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Caramel Troubleshooting


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#31 akwa

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Posted 18 November 2004 - 03:42 PM

no experience in this domain
would love advice re foolproof recipe as base for elaborations
also re storage temperature and packaging
any good sources
thanks for help as always

#32 tan319

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Posted 18 November 2004 - 09:41 PM

Chef,
i'm not sure what kind of caramels you're talking about.
Can you elaborate?
Thanks.
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#33 akwa

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Posted 20 November 2004 - 11:26 AM

old school straight up toffee cooked sugar cream butter
chewy and wrapped to send home

#34 WolfChef

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Posted 20 November 2004 - 03:30 PM

I make mine from memory, passed down from an aunt. Just made a double batch so i could send some to my son who's in Marine Corps boot camp (San Diego). He said he's allowed to receive a small package of treats for Thanksgiving and one for X-mas. Boy they have gotten easy in the Corps the only thing we were allowed were letters. Anyways here it is.

Fern's caramels

2 cups of corn syrup
2 cups of sugar
1/2 stick of unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups heavy cream

Mix the corn syrup and sugar in a large heavy bottomed pan. Heat this starting on low till it's a liquid and clear then raise heat to med-high and cook until 305 degrees farenheit on a candy therm. Lower heat to med or slightly lower. Now add 1/2 stick of unsalted butter and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. A half stick of reg butter will do in a pinch. Since i always make double batches, i can then use a whole stick of unsalted at a time. When butter has melted add 2 cups of scalded heavy cream or whipping cream. It foams or frothes up at least double sometimes more so make sure you start with a pot that is heavy bottomed and at least three times the volume of the ingredients, in this case a little over 6 cups. Stir this occasionally until therm reads 248 degrees f. Remove immediatly from heat and let sit for 3 to 5 minutes so bubbles leave the caramel. Now pour into a greased baking pan 8x8 or 9x9 or cookie sheet with sides if you want the caramels thinner and let cool. Remove sheet of caramel from baking pan and cut into desired size and wrap in wax paper squares. This recipe will make about 70 to 80 bite sized caramels and will last less than a day.

If you like caramels that are softer and chewier cooking to slightly less than 248 will be what you want, if you like em hard then try 250 degrees f. Be warned though making candy is a dodgy business and 1 or 2 degrees can and will make a huge difference. I remove my pan from the heat at 247 degrees f and place it immediatly on top of the our granite countertop, but a upside down cast iron pan is what i used to use. This helps to stop the cooking and pull residual heat out of the bottom of the pan. If you like more of a caramel flavor in your caramels then heat the sugar mixture to a bit more than 305 deg f, my last batch was 310 deg f and you could really taste the difference.

Fern(my aunt) would make 2 or 3 double batches of these for us guys at deer hunting camp and never measured. Except for the cream which she bought in pint cartons and it came premeasured. She also didn't use a candy therm, but let drops of the candy fall into cold water then tested the consistency with her fingers. I brought a candy themometer to deer camp about 10 years ago and measured the temps and over the years i've adj the recipe to what us and the kids like best.
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#35 artisanbaker

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Posted 20 November 2004 - 11:35 PM

good recipe in alain ducasse grande livre

#36 artisanbaker

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Posted 22 November 2004 - 08:00 AM

http://forums.egulle...topic=53869&hl=

#37 slbunge

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Posted 22 November 2004 - 08:34 AM

I had a go at some fleur de sel caramels a couple of weekends ago from a recipe in a recent Gourmet magazine (here). I'm of the opinion that using fleur de sel is overkill: in my opnion, the nice briny taste of the is gone the instant it hits the cream and butter. That said, the recipe seems to have the level of salt spot on (it is nearly double what I had seen in other recipes). The extra salt helps the flavor seem more well rounded and rich.

I cooked the caramel so that it was a bit too warm and they were slightly harder than I wanted. We still happily ate or gave away every last one. I'd shoot for the 248 as AgaCooker suggests (I ended up a bit on the strong side of 250 degF).
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#38 Samaki

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Posted 12 January 2005 - 12:27 PM

I have two types of hand-dipped caramels in my current chocolate selection, which means, of course, that I find myself making caramels fairly often. One thing I've noted over the past year or so, is that the speed at which I bring it up to temperature seems to affect the firmness of the caramel - the longer it takes, the firmer the finished candy. What I don't understand is why this should be so. Is it an evaporation issue? Something else? And what is the ideal length of time I should shoot for anyway? I know there must be someone around here who knows.

#39 Wendy DeBord

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Posted 12 January 2005 - 10:12 PM

I've noticed differences too. If you go back and look thru candy making books all of them point out the heat shouldn't be on high. I think your thoughts on evaporation would be the most logical answer.

I don't think you can shoot for a time frame because your batch size will make a huge difference. I believe that using a moderate flame should be your time guide.

But.......lets see, perhaps someone will have the exact knowledge on this.

#40 M. Lucia

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Posted 13 January 2005 - 07:50 AM

Well, I certainly don't have any expert knowledge, but I do have the following observation.

One day I was having particular trouble with making a caramel recipe and burned it twice. So the third time I cooked it really slowly. Very slow. It didn't burn and came out the proper hue, but then as it cooled I noticed it was much more firm than usual.

Maybe someone can explain why, but for now I'll keep cooking at medium or medium/high.

#41 Samaki

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Posted 13 January 2005 - 09:03 AM

Thanks for the replies. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one who's noticed this. I've tried looking for answers as to why, but none of my books seem to cover it, and internet searches have revealed little.

I hadn't thought about batch sizes, but you're right, when I double it does change things.

#42 bkeith

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Posted 13 January 2005 - 02:33 PM

I don't have any particularly useful knowledge to share, but I'll add there's a coloration thing that goes on too. When boiling sugar for pulling/blowing, the faster you can bring the syrup up to temp, the whiter the finished product will be. I don't know why, except that possibly some of the sugar molecules are caramelizing at a lower temp than others, and the faster you can come up to the right stage with your syrup, the fewer of them will do that. Dunno.

I'm guessing something similar is happening with the firmness (firmth? -- we don't say warmness, now do we?) of the caramel. But I don't know enough about the interactions going to know what exactly.

Also, apropos of not much, did you realize that the slower you cook a custard, the lower the setting point will be? Related? Dunno.

Where's a good food scientist when you need one? :raz:
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#43 wnissen

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Posted 13 January 2005 - 03:53 PM

Perhaps this is related, but the recipe I use for nut brittle calls for adding lots of extra water (2 c. water to 3 c. sugar and 1.5 c. corn syrup) and then boiling it off. This is much more water than would be needed to simply dissolve the sugar, and takes a while (30 minutes or so) to reduce to the point where most of the water is gone. However, it does turn out very crunchy, and not especially sticky. Is this in McGee's book, maybe?

Walt
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#44 Samaki

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Posted 13 January 2005 - 07:10 PM

Interesting. I didn't know that about sugar coloration or custard. taht implies that it is more than just an evaporation issue, I guess.
Hmmm, now I'm really curious. I'm going to continue sleuthing.

#45 chiantiglace

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Posted 13 January 2005 - 08:35 PM

the evaporation shouldn't have anything to do with it because long before the caramel stage all of the water is cooked out. The only reason for the water is to ensure a more thorough reduction withought burning the sugar. That is done by dissolving the sugar in water. Many people, even I at certain times of the year, make large batches of simple syrup by refineing and purifying the syrup through a coupl of stages of boiling and filter to get all the impurities out of the sugar and most of all the water (the water where i live is very very bad). I'll use that same syrup for any sugar jobs I have to do and store it in the refrigerator.

What I see happening is that your pan you use does not conduct heat evenly, like a thick iron/steel pan or copper pan. So whats happening when you boil rapidly is some parts, usually a small ring where the heat is at its greatest, is caramilizing quicker than the rest and is "dyeing" its surroundings with the dark color, so all your sugar is the same color but does not carry equal strength characteristics. So when mixed slightly while dipping and using or whatever the strength is reduced and uneven but still carrys a rich color and flavor.

When using low heat the pan has more reaction time to heat all its particals together evenly and thus transfering that heat to the syrup evenly.



An induction range/burner is great to use because it "electronically" distributes heat evenly all of the surface, unlike a flame, i like to use them most.
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#46 Samaki

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Posted 14 January 2005 - 12:30 PM

But I don't add any water. I'm talking about chewy caramels, where the sugars are first caramelized, then you add cream and butter and bring it back up to an appropriate caramelization temperature. The liquid boiling off is from the cream.

Your idea about uneven heating is interesting. Once I add the cream I stir constantly, so that should alleviate uneven heating problems, no? Anyway, the color isn't what concerns me so much as the fact that taking the caramel up to the exact same temperature still yeilds a harder or softer finished product depending on the speed at which it gets there. Perhaps your explanation still holds, though - with high heat, even with constant stirring, some of it is bound to get better "cooked" than others?

#47 Fernwood

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Posted 14 January 2005 - 09:16 PM

Is this in McGee's book, maybe?

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I've been reading McGee's new edition and it's enlightening me to all kinds of fancy molecular goings-on in foods that I never really suspected. I don't think he addresses this particular topic--I wish we could get him back for some more Q & A. But the chemical changes he does describe in sugars as they cook make me think that, indeed, things are isomerizing, or polymerizing, or polymers are being broken down, or something chemical is going on that is responsible for the difference in texture.

But I'm really just spectulating. :wink:

Fern

#48 chiantiglace

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Posted 14 January 2005 - 10:47 PM

oh ok, i appologize, i was under a completely different understanding.

in theory i do beleive many of my theories still stand considering once the products temp comes to softball the temperature is much higher than that of which water boils, so again all of the water should have evaporated by 230 degrees.

I have no other thoughts than what i have already stated.
Dean Anthony Anderson
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Pastry Chef: One If By Land Two If By Sea

#49 Samaki

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Posted 16 January 2005 - 12:32 PM

No appologies necessary. I take your points, and I agree.

#50 bkeith

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Posted 17 January 2005 - 12:28 PM

oh ok, i appologize, i was under a completely different understanding.

in theory i do beleive many of my theories still stand considering once the products temp comes to softball the temperature is much higher than that of which water boils, so again all of the water should have evaporated by 230 degrees.

I have no other thoughts than what i have already stated.

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I don't recall off the top of my head at what temp the water is all gone, but it's much higher than 230F. True, pure water would be all gone by the time you reach 230 degrees, but when you start dissolving things in water, you get compounds that don't behave exactly like either of the original bits. Same principle is behind the fact that when you cook/bake with liquor, all the alcohol doesn't necessarily cook out right away, even though the boiling point of alcohol is much lower than that of water.

I'm sure there's still some amount of water in the mix even as the temperature approaches 300F. I'm also pretty sure that the water is pretty much gone before true caramelization starts at around 320F.

Have to dig through Magee to find the actual numbers.
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#51 chiantiglace

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Posted 17 January 2005 - 02:35 PM

well if were talking about compounds that have formed under heat then there is no more excess h2o in the solution meaning as long as the solution is heated properly and evenly that it would not matter to what degree you heated it under.

so once again my statements stand.

and yes, add as much water you want to a sugar solutionand by the time it gets to 230degrees you will still have the same ratio of water and sugar no mattter if you have an ounce of water or a gallon, it will just take a lot longer to boil the water out.
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#52 Patrick S

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Posted 18 January 2005 - 09:32 AM

I have two types of hand-dipped caramels in my current chocolate selection, which means, of course, that I find myself making caramels fairly often. One thing I've noted over the past year or so, is that the speed at which I bring it up to temperature seems to affect the firmness of the caramel - the longer it takes, the firmer the finished candy. What I don't understand is why this should be so. Is it an evaporation issue? Something else? And what is the ideal length of time I should shoot for anyway? I know there must be someone around here who knows.

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Does anyone know anything about what compounds or reaction products are formed de novo during the caramelization process? Rank speculation of course, but maybe there are compounds that have a hardening effect on finished caramel that ony form in a narrow temperature 'window,' in which case the more slowly the sugar passes through that temp window, the greater the production of these hardening compounds, and the harder the resulting caramel? Or conversely maye the longer cooking results in the destruction of 'interfering agents' (which interfere with crystallization) which would otherwise causes the sugar to take a more haphazard, less orderly structure?

Edited by Patrick S, 18 January 2005 - 09:41 AM.

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#53 techno foodie

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Posted 29 March 2005 - 07:42 AM

Hello!

Well, I have a caramel question for all of you who have made it. The question actually pertains to a meal I've been trying to make, not a dessert, but I think it still applies to this section of eGullet.

Basically, the recipe has you cook sugar (1 cup) with a minuscule amount of water (about 2 tablespoons) in a skillet until melted and browned. No stirring, just a shake here and there to get things moving.

Well, I'm not sure how I can mess up such easy directions, but I am. I heat the skillet (and everything in it) to medium heat, and after a little bit the sugar seems to melt. But before it ever browns, it dries out!

Am I heating it to high? Or am I supposed to wash down the sides of the skillet with water (using a pastry brush) as I have read before?

I know this is kind of a dumb question, so thanks to all who will offer a newbie some advice! :)

Bryan
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#54 highchef

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Posted 29 March 2005 - 08:46 AM

dumber question...what type sugar are you using?

#55 julietagonzalezb

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Posted 29 March 2005 - 08:57 AM

Did you try to keep it cooking, because someday when I was doing caramel from sugar and water and cristalized, instead of throwing it , I kept on the heat and then it turn to caramel.

best wishes

#56 Shalmanese

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Posted 29 March 2005 - 09:25 AM

My understanding with caramel was that the only purpose of the water was to dissolve the sugar. Caremalisation doesn't actually start until all the water has evaporated. Your meant to stir the sugar at the beginning to get it all dissolved, it's only afterwards when all the water has disappeared that you should be careful shaking the pan as the sugar can spontaneously crystallise with agitation.
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#57 techno foodie

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Posted 29 March 2005 - 10:13 AM

highchef: I'm using regular granulated (white) sugar.

Another note from me: if the water is supposed to be used to dissolve the sugar, it seems the amount called for in the recipe isn't enough. Maybe I should add more? Can that hurt the carmelization process?

Thanks to those of you who have responded already!
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#58 Shalmanese

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Posted 29 March 2005 - 10:52 AM

It does seem very scant but it is enough to dissolve the sugar. I am guessing more won't hurt, hell sugar and water are cheap, just try it. I've also heard some corn syrup will help prevent crystalisation and would probably help in dissolving.
PS: I am a guy.

#59 Patrick S

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Posted 29 March 2005 - 11:49 AM

Keep heating. If anything, I think you're either not using enough heat, or not allowing enough time for the sugar to heat up. The sugar cannot resist-- once you get it hot enough, it will turn syrupy, and it will brown once you get it it to the right temp. Water is not even really necessary -- I've made caramel (e.g. for creme caramel dishes) using only sugar, no water or corn syrup.

Edited by Patrick S, 29 March 2005 - 11:53 AM.

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#60 Patrick S

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Posted 29 March 2005 - 11:52 AM

highchef:  I'm using regular granulated (white) sugar.

Another note from me: if the water is supposed to be used to dissolve the sugar, it seems the amount called for in the recipe isn't enough.  Maybe I should add more?  Can that hurt the carmelization process?

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Adding more sugar won't hurt the final product -- it will only increase the amount of time it takes for the temperature of the sugar solution to pass ~212F. The solution will not go much further than 212 until all the water is boiled off.

EDIT: I meant to write that adding more water won't hurt the final product.

Edited by Patrick S, 29 March 2005 - 01:16 PM.

"If you are irritated by every rub, how will you be polished?" - Rumi