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Making vodka pills in 24 hours

March 6, 2008

Recently, Chef Fabian was experimenting further with the Adria/Torreblanca technique of making ‘vodka pills.’ I use this word to describe the process of making liquid-filled candies by pouring flavored alcohol syrups into cornstarch and letting it set until a hard outer shell forms. The process is simple, but requires great attention to certain details and a clean approach. Actually, there is more than 1 way to achieve this. Fabian’s method employs a little of each different method.

There are only 2 components to this process… the cornstarch (which serves as a casting mold and as a reactant to the liquid) and the alcohol flavored syrup (which will form a ‘shell’ upon contact with the cornstarch surrounding it). How you make and treat the 2 components is what causes the magic.
The Alcohol SyrupThe percentage of alcohol in your syrup (based mainly on your choice of poison) is one of the most crucial factors. Fabian tried it once with an icewine and it crystallized too much. A good vodka (or equally strong alcohol) is the best choice. Flavored vodkas are great and add to the candy appeal.

Fabian’s recipe is as follows.

  • 250g granulated sugar
  • 84g water

Cook the syrup until it is ready at 112C. Once the sugar is dissolved, reduce the heat and bring it down to 85C.

  • 52.5g vodka

At 85C, add the vodka by pouring it slowly using the side of the pot. Transfer the syrup by pouring it slowly into another pot. Do this 4 times to prevent any crystallization. Let the syrup cool.

The Corn Starch

I’m not sure if other starches will work as well of the corn starch, but you will need a lot of it so keeping with a relatively cheap product makes sense.

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The first step is to make a cast for the syrup. Do this by sifting enough cornstarch to support the cast. The one above is made inside a sheet pan cake mold. The cornstarch must first be dried at 120C for an hour or more. Fill the mold as high as necessary, level it off, and make the ‘pill’ holes. This can be done with a dowel with the desired shape. Fabian make the Home Depot kicked up version for hole making by screwing pre-cut dowels onto a board the length of the mold.

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This expediates the process, but also allows for a more consistent final product. Lay the holes out a couple of inches from each other.

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Carefully check the holes for smoothness, then apply the syrup. This is done easily with a squeeze bottle. Fill each hole almost completely, allowing a little room on top to cover the syrup.

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Immediately afterwards, sift cornstarch over the syrup casts to completely cover. Anywhere from 1/4 to 1/2 inch cornstarch cover is enough.

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Next Step… Patience

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Now you must wait! 24 hours is the key here. Other processes may take less or more time, but one day is not bad at all. You will need a small sifter and a soft dry brush. Scoop out the ‘pills’ with a spoon and use the brush to carefully knock off any excess clinging corn starch. That’s it. You’re ready.

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The ‘pill’ is now a thin hard layer of solidified flavored sugar filled with a liquid burst of sweetened alcohol. Serve the same day unless you can keep it in a humidity free environment.

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