Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Follow up to Caramels (cleans up with hot water)

I updated the recipe from the first post. Now here's what I learned:

  • I either needed less cream or more cooking time to reduce the liquid content. This will be the subject of many more sweet experiments.
  • Clean up was a lot easier than I expected.

I have Kitchen Craft cookware, and I love it. I was reminded of that again when it came time to clean up, because despite having cooked some sugar on to the bottom of the pan, I didn't have to break out a chisel to get it off.

After pouring off the caramel mixture, I added about two quarts of hot water to the sauce pan, let it boil, and gently scrapped the bottom with the spoon I had used to stir the sauce. I'm pretty sure I didn't have to have fancy pans for that to work, but considering my Kitchen Crafts replaced so called "non stick" pans, it made me happy to have made the switch.

I once had the non stick coating boil off a pan of mine when I made the mistake of adding cool water, and, yeah, good-bye pan. For those who missed the memo, what's under the non stick coating is toxic, and when the coating gets scratched up or breached, the toxins leech into your food.

I've done the same thing – used cold water to dissolve cooked on foods – with my Kitchen Craft, and all I had to worry about was the gush of steam.

And, no, this is not a paid endorsement. :-)

Monday, August 4, 2014

Making Caramel Candies

Today I have made my first attempt at making caramel candies. On the bright side, I'm pretty sure that I got caramel sauce at least. I'm waiting, as I write this, to see how firm a candy I get. :-)
So, quick off the top, the recipe I'm using, and then I'll tell you how I got to that recipe.

UPDATE: Yeah, it came out saucy. Very thick sauce, but, yeah. So, I'm updating the recipe below.

Tools & Ingredients

  • 3+ quart sauce pan
  • a wide mouthed, lidded container that can hold a volume of 2c.
  • 9" square baking pan
  • wax or parchment paper to line baking pan
  • between 81 and 162 – 2" square pieces of wax paper, for wrapping candies (depending on cut size)
  • Stirring device (Whisk or spoon)
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 1 c. heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 5 tbsp butter (salted), chopped
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Line baking pan with paper, set aside
  2. Combine cream, sugar, and salt in your sauce pan.
  3. Turn heat on to a medium-low flame.
  4. Stir - gently - until the mixture turns a tan, light caramel color
  5. Add butter and stir until mixed.
  6. When mixture reaches a rolling boil, remove from heat
  7. Whisk in vanilla extract (no whisk? stir vigorously)
  8. Pour into prepared baking pan storage container.
  9. Tap pan on counter a couple times to make sure all air bubbles have risen to the surface
  10. Let cool to room temperature on counter
  11. Finish chilling in refrigerator
  12. When firm, cut into either 1" square or 1/2" by 1" bars and wrap in wax paper squares
Makes between 81 and 162 candies, depending on cut size approx. 1-3/4c. caramel sauce. Candies Sauce should keep at room temperature for between one and two weeks.

Disambiguation

So, how did I arrive at the above recipe? I read a lot of other people's recipes. Why did I go my own way, especially right out of the gate? I read a lot of other people's recipes.
Common themes I found included:
  • the less cream used, the thicker the expected outcome
    • anywhere from a 1:2 to a 4:3 ratio of cream:sugar was expected to produce a somewhat firm caramel
    • from a 4:3 to a 2:1 ratio of cream:sugar was expected to produce a caramel sauce that might or might not need to be heated to achieve a pourable viscosity
  • cream, butter and sugar were the only ingredients that every recipe I saw used
    • the type of cream varied, with some recipes calling for evaporated milk, others for half and half, and the rest for some level of whipping cream
  • the darker you let the caramel boil up to, the harder the finished candy will be
  • candy thermometers are supposed to be really helpful
Common divisions included:
  • to stir or not to stir
  • to use salt or not
  • to use corn syrup or not
  • melt the sugar first or cook everything up all at once
  • one pot or two (for melting sugar and preheating cream)
I decided to use the salt and the vanilla extract because a touch of salt within sweet provides a contrast that increases the perception of sweetness, and I like vanilla. Otherwise, I wanted to keep the ingredient list down to the bare essentials – and I can envision no realistic situation in which corn syrup counts as a bare essential. I just do not like the taste, which is my own personal preference.
I do plan to try out some simple variations later, and I'll likely record those here when I do.
I also chose to go to a lighter color because I like soft caramels, and I was afraid of burning the mixture.
If you try this recipe out, please do let me know how it works for you!

Recipe Search Highlights

The below links are not all of what I looked at, but they were the ones that I found particularly interesting.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

My For-evah Project

I'm terrible at checking in to social media sites. My friends know not to invite me to events they actually want me at through FaceBook and the like, and that terrible check-in habit extends to Ravelry.

No wonder I had a few projects to update when I logged in today, but what surprised me was the realization that I've been working on "Shapely Tank with Sleeves" since 2011 – and it's still not done.

It's the sleeves. I decided to try pick-up and knit, doing both sleeves at once. I'm not really liking the results, but I'm not sure I want to rip back at this point either, so it has languished on the "get to it someday" pile of half-assed, er, half-completed projects.

Le sigh.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Faux Scones

Over the holidays, my Oregonian family had a discussion about the deploring lack of good commercial scones. The general consensus was that Starbucks was the only place most of the family could find scones, and the quality of the Portland area Starbucks pastries were, um, less than satisfactory. My own experience at the Fairview Starbucks was sub par, especially considering the superb quality of the staff over near the Galleria in Roseville (California).

Long-short, I decided to experiment a bit and see what I could come up with for homemade scone-like treats. I haven’t actually looked for scone recipes, hence the reason for calling these “faux scones”.

Ingredients

So, pull up the Basic Biscuit recipe. To this we shall add:

  • 1/2c. sugar
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1tsp allspice
  • 2-3 tbsp butter – firm, solid butter, not softened
  • a 9” pie pan (forgo the cookie sheet and baking paper, and the cookie cutters)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Add the 1/2c. sugar to the dry ingredients before adding in the milk – and you can use a lower fat milk, but you’ll want to use a little less of it, closer to a generous 1/2c. than 3/4c. of the creamier milks.

Grease the bottom and sides of the pie pan with 1/2tbsp of butter and set aside.

Follow steps 1 & 2 for the rolled biscuits. I found using a rolling pin also helped work the dough to an even consistency that doesn’t leave dough on your hands when you work with it.

Divide the dough into eight parts. Roll into balls and then squish one side so you have a kind of triangle shape. Arrange the triangles in the pie pan with the squished sides toward the center. Flatten the triangles so that they cover the base of the pan completely.

Cut the remaining butter into eight pieces. Mix the 2 tbsps of sugar with the allspice and sprinkle over the dough. Place a butter pat near the center of each dough segment.

Bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes.

Optional: while baking, whip up a halved portion of Simple Dessert Glaze to apply to the scones as soon as they come out of the oven.

Let stand for 5 minutes before serving, or store for later treats.

Variations

One of the nicer things with basic bready recipes is that you can add all sorts of treats without having to really change things up.  For instance, want chocolate chip faux scones? Add around a 1/2 c. chocolate chips. How about apple cinnamon scones? Cut up a Granny Smith or similar baking apple, pat the chunks dry, add in about a 1/2 c. of the chunked apple and 2 tsp of cinnamon to the dough. Adding dried fruits and nuts and the like is fairly simple – though I would recommend making sure all the pieces are about the size of chocolate chips, around 1/4 inch on the longest side.

Don’t want to knead or roll the dough? The Faux Scones will be more moist on the inside, meaning you’ll want to bake them between 25 and 35 minutes. That will make the crust more crunchy, and, like the drop biscuits, also rougher than the worked dough.

Simple Dessert Glaze

I realize this is a fairly basic and standard recipe, but since I like to use it in place of frostings fairly often, consider this a formality posting. :-)
Makes enough to cover one 9 inch cake.

Tools

Ingredients

  • 1c powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp water
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

Directions

Sift the powdered sugar into the mixing bowl (for those not used to working with powdered sugar, yes, it should start out looking chunky, but bouncing it enough with the strainer will break it up into powder).
Whisk in the liquid, and stir until smooth. Add small amounts of water (by the drop) to achieve desired liquidity of the glaze.
Pour or spread over dessert.

Notes & Variations

Powdered sugar glazes will dry hard, and will dry faster the less water you use. They also take food coloring very well – less is best to start with.
If you are looking for a lemon glaze, swap out lemon extract, or 1tbsp lemon juice, for the vanilla extract, and, optionally, add approx. 1tbsp grated lemon rind to the mix. If using the lemon juice, use only 1tbsp of water.
You can add spices to your glaze – and they will affect the color. The stronger the spice, the less you should use at first (like 1/8tsp) – this is one of those dishes where you can always add more, but can’t take out too much.