Hello all! Happy November! In spite of the explosion of inexpensive Halloween candy now 50% off, I still feel the need to make something a bit sweet.
The first recipe I tried (and subsequently failed) was only slightly modified from the Spiced Cider caramels on Not So Humble Pie (an EXCELLENT source for anything sweet as well as hilarious commentary). Find the original here… This recipe failed for me due to a number of reasons, prime being that I pushed the heat a bit over, so I ended up with a substance halfway between caramel and toffee. My teeth still hurt…
Frustrated and disappointed, I turned to a slightly different recipe here. It’s easy, quick, and the amount of butter will make Paula Deen shiver with delight.
We now look forward to Mondays at work, as I bring leftovers from these posts with me to share. I’m not taking any blame for the widened hips that may result from this tradition… ;) (Colin is also increasing in popularity at school as I load him up with goodies to take his med school mates).
Now, to the good stuff. Caramel is a beautiful thing. It’s simple enough, but the process of turning sugar and the other starting ingredients to that perfect flavor and texture can be a challenge. Sugar is fickle, especially at saturated (less water) and high temperature conditions.
While I usually rely on the cold-water test to get my caramel just right, I broke down and got a candy thermometer from Bed Bath and Beyond. You need to calibrate it first (boil water/ice test) to get how many degrees it’s “off” by. Remember this number and if it’s over 5F of a difference or if it drifts even higher the next time you use it, you might need to get a new one.
Another important tool is a clean paint/pastry brush. Something with bristles as you need to wash down the sides of the pot your caramel is cooking in so that sugar crystals don’t drop into the solution and turn your caramel into a gritty mess!
With caramel, you’re essentially heating the mixture over time to remove water in the form of water vapor and slowly concentrate the mixture. As the sugar breaks down you get that nice caramel flavor and color. Too far, and some of the sugar breaks down all of the way back to carbon, which doesn’t taste good (trust me).
So be patient, and keep a keen eye on this mixture and you will be heavily rewarded. :)
Recipe 40: Making Caramel (and failing the first time)
Note: This recipe can be found with a beautifully written explanation here.
Total Time: About 3 hrs
Yield: A TON of caramels. We’re talking a 13″x9″ that’s over an inch deep block of deliciousness.
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
- 2 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 tsp vanilla extract