Monday, January 13, 2014

the great caramel post

One of the terrible things about my dropping off the blog map for the month of December (while everyone around me did Holidailies and wrote DAILY) is that I'm not really sure where to start back up. It would be great if I had a finished item to show, but I do not.

I wanted to finish the dahlia cardigan in time for Christmas. And I did, sort of. I am not crazy about the fit, and I have some adjustments to make, but I am also majorly frustrated, so I put it aside and picked up a sock to make it through my post-holiday travels. I have one sock done and the other started, so I'll report on that next time. Let my initial report say, this yarn has silver in it and it is exactly what I have needed to get through the dark days of winter. SPARKLY!

Mostly I wanted to deconstruct, mostly so I'll remember it, my sea salt caramel adventures.

This is the second Christmas I have made a batch of caramels from this recipe I clipped out of the Oprah Magazine. And yes you can mock me if you want. The recipe is here and they are really good. But I have learned some things about this recipe and so I'm putting them all out here so I'll remember them, and maybe you won't make my same mistakes.

Ok, I have made three batches of this stuff and they all had two things in common. First, they take a way bigger pan than you think. My best result came with my second biggest pan. Although I tried it in my biggest pan and that wasn't too shabby either. The reason? I guess all caramels do this, but that cream and sugar just acts like a huge volcano. Second, they all burned to some degree. I think I have a solution for that, which I will get to later.

First the differences:

Batch one did not set right. In fact batch one was more like a caramel spread than wrap up pop in your mouth caramels. And in making batches two and three, as well as reading on the internet, I have discovered why.
salted carmel shortbreads Batch one on cookies covered in chocolate--if like gives you gooey caramel, make these puppies (you can sort of see the burnt bits in this)
Have you clicked over to Oprah and seen the recipe yet? Well, if you had, you might have noticed that one of the ingredients it calls for is "one can of evaporated milk." But it turns out that Meijer at least sells 2 different sized cans! (and yes, I saw the comments section on this issue--and they are just WRONG). So this year in preparing to make batch two, I went to Meijer and bought the supplies, which mean that because I do not usually do the shopping, and I easily get overwhelmed at the store when people are pushing me (yes really--today I kicked an old lady's cart because she rammed into me in the checkout line) I bought what I thought was the only size can they made--a 7 oz size. ANd Lo and behold, batch #2 set.

Now, batch number two also was a little bit of a learning thing for me, because when the hot lava of sugar and cream threatened to boil over in my second biggest pan, I TURNED THE HEAT DOWN. Oh yes, this was an epiphany for me. It still had burned bits on the bottom, but not as many as batch one AND ironically as many as batch three. In fact, I was able to isolate the burned bits to one side of my pan and so eatprevent gift recipients from receiving burnt bits in their caramel. And also amazingly, the caramel set to a great texture.

Then we ran low on salted caramel for some reason, and I was implored by my husband to make another batch. And so HE bought the evaporated milk and he came home with the standard 14oz can. Now, I know the Oprah comments say the 14oz is what they meant, and one commenter says she raised the temp and used 12oz, but honestly I really think 7oz probably works better. I did some internet searching on this and found out that it isn't always the temp that effects the texture, but the milk products, which I guess makes sense. So for batch 3 I used 7 oz of evaporated milk. I got the consistency I wanted, but sadly, batch 3 also burned a bit more.

I think though, that the problem with the burning is something I can control. You see every other carmel recipe I've found has two steps, 1) you get your sugar syrup up to close to temp, and 2) you add your warmed but not boiling milk products and get it up to temp. So batch 4, which is coming as soon as I can justify eating so much caramel, perhaps after the dental work I need is complete. And I'll be trying a two step method. Hopefully, I'll remember to report back.

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