amount at a time, mix thoroughly, and test in the mold.
Press a small amount of damp sugar into the mold; tamp down firmly, tapping and rotating the pestle or dowel until the sugar has been packed tight. Then press on the pestle or dowel and pull up on the mold; gently pull and twist the pestle or dowel up off the sugar. The sugar gem will not come out cleanly, there will be little shreds of crystals hanging on to the top edge. Don’t worry about this. Once completely dry, you can toss all the gems in a paper bag to work off the rough edges. You get a nice, soft, slightly eroded effect from this. Any gem which collapses or is mis-shapen, re-press in the mold. You will make mistakes at first, but you will get better!
I dried my gems on the wax paper on a cookie cooling rack in the oven overnight at 110 degrees. The next morning I pulled them off the wax paper and they were still a little damp on the bottom. To be sure, I would allow two days of drying. Then place all in a paper bag and shake gently to break off the burrs and smooth them slightly.
Cellophane Gift Packaging
Step 1: Use small cellophane bags (or a roll of cellophane). I cut off the ends and the seam of each bag to create a sheet of cellophane. Evermine bags are made of REAL cellophane, so they are truly compostable.
Step 2: Roll the gems up in the cellophane and temporarily tape closed with one small piece of tape.
Step 3: Tie the ends with string, and trim off the string ends.
Step 4: Print out the PDF of the dotted ribbon, use a ruler and x-acto knife to cut into strips.
Step 5: Wrap the dotted ribbon in a spiral around the package, and wrap the ends of the ribbon around and seal with glue stick.
Step 6: Tie a pretty favor tag to the end of each package.
Dotted Black Ribbon (PDF) Dotted Blue Ribbon (PDF) Dotted Pink Ribbon (PDF)
More homemade gift ideas from Jeanne:
Homemade Raisins Marshmallow Kisses Cheese Sticks Chocolate Sandwich Cookies