sticky, chewy caramels
March 26, 2011 § 12 Comments
Some of you guys might have forgotten (or not even know) that this blog is part of a project. The reason I bring it up now is because today’s post is inspired by one of my friends’ own senior inquiry: Can I learn how to make candy? As it turns out, a fair share of kids in my grade don’t know how to cook and have taken on the project of learning. I especially liked Leon’s proposal because he’s a very with-it kind of a guy and is always bringing delicious confections into school for us to taste test. That said, he’s also the one who inspired me to get over my apprehension towards making candies at home and the first confection I chose to tackle was the first one he brought into school: caramels.
The thing about me, in case you guys don’t know this already, is that I love to make things infinitely more difficult for myself by not purchasing all sorts of equipment that I sort of need. I like to justify my
lethargy life choices by reasoning that people have been baking, cooking, and making candy for hundreds of years, way before all these newfangled gadgets were even ideas. And I think, if they could do it with their hands, then so can I. So I trudge onward, usually unarmed, plowing my way through recipes.
I’m pretty sure you guys can predict that I made these caramels without a thermometer, and you guys would be absolutely correct! I know, I know, I should really use a candy thermometer when working with molten sugar, but can I be honest? I should also wear a helmet at all times when I ride my bike and read my math book before attempting homework, but I typically don’t do either of these things. Oh ho, I really live on the edge.
As it turns out, you can make caramels just fine without a candy thermometer if you’re familiar with the stages of sugar as it cooks. This handy dandy guide throws quite a few words at you about which stages correspond to which temperature ranges and which candy you’re making, but trust me, read it all because it’s really helpful. To paraphrase, you cook your caramel and test it occasionally by dropping it into a bowl of cold water and checking the hardness. When it forms a solid lump that’s the texture that you like (or just slightly softer), stop cooking it and pour it into your lined pan and let it sit.
So now that we’ve got that kitchen chemistry
that I actually find really interesting because I’m a dork out of the way, we can get onto the yummy stuff: actually making these! When Leon brought homemade caramels into school for the first time, people wept. They converted caramel-haters into caramel-lovers and caramel-lovers into willing servants of the Caramel God. There must be one. Well, maybe not exactly, but these things are really good. Seriously, go! Scoot to your kitchen, be a little careful not to burn yourself, and make yourself some of these!
Sticky, Chewy Caramels
an amalgamated adaptation of many recipes
1 cup heavy cream
5 tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
Line an 8 inch-by-8 inch baking pan with parchment that has been lightly buttered and set on a cooling rack.
Heat the cream, butter, and vanilla extract in a small saucepan until boiling. Doing this with a bowl in a microwave also works just fine. Remove from heat/microwave and set to the side.
In a medium/large saucepan with tall sides combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until all the sugar is dissolved. Keep cooking this syrup and swirl it occasionally, but don’t mix it! You run the risk of the crystals coming out of solution if you stir too much, or even at all. Do this until the syrup has taken on a light golden color. I describe it as ‘blonde’ for some reason.
Now stir in the cream mixture carefully. It’ll bubble up and splatter quite a bit, so use a long-handled spoon or wear oven mitts and long sleeves. That sugar is really hot and could actually burn you pretty badly. Keep stirring it and testing it with the cold water method mentioned above. When the caramel you drop into the bowl forms a chewy lump that yields to pressure, take the saucepan off the heat and pour everything into the lined baking pan. (Note: Resist the urge to scrap everything out of the saucepan. For some long-winded chemistry-related reasons, this does not bode well for your caramels, so don’t do it!)
Let the pan sit until the caramel has cooled completely and then cut them into pieces with a buttered knife and wrap in wax paper. Enjoy!