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.