Thursday, 8 August 2013

Chewy Caramel

I promised in my post about the homemade chocolate box that I'd give you all the recipe for chewy caramels, and here she is!

(Sorry for crap picture: did it in a hurry)

These are a little trickier than the fudge and coconut ice recipes that I've uploaded as it's a little more fiddly. However, it's not very complicated: it just needs to have an eye kept on it a lot of the time. This recipe I arrived at via many a ruined batch so you don't have to!

The chewiness of these caramels can be altered by what temperature you let the final mixture cook to (if you aren't familiar with cooking sugar and the different sugar boiling stages, check out the Exploratorium's explanation of sugar cooking):
  • 115 to 118°C (240 to 245°F) for soft caramels
  • 119 to 124°C (245 to 255°F) for firm caramels (which is the temperature used for the pictured caramels)
  • 125 to 130°C (255 to 265°F) for quite hard caramels
  • 131 to 135°C (265 to 275°F) for tooth-breaking caramels that need an angle grinder to eat 

Keep this in mind for when you're making them and choose which kind of caramel you want before cooking: it's impossible to uncook the mixture if you go too far.

INGREDIMENTS
This is a large quantity that will make about 1¼ pounds (570 grammes) of caramels, but I've found it can be easily halved or even quartered. Just be really careful when making small batches because it can burn or crystallise easily.
  • 4 fluid ounces (115 millilitres) cream
  • 4 fluid ounces (115 millilitres) milk
  • 2 ounces (55 grammes) butter
  • 14 ounces (400 grammes) caster sugar
  • 2 ounces (55 grammes) dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 fluid ounces (60 milliltres) water

HOW-TO
  • Prepare an 8 inch (20 centimeter) square tin by either greasing it lightly or lining it with non-stick baking paper. You could also use a silicone baking tin, which needs no greasing or lining.
  • Put the cream, milk and butter into a jug and heat gently in the microwave until the butter melts; set aside.
  • Heat the water in a heavy based saucepan on medium-low heat until steaming and then pour the sugar into a pile in the middle of the pan. Using gentle circular motions, stir the sugar into the water without touching the sides of the pan. This prevents the syrup from crystallising later.
  • Keeping the syrup on a gentle heat, mix until the sugar has dissolved into the water and you are left with a transparent brown solution. Using a wet pastry brush to wash away any sugar crystals that have formed on the sides of the pan.
  • Once all trace of any grittiness and crystaliness is gone, turn the heat up to medium-high. Allow the mixture to boil and once boiling clip a sugar thermometer onto the pan and don't stirAs tempting as it may be, just don't do it.
  • Cook the mixture to 150°C (300°F). This isn't the temperature that defines the softness/hardness of your caramels, that comes later. However, cooking the syrup to this stage is important for the caramels to set.
  • Take off the heat once the temperature is reached and pour in the warm cream and milk mixture. It will bubble up violently and release a lot of steam so take care! Gently stir in the cream mixture and return to the heat.
  • Continue to cook without stirring to your desired temperature.
  • Fill your sink or wash basin with about 2 inches (5 centimetres) of cold water. This seems batty, but all will be made clear.
  • Once the temperature has been reached, take your pan off the heat and dip the bottom in the water to stop cooking immediately. Pour the caramel into your prepared tin without scraping the sides. This is vitally important to prevent your caramels from going all grainy and horrible. Some caramel will be regretably wasted in the process, but you can eat that out of the pan later with a spoon.
  • Pour into your prepared tin and allow to cool at room temperature overnight.

Do not even think of setting it in the fridge: you can store it in the fridge once set, but setting the fudge in the fridge will cause crystallisation. Store in an air tight container to avoid it catching any unwanted odours or flavours.

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