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Helloooooooooo! Happy New Year!
I wanted to follow up on the caramel making story, as I’m finally victorious!
Only took five tries to become the natural candy-maker I always knew I was!
The first three batches all had the same problem – I completely forgot to adjust the temps for Albuquerque’s high altitude. Duh.
At sea level, water boils at 212 degrees. In my kitchen, it boils at 200 even.
So I subtracted 12 degrees from the recipe, and that made all the difference in the world.
I’m going to write out the process here, to help remind me the next time I want to make caramels. And also because there were so many variances in recipes out there (some of which can be blamed on the altitude but not all), I’d like to share my rookie take on the candy making.
I realize this is a plant blog, so I hope you’ll indulge me.
How To Make Soft Chewy Caramels:
I got this recipe off of about.com, because I kept coming back to how easy Elizabeth LeBau made it look. Much easier to follow than some of the other videos I watched and recipes I read. Plus, I figured with that much cream in the recipe, they had to turn out soft.
2 cups of white sugar
2 cups of light corn syrup
2 cups of cream
1/2 cup of sweetened condensed milk
1 stick of butter, cut into pieces
A medium or large heavy saucepan (must be able to withstand high temps)
A medium saucepan
A candy thermometer (different from a meat thermometer)
A pastry brush and a small bowl of water
A 9×13 baking pan lined with parchment paper
First, be careful. Caramel can splatter easily, so consider wearing gloves and eyewear. You may also want to keep ice water nearby in case you do get splattered – you can plunge your hand in. Respect the candy making. Don’t leave the kitchen once you start the project. Cook time is roughly an hour, and that’s without the cutting and wrapping.
Second, check your candy thermometer to be sure it’s working properly. Boil some water in a pan and test it. While waiting for the water to boil, line your baking pan with parchment paper.
When you are ready, combine the cream and the condensed milk into the medium saucepan, stir and heat on low.
In your bigger pan, combine the corn syrup, sugar and water, on medium to high heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Then use the pastry brush to clean sugar off the inside of the pan, so the candy doesn’t get grainy.
Now it’s time to add your candy thermometer. You want to boil the sugar combo to 250 degrees (or 238 here in Albuquerque). This will take 25 minutes or so. Don’t stir during this time – just watch as the sugar turns into beautiful clear bubbles and keep an eye on your temperature.
Once you reach the proper temp, gently – again, careful of splatters – add the butter, and then the cream. The ingredients will bubble up during this process. Stir. I preferred my whisk to a wooden spoon.
The cream and butter cooled the sugar, so now you cook until the temp goes back up to 244 degrees (or 232 in Abq). Don’t stop stirring. You want to keep the sugar on the bottom from burning - this can be very tedious but it’s worth it. You’ll be stirring 20-25 minutes. Try to use a whisk with a long handle so you don’t get splashed.
(On my fourth attempt, I got the altitude part adjusted just fine, but I wasn’t terribly diligent about stirring – I was taking down Christmas decorations in between stirs. The result was dark brown burnt crystals at the bottom of the pan. The burned parts got into the mix, mucking up the whole batch. Still edible and soft, but sloppy for gifts. It was on my 5th and finally successful attempt that I stirred religiously. And even then there were a few tiny burnt pieces at the bottom of the pan, which proved to me the sensitive nature of candy making. The above two photos are from the fourth attempt – I should’ve been stirring not photographing.)
The mixture will go from a yellow to a nice golden brown. When you get to the proper temp, remove your thermometer, remove pan from the heat and pour your mix into the waiting baking pan. Slowly!
(I didn’t get a photo of that part.)
Let the candy set for a few hours or overnight.
When it’s ready to be cut into pieces, use a sharp knife that’s greased with oil. When the knife gets dirty, rinse it off and regrease it. I had to repeat that about 50 times. Cutting caramel isn’t easy.
Wrap in squares of wax paper, tied up on the ends like tootsie rolls.
On the video, the chef said it would yield about 50 caramels, but they were big. I cut mine into much smaller pieces, and yielded 136 candies, minus all the ones I ate along the way.
2013 may well be the year I put my dentist’s kids through college.
Ok, thank you for letting me document that. It’s been an interesting process, and has taken up a ton of my time the last few weeks. I’m glad to be on the conquering side today.
I’ll be back on Friday with an All New Ask the Experts Panel, and another puzzler. Hope to see you back here.