Sometimes it is absolutely great, soft but dry, and melts in your mouth. Other times it is slightly harder. And once in a while it comes out sticky.
Divinity is one of those candies that your grandmother made. In Alabama, people say it is a southern tradition, but my grandmother made it too, and she was born in Switzerland and raised in California.
In any case, there are many recipes for divinity. Most call for you to cook sugar, water and corn syrup to a hard crack stage, then beat this syrup into whipped egg whites.
You do not need a candy thermometer to determine when sugar has reached a hard crack. It is much more fun to use the cold water test. So a quick lesson on cooking sugar...
As sugar syrup is cooked, water boils away -- the sugar concentration increases and the temperature rises. The highest temperature that the sugar syrup reaches tells you what the syrup will be like when it cools. Which is how the temperature stages are named.
My two favorite temperature stages are soft ball and hard crack.
The Soft-Ball Stage (235-240oF) is the stage where the syrup will form a soft, flexible ball when dropped into cold water.
It is also the stage where you can blow a bubble if you dip a metal truffle dipping stick into the sugar. Not sort of a bubble, but a real, honest-to-goodness bubble. Learning this trick was the absolutely funnest thing I ever did in culinary school. I boil sugar to this stage when making meringue.
A little of the syrup dropped into cold water will form a hard, brittle thread that breaks easily when bent. I like the bottom range of this stage like when making divinity. Since sugar can quickly go from soft crack to hard crack, I watch it carefully and turn off the gas as soon as soon as it reaches a hard crack. Cooking it longer is great for nut brittles, but not so good for divinity.
If you want even more details about the temperature stages of sugar, check out his website.
This is the divinity recipe we use at the shop:
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cups white Karo syrup
1/2 cup water
2 large egg whites
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Cook sugar, water and Karo to hard crack stage (295-310oF). Beat whites with dash salt in electric mixer fitted with a whip attachment until stiff peaks form. Gradually pour syrup mixture in thin stream while continuing to beat on high speed. Add vanilla and continue beating until mixture loses its gloss. Stir in nuts and drop by teaspoonful onto wax paper.
Makes about 24-30 pieces.
This is the recipe that works for me (and it is in our cookbook), but I know people who swear by 2 cups of sugar and 1/2 cup of corn syrup, and those that cook their sugar syrup to a soft crack stage (270-290oF).
Divinity is also known for being tricky. Most people blame the weather for bad divinity, but the culprit is usually impatience. If you take the sugar off the stove too early, it will not set. I've made lots of batches that did not harden properly. Divinity should never be tacky or sticky, and it should not be crunchy. It should be dull and soft. If it never loses its shine, no amount of whipping or cooling will make it right. The ingredients are reasonably inexpensive, so throw it out and start over. Just don't add the nuts until you are sure you have a good batch.
One more thing. Once the divinity starts to set, you have a very short window before it is too hard to spoon out. So work fast and never double the recipe. If you insist on a large batch, have extra hands available to spoon out the candy while it is still pliable.