caramel recipe

101 in 1001 {II}: 038 cook with 12 ingredients I’ve never used before [ongoing]

08: cream of tartar. though i've been baking bread once every week or two for the past six months, i still graze the sides of the oven all the time (which is super-awkward when the burn forms a line on my arm and i then share a pole with someone on the subway. i need a lapel button: NOT A CUTTER.). though i've chopped veggies almost every night since time began, the dark and primitive chili gods still want bits of my fingers. kitchen safety is complicated, is my point, so candymaking terrifies me: why invite all of that volatile molten sugar into your life when good-looking people in brooklyn will sell you the finished product for $20?* ah, yes: the $20 part.

on friday night we saw half of a good eats episode ("the ballad of salty and sweet") in which alton brown scorches a ruby red grapefruit with a miniature torch (need to try that), makes praline bacon (missed that part, and can't say that i mind), and makes dark salty caramels. the ingredient list for the caramels was both manageable and intriguing (soy sauce, you say?), the process looked simple, and preparing the pan involved some exciting work with parchment paper. i bought a cheap candy thermometer and some cream of tartar on saturday afternoon.

dark salted caramel

truth be told, i'm not entirely sure what happened. i followed the recipe to the letter, or so i thought, and ended up with a pan of tastiness that has less structural integrity than heidi montag. at the length caramel will out, and it poured past my little parchment paper sleeves before i had a chance to talk it into solidifying. after two days in the refrigerator, this is as calm as it gets; i tried to take a picture of it near the living room window to get that lovely color, but just a few moments of sunlight were lethal.** i'll certainly give the recipe another try, as that flavor profile really is amazing; with a bit of practice, i think i'll be able to make something one could eat in mixed company. (we're eating the first batch gracelessly and furtively, you see. it's really tasty.)

*which is not to say nunu's hand dipped salt caramels aren't worth every penny. they are, is the problem.

**vampire caramel? non-stephenie-meyer-vampire caramel, i mean. it doesn't sparkle.


Amanda said...

Soy sauce, you say? I'm intrigued.

I'm no candy veteran (the Marshmallow Battle of '08 left me ensconced in sugar goo for several hours), but having concocted approximately five and a half batches of caramel two Christmases ago, my guess is that the caramel didn't get quite hot enough. As I recall, you want it in between "soft ball" and "hard ball" for a malleable consistency. Cooler, and you get (as a former boyfriend's Mennonite parents called it) "dope"--good for drizzling onto ice cream and eating with a spoon. Warmer, and you've got some rockin' homemade Werther's originals. The Kitchn has a good beginner's guide to candy-making that you might want to check out. You might also start with an easier salted caramel recipe: sugar, corn syrup, cream, and salt. A trick: When you think it's ready, drop a bit into cold water. It will immediately turn into the consistency the molten batch will be when cooled. Also, wear shoes.

As for the Cream of Tartar? It is a component of truly excellent children's playdough.

Rachel (heart of light) said...

Yep, agree with Amanda.

The hotter you let sugar get, the harder it sets up when it cools. When we use sugar to glue together gingerbread houses, we let it boil away until it is hot as hell. Result - glue that literally cannot be destroyed. You have to break the gingerbread apart to eat it, because there is no way to undo those glued seams.

A candy thermometer is key. Sugar is fascinating, scientifically.

Cream of tartar is an excellent addition to royal icing, if you ever need to make it. And a pinch in meringue can be helpful as well.