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Caramel Troubleshooting


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255 replies to this topic

#1 Elizabeth_11

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Posted 21 May 2003 - 01:23 PM

Hi all, just wondering if any of you happen to have a recipe for a thick, firm caramel. I am making turtle bars with a caramel layer and it needs to be firm enough to cut and stay neat, but not hard. Soft, but not gooey.. I have done a bunch of searches and have come up with tons and tons of recipes, but I'm not in the mood to try them all out right now :raz: If anyone already has something I am describing I'd love to hear about it! Thanks! :smile:
-Elizabeth

Mmmmmmm chocolate.


#2 Really Nice!

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Posted 21 May 2003 - 01:46 PM

This is a recipe my dad used for english toffee and turtles.

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a large saucepan add sugar, butter, water and salt. Cook about 10 minutes; stirring constantly to prevent burning. You want the mixture to start turning a light brown. When this happens remove mixture from heat, add vanilla and stir. Careful, it will bubble up.

Allow to cool to near room temperature for it to thicken up.
Drink!
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#3 KatieLoeb

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Posted 21 May 2003 - 01:57 PM

I'll probably get laughed out of here, but the Kraft caramels melt in a pyrex container very effectively in the microwave...

I used to do this and make a layer of caramel at the bottom of a cheesecake. Deadly and delicious and most importantly - easy!

Katie M. Loeb
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#4 Steve Klc

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Posted 21 May 2003 - 02:07 PM

Katie--I'm not laughing, I applaud your creativity, inventiveness and problem-solving. You're a smart cookie and might have the makings of a good pastry chef if you ever decide to switch from the front to the back. Once there, though, you would have to make this from scratch.
Steve Klc

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#5 KatieLoeb

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Posted 21 May 2003 - 09:18 PM

Katie--I'm not laughing, I applaud your creativity, inventiveness and problem-solving. You're a smart cookie and might have the makings of a good pastry chef if you ever decide to switch from the front to the back.  Once there, though, you would have to make this from scratch.

Steve:

Thanks for the kudos, but I honestly can't take credit for this sneaky little trick. At my very first restaurant job ever (a good decade or so ago, and I TOTALLY weaseled this job as a manager/server with virtually no experience) the owner of the restaurant's girlfriend was our pastry chef. She's the one that taught me the Kraft caramels trick and I must say, it's come in handy over the years. Just nuking some caramels and pouring them over the bottom crust of a basic or flavored cheesecake recipe made for a delightful surprise when you put your fork through it. This was before Dulce de Leche was a "fashionable" flavor (and always was and will be, one of my favorites) so the unexpected layer of oozing caramel was a real delight.

I probably don't have the "function under pressure" personality for back of the house, as much as I love to cook. Heck - I'm more of a "back-of-the-front-of-the-house" type girl since my skills lie in adminstration, POS programming, accounting, cost control, etc. I'm sort of over the late nights and babysitting waitstaff portion of my career. I prefer a more-or-less day job in the office!

Katie M. Loeb
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Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
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#6 Michael Laiskonis

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Posted 21 May 2003 - 09:45 PM

Elizabeth, I'm not sure exactly how you wish to incorporate the caramel, but I'll offer you a nice version that I use, for everything from a layer in entremets to dipped or enrobed in chocolate as a petit four. The quantity is indeed large. I pour it into caramel rulers, set onto a full sheet pan sized silpat, but the recipe can easily be broken down by half or in thirds, if you like. The addition of the cocoa butter, in the form of milk chocolate, adds just enough structure; the recipes that call for cooking sugar and cream or milk to a certain temperature can be fickle. If coating in chocolate, I'll let it set for a day or so at room temperature (I treat it just like an enrobed ganache. Allow it to set or crystallize, apply a 'foot' or coating of chocolate for the bottom, cut, allow it to form a bit of a 'crust', then dip); if I'm using it as a layer in an entremet or individual dessert, I'll chill or freeze either as a sheet or in appropriate forms- but once it is chilled or frozen, the moisture from condensation alone will give it a softer texture once thawed. I prefer it made with salted cashews or peanuts, but any roasted nuts will suffice, though I might add a bit of salt if the nuts are unsalted...


Cashew Caramel

YIELD: approx. 3.3#/1500g


300g granulated sugar
125g glucose
375g heavy cream, warm
200g milk couverture, chopped
600g roasted, salted cashews, chopped



1. Combine sugar and glucose in a heavy, non-reactive sauce pan and cook to a medium-dark caramel.
2. Remove from heat and deglaze with a portion of the warm cream. Add remaining cream and cook until caramelized sugar has dissolved and mixture is homogeneous. Final amount of caramel should measure approximately 675g.
3. Combine chocolate and cashews in a large bowl. Pour the hot caramel into the bowl, stirring to combine completely, ensuring all chocolate is melted and thoroughly incorporated.
4. Pour into silpat-lined frame or other form and allow to set at room temperature or under refrigeration.
Michael Laiskonis
Pastry Chef
New York
www.michael-laiskonis.com

#7 Marlene

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Posted 22 May 2003 - 05:20 AM

These recipes have been added to the archive

Caramel Sauce by Really Nice!

Cashew Caramel by Michael
Marlene
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Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

#8 Ladybug

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Posted 23 May 2003 - 07:51 PM

1. Combine sugar and glucose in a heavy, non-reactive sauce pan and cook to a medium-dark caramel.

Michael, I'd love to try this recipe - but what temperature does one cook to for a "medium-dark caramel?" I'm not very experienced with that. I have made caramel before and I've made innumerable batches of Rose Levy Beranbaum's Mahogany Buttercrunch Toffee, so I'm not completely and utterly inexperienced. Basically, I'm just a home cook with illusions of grandeur. :biggrin:

#9 Michael Laiskonis

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Posted 23 May 2003 - 09:44 PM

Ladybug, the sugar and glucose are cooked to a caramel that I judge simply by sight. I push the color for maximum flavor, but too dark, and you'll risk a touch of bitterness. Sugar will caramelize between 310-320ºF, so if I had to guess, perhaps 330º or so.

Just remember that it makes a lot. If you are not pouring onto a silpat, I think a greased/sprayed pan will work out fine. Ambient temperature and humidity may affect how long it will take to set up...
Michael Laiskonis
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New York
www.michael-laiskonis.com

#10 Ladybug

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Posted 24 May 2003 - 04:19 PM

Thank you, Michael! I do have Silpats, so I'll definitely use those.

#11 Elizabeth_11

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Posted 24 May 2003 - 10:55 PM

Thank you so much everyone! Ahhh, egullet...what would I do without you guys? :wub: :biggrin:
-Elizabeth

Mmmmmmm chocolate.


#12 Ladybug

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Posted 03 June 2003 - 08:38 PM

I made Michael's Cashew Caramel recipe yesterday and I just wanted to post that it was delicious! I didn't have any trouble making it at all. It seemed like just the sort of thing to put on top of a cheesecake, but we ate it straight. I had plans of doing something with it, but the kids and my husband ate so much of it that there wasn't any point in doing anything with the scrapings left over.

#13 Java-Joe

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Posted 03 May 2004 - 06:37 PM

Hi,
I know that my topic isn't baking or pastry, so if you redirect me elswhere, I won't be offended.
I've made caramel at home 5 times in the last 3 weeks. I'm having fun. I found some recipes from the Food Network archives. I've tried 3 different recipes, and one has worked perfectly 2 times. Last night, I made a double batch using the good recipe. The cooking process went perfectly. I let it sit overnight as directed. Upon removing it from the pan this evening, I could see that it was too soft. I tried to cut it once it was out of the pan, but it quickly lost it's structure.
Upon someone's recommendation, I plopped it all back in a pot on medium-low heat until it melted again, and boiled it for a while. I did manage to get it back to 248 degrees. I figured all I can hope for is to cook some moisture out of the caramel.
Well, it IS darker now that it was originally. Go figure.
My questions are: Do you have any ideas at to what caused it not to be firm?
Any predictions on how my caramel will set up and taste like when I start cutting it tomorrow? Too bad you couldn't taste my last batch! Killer stuff!
Joe
You gonna eat that?

#14 kthull

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Posted 03 May 2004 - 07:22 PM

Just an educated guess here, but I'd suspect it was a combo of the doubled recipe, the size of your pan and the heat source. If you made the double batch in the same size pan as your successful single, then you have a thicker layer of caramel and it will take longer to cook away some of that moisture. If you have a pan that's wide enough to yield the same thickness of caramel as you're cooking, it's possible that all of your pan is not directly over your heat source, yielding uneven cooking and less efficient evaporation.

#15 JanKK

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Posted 03 May 2004 - 07:32 PM

Hi, Joe,

You didn't mention how you checked for the doneness of your caramel. Candy thermometer readings, at least in my experience, are not always consistent and can vary with room temp, pressure, etc, etc, etc. When I do caramel, I usually use a thermometer AND always check with the 'cold water' test (ie: soft ball, hard ball, etc). Not very technologically advanced, but I get better and more consistent results.

Doubling the batch may be the problem too ---I can't explain why, but I seem to recall when I learned to make caramels that I was told always to make one batch at a time.

--Jan

#16 Java-Joe

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Posted 03 May 2004 - 07:40 PM

Hi Kevin,
Thanks for your quick, and insightful response. I took a minute to check out your linked website. It's very good! You did a great job with your son's Communion cake!

Your response may very well be correct. You surely have the experience to come to the conclusion that you did. Unless Santa get's me a copper Caramel Pot, I'll continue to use the wife's pressure cooker pot. It's a Fagor brand pot with vitro-induction, (and super-hydro warp drive with semi-conductors). Just kidding about that part! It's a very sturdy and heavy pot. Oh, and I have a gas stove.

I made all 5 batches in that pot. After I added the butter and cream, when I have to get the caramel back up to 248 degrees; perhaps I need to boil it a little slower and longer as well as look for a thicker consistency. I can't see going to a wider pot. What do you think? Just let it reduce more?
You gonna eat that?

#17 Java-Joe

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Posted 03 May 2004 - 08:01 PM

Jan,
Sorry I missed your comments the first time around. I took forever to respond to Kevin.
Yes, I'm just using a $2.50 candy thermometer. My wife was helping me with the first 2 batches and did some cold water test. Is there a "proper" way of conducting that test. I'm the type that has to do everything just right, proper and correct. Just trying to learn to do it right, ya know!
By the looks of the caramel left in the pot from re-heating it, it ain't gonna be good! We'll see. Fortunately, it's a cheap candy to make.
Joe
You gonna eat that?

#18 kthull

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Posted 03 May 2004 - 09:22 PM

Joe, thanks for the kind words. I just did my niece's Communion cake this past weekend and will be adding those pics soon. Just don't know how I'll top hers next year when it's time for my daughter's cake. :blink:

In addition to cooking the larger batches longer and at a lowe temperature, you might also try reducing the amount of liquid just a bit, unless you're making a dry caramel. If that's the case, you don't have much choice.

As for the cold water test, Steve Klc has a great description on a post about the testing for soft ball stage in a discussion about Italian Meringue:

The fun part, which I've left out, is that you don't need to use a thermometer for this--and could simply stick your fingers into the cooking sugar, grab a pinch of the sugar, and then plunge your fingers into a bowl of ice water very quickly to see how the sugar congeals--it will solidify into a...soft little ball...at just the right temperature and can be rolled to a firm ball and then dropped onto the countertop.  These stages--and observable, physical changes--were actually discovered way before thermometers were invented and was how cooks and confectioners "measured" sugar cooking.  If you are a chicken you could dip a spoon into the cooking sugar and then that spoon into the ice water.

This is one of those key procedures that students always appreciate seeing up close.

I just can't bring myself to doing it...I would fall into the chicken category. I like my nerve endings!

#19 JanKK

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Posted 03 May 2004 - 09:32 PM

You could have a $30 candy thermometer and still have the same problem. I must have 5 or 6 different thermometers and none of'em work's worth a damn ;)

Well, not being a professional, I don't know if there's a truly "proper" way to do the cold water test. Just have a cup of cold water handy. When the caramel gets in the correct temperature range and the color looks right, start testing by dropping a bit of carmel into the cold water --the take it out and try to roll it into a little ball. The more you do it, the better you get at it.

And cooking time does make a differnce too .......the recipe I use takes about 45 minutes to cook. Just for comparison ....here's the recipe I've used successfully for many years :)

Caramels

2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup light corn syrup
2 cups whipping cream

Butter a 9x9 pan and set aside. Place sugar, butter, corn syrup, and 1 cup whipping cream in a 3 quart pan and bring to a rolling boil over medium high heat. Slowly add the second cup of whipping cream in a slow trickle so the boiling does not stop. Stir continually. When all the cream is added place the thermometer in the pan. As the temperature increases, reduce the heat. Stir occasionally, but don't scrape sides of pan. Cook to 246 degrees for a firm caramel., cook 2 degrees less for a softer caramel. Pour the caramel into the buttered pan.
(But like I said ---usually don't pay too much attention to the temperature, except as a ballpark --cook to somewhere between soft-ball and hard ball stage, depending on how firm you like your caramels)

(Just read Kevin's post --we must've been writing at the same time ;) I fall into the chicken category too. But, um.......in real life I'm a nurse (ok ..so I lied....I am a professional ..just not a professional PC)...and I can almost guarantee that sticking your fingers is boiling sugar syrup is NOT good for you ;)

Edited by JanKK, 03 May 2004 - 09:36 PM.


#20 aidensnd

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Posted 04 May 2004 - 01:24 AM

If you are going to stick your fingers into the sugar you need to soak them in cold water first or they will burn. That's how I test my sugar and although it is scary the first few times it works pretty good.

#21 Marco_Polo

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Posted 04 May 2004 - 02:12 AM

Hi Java-Joe,

Here's a description for an incredibly simple but delicious caramel candy, torrone croccante, made with equal amounts of sugar, coarsely chopped almonds, a little lemon rind, a pinch of cinnamon, nothing else (except patience and elbow effort). It's absolutely sensational and would seem to be foolproof. On the other hand, it might have been Paola's stout little paiolo di rame (copper pot)...

Marc

#22 Samaki

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Posted 04 May 2004 - 11:16 AM

Hi Joe, I agree with Kevin. I've run into this trouble too when doubling caramel recipes. My solution has been to cook the caramel a bit longer - about 152 seems to do it for me.

Good luck with your candy-making.

I don't understand everyone's problems with thermometers. I use the el-cheapo ones and have never had any trouble. Go figure.

#23 Bond Girl

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Posted 04 May 2004 - 11:47 AM

Along the discussion of this thread, does anyone here know how to make flavored caramel like say chocolate caramel or rum caramel?
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#24 Tarek

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Posted 04 May 2004 - 01:04 PM

Please excuse my ignorance here, I was just trying to follow Jankk's recipe,
could you please tell me what to do after pouring the hot caramel into
the buttered pan, is that it? or is there more cooking involved.
Thanx in advance

Tarek Mokhtar
Laguna Beach, CA

#25 Java-Joe

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Posted 04 May 2004 - 03:13 PM

Tarek,
That's the hardest part of making caramel. Leave it alone. Once I turn the fire off, I let it sit for 3 minutes or so. That's what the recipe said to do. I see it as letting some of the bubbles pop and let the whole mess settle down.
Once its in the pan, I put the pan in the oven, but leave the door ajar. That way it's on a flat surface and out of the way.
I moved my first batch while it was cooling and it got wrinkles on the surface. Not pretty.
Joe
You gonna eat that?

#26 JanKK

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Posted 04 May 2004 - 07:23 PM

Hi, Tarek,

Nope ..nothing more. Just let it sit out and cool and firm up. Once it's completely set up (will take at least a few hours-I usually wait until the next day), cut into squares and wrap each in a square of waxed paper. (You can buy pre-cut squares of waxed paper just for this purpose - or make your own). I usually take the whole thing out of the pan and then cut it into squares.

Hope that helps! If you make them, let me know how they turn out :)

--Jan

#27 Java-Joe

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Posted 04 May 2004 - 09:18 PM

Two things.......

One....JanKK, where can I buy the pre cut wax paper. That's cool.

Two.....what do you called twice boiled, a little burned, a little chewy, a little hard, a little brittle caramel? TOFFEE??
Whatever you call it.......that's what I've got. The wife said she could run it through the food processor and put it over ice cream. Anyway, I'm working on it right now. It's still good, just not carame. If it were thin as paper, it would really be good. So what have I got?
Joe
You gonna eat that?

#28 JanKK

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Posted 05 May 2004 - 08:05 PM

Joe .....I buy mine at Maid of Scandanavia (also known as Sweet Celebrations). There store is in Minnesota, but they also have a mail order catalog. They do have a website also -- I don't believe they have true online ordering, but you can call or email for stuff.

Sweet Celebrations

--Jan

#29 Java-Joe

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Posted 06 May 2004 - 07:30 PM

Hi,
Two things....real quick.
First, I want to thank those of you that responded to my questions. I appreciate it.

Secondly, what if I want to make just caramel SAUCE? Ya know, like they offer in coffeehouses to go in your latte or some froo froo drink. Can I use my same great recipe and cook it for a shorter period of time (or to a lower temperature)?

You can see I'm trying to look at this logically, but I'll probably miss something.
I made another batch of caramel last night. Ya'll should all give me your addresses and I'll send you all some. Oh sure...if you're reading this, you can likely make your own, eh? Don't forget my question.....how do I properly make sauce?
Thanks!
Bob
You gonna eat that?

#30 kthull

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Posted 06 May 2004 - 08:09 PM

Hard to say without seeing your recipe. But a sauce is generally just the caramelized sugar, enough cream to get the right thickness and then any flavor additives (butter, alcohol, etc.) but no extra cooking beyond the caramelization aside from stirring over low heat after adding the cream to melt down what siezes up when you add the cream.

Edited by kthull, 06 May 2004 - 08:10 PM.