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Travails of a Novice Caramel Maker

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Posted to Thread #8067 at 5:42 pm on Sep 27, 2007

Marilyn in FL: Travails of a Novice Caramel Maker
Posted: Dec 10, 2002 1:28 PM
Gailís Swap ( Post# 477768

Let me start right out by stating that I can be seduced by a recipe. If the ingredients are all available (yes...) and the methodology is simple (ohh, yes...) and the outcome promises a delightful combination of chocolate and nuts (Yes..Yes..YES!)...well, what's a good Catholic girl to do?

So I went home last night clutching the recipe for Michael's "Chocolate Macadamia Nut Caramels" (posting 48149). I'd never made candy before, but really, how difficult can they be? The Arabs invented caramels over a thousand years ago and that was <i>way</i> before

Reading the recipe, it seemed simple enough. I'd heard the phrase "soft-ball stage", but the conversation involved a bunch of guys drinking beers in a local bar. I should have made the connection. Since the instructions recommended a heavy pan, I opted to double the recipe and make it in my mutant-size Caphalon stockpot. Opening the pantry door, I dumped in practically every type of sugar stocked there and added three types of chocolate. Then I reverently added the virgin candy thermometer and waited for the magic to begin.

Two hours and 15 minutes later, I was still waiting for "soft-ball" stage, a phrase I now associate with Dante's Fifth Level of Hell. (The others being hard-ball, hard-crack, soft-tack, and Bad Hair Day). Plus, I was worried about...dare we say it??? Crystallization. To stir or not to stir. The instructions said to stir continuously, and so I stirred and I stirred, till my stirrer was tired. But I've read many a post stating how "a single sugar crystal can ruin an entire batch." Oh, the anguish of it all.

I left the caldron bubbling, bubbling, toiling and troubling away and went to the Internet in search of solace. There I found the answer to my problem in 12-point Helvetica: "Do not make candy in the rain. Too much humidity will keep the sugars from reaching the correct temperature."

Aha. A minor point. Who took meteorological factors into consideration when chocolate is involved? It was--and had been--raining for 24 hours in our small Florida town. I'm happy when it rains. I open the windows just to listen to the sound. It was good for the aqua filter; it was good for the wetlands; it was bad for caramels. Who knew?

So, I finally gave up on this incredibly delightful batch of bubbling chocolate and walked out of the room. Immediately, I thought about my extremely expensive stock pot and thought it would get ruined, so I went back in to shut if off. There, right before my eyes, the texture changed and I noticed the temperature was just 4 degrees short of "soft-ball!"

My enthusiasm returned and fear of scalding the entire batch moved into first place on my Panic-O-Meter. I stirred a few more times, sending Ethernet blessing to Pat in North CA for the silicon spatula. The second it reached temperature (2 hours and 45 minutes, for those who care) I added the roasted nuts and vanilla. I sent a hasty prayer to the Candy Goddess for Wayward Girls and poured it out into two pans. The texture looks caramel-y and the chocolate is glossy, appeasing my fear of graininess. Taste test tonight. The dentist may be getting his Christmas bonus early.

Jesus saves. Buddha recycles.

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