Classic orange Pixy Stix are both sweet and tart at the same time. Our updated take on the flavor uses tamarind paste and cayenne pepper for a sour-sweet combo that’s got a little kick. Try this spicy sugar on the rim of a Tamarindo Borracho cocktail for an extra burst of tamarind flavor.
Special equipment: You will need a very clean coffee or spice grinder for this recipe.
To fill the paper straws, you will need a couple of pieces of paper, to cover your work surface and make a funnel with—any kind of paper will do. Alternatives to a paper funnel are a No. 16 Open Star or No. 5 Round piping tip. You will also need a toothpick.
What to buy:Tamarind concentrate, sometimes labeled as tamarind paste, is a tangy, prunelike, seedless paste that is popular in Southeast Asian and Latin American cooking. It can be found in Latin and Asian markets or online. Avoid tamarind pulp, which contains large pitlike seeds.
1Heat the oven to 200°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
2Whisk the sugar and cayenne together in a medium bowl. Add the tamarind and, using your fingers, rub the paste into the sugar mixture until everything is evenly combined and the texture of brown sugar.
3Sprinkle the mixture into a rough 6-inch circle on a sheet of parchment paper. Cover with a second sheet of parchment paper. Using a rolling pin or tall drinking glass, roll the sugar mixture until it is in a thin, even layer about 1/16 inch thick. Remove and discard the top sheet of parchment. Carefully transfer the parchment with the sugar on it to a baking sheet. Bake until the top of the sugar is completely dry to the touch, about 35 minutes. Place the pan on a wire rack and let the sugar cool completely, about 15 minutes.
4Break up the dried sugar into small pieces. Working in 2 to 3 batches, transfer the sugar pieces to a clean coffee or spice grinder and process them into a fine powder. Transfer the powder to a small bowl, scraping out any mixture stuck inside the grinder.
5Set a fine-mesh strainer over a medium bowl. Pour the sugar powder into the strainer and sift it into the bowl, pressing against the powder with the back of a spoon to force it through the mesh. Return any larger bits left in the strainer to the grinder and process into a fine powder. Sift again and repeat with the grinding and sifting as needed until all of the sugar mixture is processed (you may have a few solids left to be discarded).
6Place a sheet of paper on a work surface. Have about 20 (8-inch) paper straws and a toothpick ready. Make a small funnel out of another piece of paper. (Make sure the tip fits into the end of the straws.) Alternatively, use a No. 16 Open Star or No. 5 Round piping tip.
7Fold up one end of a straw 1/4 inch. Fit the point of the funnel or piping tip into the open end of the straw. Holding the funnel or piping tip in place and working over the sheet of paper, spoon in about 1 1/4 teaspoons of the sugar mixture. Use the pointed end of the toothpick to poke the sugar mixture into the straw. Remove the funnel or piping tip and fold the open end of the straw down 1/4 inch to close. Repeat with the remaining straws and sugar.