08 December 2013

Caramels - the best!

My caramels are with walnuts and the picture is quite crappy. But the taste is heaven!

It has taken my YEARS to come up with a way to make the perfect caramel. I have tried more recipes than I can remember and only one year they came out perfect. The next  year I tried the same recipe and they turned out horrible. They tasted the same but the texture was all wrong. Almost as chewing on sand.

This year though, I finally found the perfect recipe and the texture was perfect as well.  Just because I know understand a  little about sugar, science or physics or what happens to the sugar when it is heated. I'll come back to that later.
If you want to successes I recommend you to read the problem solver as well.

To make a batch of those fantastic melt-in-the-mouth caramels you need the following ingredients:

1 cup of melted butter
1 cup of  light corn syrup ( I used ordinary light syrup)
2 1/4 cup of brown sugar
1 can of sweet condensed milk, about  400 ml
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract.

Put everything, except for the vanilla extract into a heavy saucepan. Medium heat. Stir constantly.  Do not stir so it splashes around on the walls of the saucepan. Slowly controlled moves only. 
The best thing is to use a candy thermometer. The temperature of the caramel mass has to come up to 116 degrees.. That takes a while. It will stand still on around 100 degrees for a while before it slowly creeps up to 116. (See the problem solver beneath if you want softer or harder caramels)

Science bit:
While it boils and you are stirring take a paper and wipe off any sugar or water that has formed on the walls of the saucepan, due to the boiling and the steam. You do NOT want any of that falling into your caramel mass or the whole thing will crystallize and you will ruin the texture of the caramel.

When the caramel mass is around the 116 degrees. Remove the saucepan from the oven and put it into the sink which is filled with cold water. This is to prevent the temperature from rising even higher.  Add the teaspoon of vanilla extract and stir.

If you want to have any additional flavor to the caramel, like salty peanuts, walnuts etc. Now is the time to add them.

Pour the caramel into a greased pan. It is quite decorative and gives a good taste to sprinkle some sea salt over the caramels. Let it cool on the table. Then put it into the fridge when it is cooled off. When cutting it, use a knife that has been heated under warm water.

After it has been cut you can dip them in chocolate, decorate them or just eat them. Lots of them. Because they are soooo good!

Problem solver:

Burnt taste
- Have you stirred all the time? Just a minutes pause from stirring can burn the caramel.
-Have you used a heavy saucepan? A saucepan with a thin bottom will tend to burn the caramel faster.

The caramel is too hard or not solid
-The higher the temperature of the caramel mass, the harder the caramel gets when it is cooled.
-Around 112 degrees you get a soft caramel.
-If the caramel mass is running it has not reached a high enough temperature.
-Be sure that your candy thermometer is calibrated and shows the right temperature.
-If you do not have a candy thermometer, drip some of the boiling caramel mass into a glass of cold water. If   it forms small pearls that you can form between your fingers it is the right texture. If it just dissolves into the     water you have to cook it longer.

The caramel has a sandy texture
The sugar has crystallized. I am not a wizard on this but as I have read throughout the internet there are things to prevent it from happening:

-One suggestion is not to stir the mass when it's boiling. That can not be used for this receipt because the        whole thing will burn.
-Wiping the sides of the saucepan to remove sugar that has crystallized and prevent it from falling into the    pan.
-Adding corn syrup to your caramel will prevent it from crystallizing.
-Adding a drop of lemon to the caramel should also prevent crystallization


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