Talk about eye candy. Perched atop a table near the concierge desk at the Peninsula hotel stand a big red sleigh and two bright-eyed reindeer, one with a red nose.
Look closely, and you’ll notice they’re lollipops – monumental ones (without the sticks). It took 48 hours, five hotel pastry chefs and 56 pounds of sugar to create them. “Everyone’s doing gingerbread at the holidays, so this year we did sugar,” says Executive Pastry Chef Deden Putra, who oversaw the project.
Putra knows what he’s talking about. He has several large holiday constructions on his resume including last year’s ten-foot white chocolate Christmas Tree at what was then the Jumeirah Essex House. (His pastry team built a grand-scale Essex House out of gingerbread the previous year.)
Reindeer are a holiday motif at the Peninsula this year (two enormous, non-confectionary deer stand atop the canopy above the hotel entrance, flanked by Christmas trees). To create the sugar sculptures, Putra drew designs for the reindeer and sleigh then ordered up molds from the hotel engineering department. Mixing water with the sugar, he and his team heated the concoction to 350 degrees, added food color and let it set to remove any bubbles. Once it cooled, assembly began – not always smoothly.
“Sugar is a little bit challenging,” Putra says. Unlike chocolate, which can be warmed up and reapplied if a limb snaps off, when a sugar sculpture breaks, it’s done. “We had to do the reindeer a couple of times,” he says.
Indeed, one morning the pastry team came to work only to discover the shattered remains of Rudolf and his friend on the kitchen floor, felled by a gust of wind that blew in through an open window.
No such problems are anticipated in the window-free neck of the wood-paneled lobby where the reindeer and sleigh will reside into the new year.
Still, other dangers lurk. A sign warns “You can look, just don’t lick.” It’s hard to picture Peninsula guests treating a public sculpture like an Everlasting Gobstopper. But Putra admits the candy sculpture taste like, um, candy. “If you go to a candy store and buy a lollipop, that’s exactly what it tastes like.”