Brown sugar caramels

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I wondered if using dark brown sugar would change caramel-making. Well, the making is the same. The results were slightly different but positive.

Here’s how to go about it:

Brown sugar caramels
1½ cups heavy cream
¼ cup unsalted butter
Pinch of salt
1 cup dark brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup light corn syrup or golden syrup
¼ cup water
1½ teaspoons vanilla
Sea salt to top, if desired

Lightly oil or spray an 8×8-inch square pan and line with parchment paper (the baking spray helps keep the parchment in place). Set aside.

Heat the cream, butter and salt in a small saucepan and heat together over medium-low heat until cream steams and butter is melted. (Or do the same in a microwave-safe bowl in the microwave on high in 30-second intervals until cream is hot and steamy and the butter is melted, stirring or swirling gently between microwave intervals.) Set aside.

In a large heavy-bottomed pot add the sugars, syrup and water. Whisk until thick and grainy. Clip your candy thermometer to the side of the pot, making sure the tip is submerged but not touching the bottom of the pot.

Turn the heat to medium. Without stirring, heat to 260 degrees F. Remove from heat, then slowly whisk in the cream mixture. Mixture will boil up so do this carefully.

Return to heat and, again without stirring, heat to 250 degrees. Turn off heat, quickly but gently whisk in the vanilla, and carefully pour into the prepared pan. Do not scrape the bottom of the pot, as this will have burned sugar that you do not want in your caramels.

Top caramels lightly with coarse sea salt, if desired. Allow to cool completely, at least 2-3 hours or, preferably, overnight. Cut into squares or rectangles and wrap each piece in waxed paper.

Caramels

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Caramels are not at all difficult to make. Candy-making in general is an exercise in patience. Most of the time, it’s a matter of mixing up very basic ingredients but then just standing there staring at a pile of sugar go through all kinds of chemical reactions to become something else and then something else again. But to achieve the desired results, the temperature is all the matters. So you have to just stare at the candy thermometer. And stare. And stare … and stare some more.

Here we go… I doubled this recipe.

Caramel
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter
1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy cream or heavy whipping cream
3 tablespoons water
1/4 cup (60 ml) light corn syrup (I used golden syrup)
1 cup (200 grams) sugar

Chocolate (if you make chocolate-covered caramels)
1 pound high-quality chocolate, milk, dark, or white
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon course or flaked sea salt (to sprinkle on the caramel and/or chocolate if you decide to make salted caramels)

Lightly oil a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan then measure and cut a piece of parchment paper that will fit inside the pan and come up the sides. Lightly oil the parchment paper and place into the pan. Set the pan aside.

Cut butter into 8 pieces then combine with heavy cream in a small saucepan (if melting on the stove) or microwave-safe bowl (if melting in the microwave). On stove, heat on medium-low until cream is steaming and butter is melted. In the microwave heat for 1 to 2 minutes until hot and butter has melted. Set aside.

In another small saucepan combine the water and syrup. Then, add the sugar. Gently stir the sugar into the water and corn syrup, just moistening the sugar.

Heat over medium until the sugar has come to a boil. Then, cover with a lid for 1 minute. This adds steam/moisture to the pan, so any sugar that may have stuck to the sides of the pan melts and falls back into the boiling sugar.

Remove lid and attach a candy thermometer to the side of the saucepan. Then, cook sugar for 5 to 10 minutes, until the sugar reaches a temperature of 320 degrees F. At this temperature, the sugar will take on a light amber color.

As soon as the temperature reaches 320 degrees F, remove from heat and carefully pour the butter and cream mixture without scraping the bottom of the pan. The sugar will bubble violently as you add the butter and cream – so do this carefully and slowly to prevent the mixture from bubbling over the sides of the saucepan.

Return to heat (medium) and continue cooking for another 5 to 10 minutes, until the caramel reaches a temperature of 240 degrees F/soft ball stage. This creates a very soft caramel. When I made this I cooked to firm ball stage (245-250F) but it was still quite soft.

The moment the caramel reaches your desired temperature, pour into the prepared loaf pan. Cool 20 to 30 minutes then, if salting, scatter the salt over the caramel. Then, let the caramel cool for at least 3 1/2 hours.

After cooling, unmold the caramel. If the caramel is too soft to work with, place into the refrigerator 30 to 45 minutes to firm up. Use a large sharp knife to cut into desired shape. I made small rectangles. You can then wrap these caramels in wax paper if you are not coating them in chocolate.

For chocolate coating, line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Melt chocolate and butter in microwave or on stovetop until smooth and shiny.

Use two forks to dip each caramel into the melted chocolate then place onto parchment paper. If desired, sprinkle a little salt on top of each caramel and allow chocolate to set.

attempt at vegan caramels

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I knew I would be making regular caramels, hit as I have been with this urge to make candy (rather than bake). But again, this experimental bent made me decide to make vegan caramels as well.

First of all, I needed to get a new candy thermometer. I lost mine somewhere in my many moves. I bought two. One is vastly superior to the other, I have now learned.

Vegan caramels use coconut milk instead of cream. They were also made in an entirely different way from regular caramels (which are generally made all in one pan).

Things came together rather the way I would expect.

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Here we go…

Vegan caramels
2 or so tablespoons of melted coconut oil, melted, plus more for cutting caramels
1 (16 ounce) can (about 2 cups) coconut milk
3⁄4 cup golden syrup or light corn syrup (I used golden syrup)
1 tsp. coarse sea salt
1 3⁄4 cups sugar
3⁄4 cup water

Line the bottom and sides of an 8″x8″ square baking dish with parchment and brush with coconut oil; set aside.

Combine the coconut milk, syrup and sea salt in a 4-quart (2L) saucepan. Heat over medium low, stirring constantly for 3 to 5 minutes until mixture is warm and any coconut milk clumps are dissolved. Remove from heat and set aside.

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In a large saucepan, combine the sugar and the water and stir until sugar is wet. On medium-high heat, let cook without stirring until the sugar is light amber in color and a candy thermometer reads 310°F/155°C. Immediately remove from heat and pour melted sugar into the coconut milk mixture. Do this with care: the mixture will bubble and splash rather violently.

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Return saucepan to medium-low heat, stirring continuously until all the caramel is dissolved. Raise the heat to medium high, stir continuously, and cook until caramel becomes quite thick and a candy thermometer reads 240°F.

Immediately remove from heat and pour into the prepared pan.

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Let cool completely and cut into 1″ squares. Brush your knife with melted coconut oil between cutting to avoid sticking. Wrap individually in wax paper squares. Store at room temperature.

Verdict…

Well, I think this needed to be cooked a bit longer (beyond the 240F mark). I tasted it, and it tastes quite the way you’d expect – like caramel but not quite (i.e., it’s still made from coconut milk not butter and cream). But it was just too ‘runny’ in trying to cut it up, making it stringy and impossible to cut or wrap in pieces. It was just shy of being where it needed to be in terms of its solidity and texture, so this is kind of a sad and unsuccessful attempt, even if I can see that it would work if left to cook a little bit longer… better luck next time.

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