I would like to start this article by firstly providing a short and clear answer to a commonly asked question...What is pastillage?
Pastillage is a hard drying cake decorating paste used for making strong edible structures, toppers and decorations from the smallest flowers to the largest centrepieces with long-lasting reliable strength. It's an all-in-one decorative sugar paste with no limits!
As we are talking about a sugar paste, naturally one would have to compare pastillage to other pastes like gum paste or fondant. The main difference between Pastillage and other pastes is, it has a non-sagging obedient attitude due to its non-fat properties. Apart from its general use of making common decorations like flowers and other objects, pastillage can also be used to make very large and complex structures. The gelatine contents and the complex gum combination, allows pastillage to dry very hard and quite quickly as opposed to gum paste which stays soft and dries slowly. Due to this fast-drying behaviour, pastillage can be an extremely useful paste when time is limited and reliable strength is in desperate need. Having said that some methodical differences should be known by users. After using my homemade pastillage for many years and dealing with its challenges, I have developed Yeners Pastillage powder mix to overcome those matters and make it available to all. Yeners Pastillage offers much more comfort and a relaxing working time without compromising its reliable strength. I am going to share with you some tips and details about working with Yeners Pastillage.
Mixing the paste
Each pouch contains 450g of powder mix and needs 60g of water to be mixed to make a paste.
Step 1: Empty the contents of the pouch into a mixing bowl. Make sure the bowl is around 30cm wide so the mixing can be done in comfort.
Step 2: Make a well in the centre and pour 60g ( 1/4 cup or 2 oz ) of water inside the well.
Step 3: Use a wooden spoon or silicone spatula with a strong handle and start mixing inside out till all the water absorbed by the powder. At this stage, the mix may feel a little dry and lumpy. This is normal. DO NOT add extra water.
Step 4: Empty the bowl onto a clean benchtop and continue mixing and kneading till a smooth paste is developed.
Step 5: Dust a little starch and continue kneading for a minute. The pastillage is all ready for use but if you rest it overnight in a plastic bag and knead it again, all gums will be completely incorporated and the texture will be noticeably better. Next day mixing is also necessary if the paste will be kept longer than a day.
Step 1: Measure 60g ( 1/4 cup or 2 oz ) of water.
Step 2: Empty the contents of the Yeners Pastillage pouch into a stand mixer ( a hand mixer will not work ), with a dough hook attached.
Step 3: Make a well in the middle and add 2/3 of the water ( approximately 40g ).
Step 4: Mix on slow to medium speed for a minute until the water is absorbed. At this stage, the mix fills dry and lumpy.
Step 5: Add remaining 20g water and mix on slow to medium speed until the paste is developed. Dust a small amount of starch into the mix and continue mixing. This should bring the paste together in the centre.
Step 6: Place the paste onto a clean benchtop and shape it like a ball. The pastillage is all ready for use but if you rest it overnight in a plastic bag and knead it again, all gums will be completely incorporated and the texture will be noticeably better. Next day mixing is also necessary if the paste will be kept longer than a day.
Storing after mixing
The finished paste can be kept at room temperature but must be stored in an airtight container. A simple 17cm x 18cm ( 7x7 inch ) ziplock plastic sandwich bag is ideal for 510g of pastillage produced from one pouch. When the paste is placed in a bag, push the remaining air out of the bag before sealing it. If too much air is left in a bag, parts of the pastillage may dry and develop a crust if stored for too long. If this occurs, simply remove the dry area before kneading again. To avoid crusting or drying issues, double ziplock bags can be used or store the ziplock bag in another airtight tupperware container. Every time you remove a smaller piece from the bag either by pinching or using a knife, it will create sharp edge which must be pushed back to a roundish edge before resealing the bag. Try to ensure all parts of the pastillage are making contact with the inside of the ziplock bag.
Conditioning to start work
Obviously like every other paste, pastillage also must be re-kneaded to a smooth consistency before every use. It is good practice to only deal with the amount of pastillage that you need for each task. For example, if you are making a teddy bear, condition the paste for the body, head and legs one part at a time. No pastillage will be wasted if handled this way. If you feel the paste getting a little too firm and dry because of multiple conditioning and loss of moisture, simply add a few drops of water and re-knead again to get it back to its original consistency.
Reconditioning for other applications
Softer: We can simply add a little water and knead to achieve a softer version of pastillage if you find some comfort for your desired applications.
Piping: We can add more water to bring pastillage into a creamy texture that we can spoon into a piping bag. It is going to be a little stringy but it is a perfect medium for repair jobs and merging gaps.
Flooding: Add even more water to achieve a runny consistency to do flooding. This would result in a much stronger flooding decoration than royal icing if needed.
Harder: Just add additional icing sugar to make the paste quicker and harder drying but bear in mind that you have to also work faster.
Coral/Sponge Decorations: Mix 50g of paste with 25g (50%) icing sugar. If you find it too hard to do that, you may use the microwave for a few seconds to make it easier to blend. Make a ball and place it in a coffee cup lined with some silicon paper. Heat it for 45 seconds in Microwave. The ball expands 5 times the size and hardens to a brittle foam. The resulting decoration can be used as corals, clouds or anything else you can imagine.
Flower paste: You can make flowers with pastillage as it if you don't mind the stiffness. Mixing 25-50% fondant will transform the paste to act more like a gum paste.
Basic working principles.
Always have wet and dry hand towels standing by. When working with pastillage, you often need to use wet and dry hand towels to quickly clean and dry tools and the table's surface to maintain a clean result.
Your hands must be clean all the time and free from sugar residues which will cause unwanted textures on the surface of your finished work.
Use a little ordinary oil spray on the bench and on your hands when you are working on smaller items for modelling or rolling flat pieces.
Use very little shortening on the table if the surface is slippery.
Use a starch duster for rolling large flat items.
Always put together all the offcuts and knead them before placing them back into the plastic bag.
Rolling sheets as paper-thin to use the paper punches or cutting shapes with scissors. Layering sheets on top of each other to cut out or slice multiple pieces using a craft knife or sharp cutters.
Rolling large flat pieces to create walls, ceiling and bases for flat and curved structural pieces.
Modelling sugar sculptures with delicate extensions, standing animals with long necks and thin legs without internal wireframes even with floating parts.
Wings or fins as thin as you wish with holding firmness within a short while ( like goldfish, butterflies etc.). As you can see in my Easy Sugar Goldfish tutorial.
Sugar flowers in any size with or without individual petal wiring.
Hardened pieces can be poked into newly formed buddies with a firm hold (like making doves wings first and letting them harden before pushing them into a freshly made dove body). This technique is shown in my Sugar Doves Tutorial.
Due to non-fat properties, painting or airbrush on pastillage with water-based colours will give a very easy and good result.
Wet sponge highlights and scratched white hairlines on hard pastillage surface for creating unique pictures.
Pushing pastillage on non-food objects and dry for a day or two to create negative moulds. Then create objects with pastillage using created pastillage moulds.
Use starch bed as a shape holder for sails, flags or any pastillage piece in an odd shape. The starch will withdraw moisture quicker and also maintain shape and form while drying. This technique is shown in my How to Make Gravity Defying Decorations tutorial.
Clean sandpaper can be used on completely dried pastillage to achieve bevelled edges and to remove unwanted imperfections.
Placing the pastillage on a flat piece of corrugated cardboard is a good way to shorten the drying time. The slightly uneven surface allows for some breathing underneath the pastillage. Turnover possible flat pieces after some time will also help to get pieces evenly dry.
Getting inspiration from other professions
Consistency of pastillage will give us possibilities, like working with wood, metal or stone. Therefore we can be inspired by the following professions and use their similar techniques.
Carpentry: Flat pieces of pastillage can be stained like wood and put together, like anything produced by a carpenter.
Architecture: Flat pieces of pastillage can be used like walls with windows cut out and produced like model buildings.
Blacksmith: Rolled and sliced pastillage like fettucini or spaghetti will be a good material to create vintage design doors, gates or types of furniture like furniture created by a blacksmith.
Masonry: We can produce individual bricks stones to put together or garden wall textures and create designs like a masonry artist.
Sculpture: Pastillage is a very useful medium to produce single colour moniments and sculptures looks like bronze, marble etc.
These are just a few professions I can think of and surely this list is not finished here.
Gluing and merging
How you glue pastillage can vary, depending on the situation and requirement. Each with its own pro’s and con’s, here is a list of gluing methods I use.
- A brush in a cup of plain water.
- A water spray bottle.
- A brush in a cup with a little bit of egg white.
- A brush in a cup with a little bit of Tylose and water (mixed).
- White chocolate for instant hold (you can cover the exposed chocolate with royal icing or pastillage mixed with water, then smoothen with water and a brush).
- Royal icing in a piping bag.
- Melted hot pastillage for strong hold in a short time.
Any item produced with any sugar pastes like fondant, gum paste, royal icing and pastillage is vulnerable to extreme humidity. Something mainly out of sugar dried completely holds its shape and texture may change the look on a heavy rainy day. This happens more often in countries close to the equator and rainy hot countries due to evaporation. The only way of protecting items produced with any sugar paste is by preventing contact with air. Packing the items in an airtight box is okay but not practical. Colourless confectioner glaze in a spray can is the ultimate solution. The liquid form of confectioner glaze is too yellowish, and not suitable for the purpose. When I do a piece out of pastillage and I know it is going to be used immediately, I would not worry about this problem. If I produce a piece and want to display it for a long time, I will always use a spray confectioner's glaze just to make sure that humid days do not become a problem.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article and you learned more about pastillage from it.
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