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Elizabeth_11

Troubleshooting Caramels

265 posts in this topic

I've used the same recipe for chewy caramels for a while now. I used to make relatively small batches in a 3 qt pot that I cooked to 247, and they turned out chewy and firm enough to pick up. I've started making larger batches in a 6 qt pot, and ever since, they're setting too soft, even after cooking them to 248. They don't keep their shape and are really squishy.

Any ideas why this is happening?

I guess the obvious solution is that I should try cooking my larger batches to 249 or 250, and see what happens, but I'm trying to figure out what's going on. I use moderate heat when I make caramels, so I didn't think that my smaller batches were over-shooting 247... but that's the only thing that I can think of -- that when I make the smaller batches, the temperature gets higher than I think it does...?

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What materials are both of your pots made of? Are you using the same ingredients, i.e. cream same percent? What milk solids are you using? Caramels are tricky on the end temp. I often do a slab or cold water test to verify final temp. It isn't the size of the batch that is causing the problem. I make the same recipe, scaled of course, in a 3 qt pot and a 30 inch copper pot.


Edited by Chocolot (log)

Ruth Kendrick

Chocolot
Artisan Chocolates and Toffees
www.chocolot.com

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What materials are both of your pots made of?  Are you using the same ingredients, e.i. cream same percent?  What milk solids are you using?  Caramels are tricky on the end temp.  I often do a slab or cold water test to verify final temp.  It isn't the size of the batch that is causing the problem.  I make the same recipe, scaled of course, in a 3 qt pot and a 30 inch copper pot.

My pots are stainless steel, and I'm using the same ingredients, scaled-- milk solids are cream (organic valley) and butter. It's so odd, my smaller batches always turned out about the same, and now my larger batches are, too... only soft! I'm also making the larger batches into thicker layers (1/2" instead of 1/4" inch), but I can tell by the caramel that sticks to the thermometer and spatula are softer to begin with, too.

I'm familiar with the cold water test, but what's a slab test?

Thanks for helping!

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What materials are both of your pots made of?  Are you using the same ingredients, ie. cream same percent?  What milk solids are you using?  Caramels are tricky on the end temp.  I often do a slab or cold water test to verify final temp.  It isn't the size of the batch that is causing the problem.  I make the same recipe, scaled of course, in a 3 qt pot and a 30 inch copper pot.

My pots are stainless steel, and I'm using the same ingredients, scaled-- milk solids are cream (organic valley) and butter. It's so odd, my smaller batches always turned out about the same, and now my larger batches are, too... only soft! I'm also making the larger batches into thicker layers (1/2" instead of 1/4" inch), but I can tell by the caramel that sticks to the thermometer and spatula are softer to begin with, too.

I'm familiar with the cold water test, but what's a slab test?

Thanks for helping!

Slab test is spreading a small sample of the syrup on a cold surface ie granite, marble or even SS. If it is spread thin enough, it does the same thing as the cold water--it cools it down quickly and lets you see the finished texture. Are you using any milk besides cream? You usually need some milk solids to give caramel stand up quality. I'm wondering if you are cooking the larger batch longer (because of limited heat capacity) and more of the sugar is inverting, causing a softer finish? How has the weather been? If you are in a low pressure, the thermometer can be off several degrees. That's about all I can think of. Good luck on the next batch.


Ruth Kendrick

Chocolot
Artisan Chocolates and Toffees
www.chocolot.com

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Slab test is spreading a small sample of the syrup on a cold surface ie granite, marble or even SS.  If it is spread thin enough, it does the same thing as the cold water--it cools it down quickly and lets you see the finished texture.  Are you using any milk besides cream?  You usually need some milk solids to give caramel stand up quality.  I'm wondering if you are cooking the larger batch longer (because of limited heat capacity) and more of the sugar is inverting, causing a softer finish?  How has the weather been?  If you are in a low pressure, the thermometer can be off several degrees.  That's about all I can think of.  Good luck on the next batch.

There's no milk -- are the fats in the cream so different that they wouldn't contribute to the stand up quality? I was thinking about the sugar inverting more b/c of the increased cooking time, but the batches don't seem to take a very long time. The weather has been pretty normal, I don't think low pressure... a little hot if anything, but not enough to make them this soft!

I'll testing the next batch w/ slab or cold water and let you know how it goes!

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. . .

If you are in a low pressure, the thermometer can be off several degrees.  That's about all I can think of.  Good luck on the next batch.

WOW! Who knew that barometric pressure could affect thermometer readings?

Might explain a few issues I have had.


Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

...I just let people know about something I made for supper that they might enjoy, too. That's all it is. (Nigel Slater)

"Never call a stomach a tummy without good reason.” William Strunk Jr., The Elements of Style

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Has the humidity been higher than usual there?

Are you being careful to stir the mix thoroughly as it cooks?

HTH


John DePaula
formerly of DePaula Confections
Hand-crafted artisanal chocolates & gourmet confections - …Because Pleasure Matters…
--------------------
When asked “What are the secrets of good cooking? Escoffier replied, “There are three: butter, butter and butter.”

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Ok, I think it's the thermometer. I was using a Taylor stainless steel one w/ a clasp on the back (I only bought it a couple months ago), but I figured that with this problem, I may as well try a digital. I used a CDN digital thermometer w/ a probe on a wire and the Taylor for the last batch... and the Taylor showed a good 8-10F hotter than the CDN. I took it off the heat 248 according to the CDN, and it seems to be setting normally! Finally!

Now I'm wondering about what the candy thermometer of choice is...? I just want a thermometer that I can trust most of the time!

Btw, Ruth, I just realized that I have your book! It's great! :)

Edit: I've noticed for the past couple of weeks that my boiled confections have been boiling up pretty fast. I guess this is why, though I don't really understand how it can be so off... Low pressure for this long!?


Edited by SugarGirl (log)

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Wow, fellow eGers, we are fortunate indeed to have in our midst Ruth Kendrick, author of 'Candymaking!'

I have recommended this book many times (see my previous posts) and have found it to be a very valuable reference and guide.

I'm a big fan and glad to see you here! :biggrin:


John DePaula
formerly of DePaula Confections
Hand-crafted artisanal chocolates & gourmet confections - …Because Pleasure Matters…
--------------------
When asked “What are the secrets of good cooking? Escoffier replied, “There are three: butter, butter and butter.”

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I make caramels for dipping/enrobing, and despite my best efforts to extend shelf life and prevent crystallization, they usually turn crumbly after a couple of weeks. Anyone have any idea how to extend shelf life and maintain the chewy texture and prevent crystallization over time?

I have tried recipes using corn syrup, glucose, etc. as well as making sure all sugar is well dissolved.


Jeffrey Stern

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cocoapodman at gmail dot com

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I make caramels for dipping/enrobing, and despite my best efforts to extend shelf life and prevent crystallization, they usually turn crumbly after a couple of weeks. Anyone have any idea how to extend shelf life and maintain the chewy texture and prevent crystallization over time?

I have tried recipes using corn syrup, glucose, etc. as well as making sure all sugar is well dissolved.

When I make caramels, I caramelize the sugar first, and then add the dairy, and I'm going on 3 months of shelf life testing without any crystallization. I'm not sure if caramelizing the sugar first would call for changes to the recipe, though (it sounds like your mixing the ingredients altogether in the beginning).

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I've only made caramels a few times so far, but they've never lasted beyond 2 weeks, so I don't know what shelf life would be like. I've only used Kerry's recipe so far and love it so much I see no reason to try any other.

This isn't so much a trouble-shooting problem as it is a question – what's the best way to infuse flavours in caramel? If I wanted a raspberry caramel, for example, would I add a purée? Or would I be better off adding raspberry flavouring? I'd rather keep it natural if possible.

Also, at what point would the flavour be added? I'm assuming flavoured oil would be added at the end in lieu of vanilla, but when would purée be added? With the dairy? And how would it affect the balance of the recipe? Or would the liquid merely evaporate during the cooking process and not throw off the balance at all...

okay, maybe this is trouble-shooting...

I know I've seen these questions asked before, but I don't recall seeing an answer that made sense to me.


I'm gonna go bake something…

wanna come with?

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Ok, I think it's the thermometer.  I was using a Taylor stainless steel one w/ a clasp on the back (I only bought it a couple months ago), but I figured that with this problem, I may as well try a digital.  I used a CDN digital thermometer w/ a probe on a wire and the Taylor for the last batch... and the Taylor showed a good 8-10F hotter than the CDN.  I took it off the heat 248 according to the CDN, and it seems to be setting normally!  Finally! 

Now I'm wondering about what the candy thermometer of choice is...?  I just want a thermometer that I can trust most of the time!

Btw, Ruth, I just realized that I have your book! It's great! :)

Edit: I've noticed for the past couple of weeks that my boiled confections have been boiling up pretty fast.  I guess this is why, though I don't really understand how it can be so off...  Low pressure for this long!?

Ok, so after splurging on a Thermapen, I've realized that the thermometer is probably not the reason that my caramels are setting so soft (though thank goodness I love the Thermapen!). When I make my caramel recipe, I caramelize the sugar first, and then add the dairy. I use the dry method of caramelization, and I gradually add the sugar to the pot until it's all caramelized. It turns out a deep amber -- not burnt, but full caramel flavor.

Baking911 says:

"Light caramel will harden into a very hard, glasslike sheet. Dark will harden into a softer texture; the darker the caramel, the softer it will be when it hardens with the most caramel taste. "

So think it's the dark caramel that contributes to the softness. I don't know what to do, though, for it to consistently set just a bit more firm to get the same flavor.... I can't get a light caramel color when I use the dry method with a large amount of sugar-- it always goes to deep amber. Batches boiled to the usual temp of 248 set erratically, perhaps based on the degree of caramelization. I boiled one batch to 255.... and it still set soft!

My thoughts would be to use the wet method and stop the caramel before it gets too dark, or to add more butter as a way to help the stand up quality.... but both would result in a different flavor.

Personally, I like how silky the caramels are... but they do tend to droop in a not-too-pretty way... and I'm not sure that everyone would appreciate that.

Anyone ever go through this issue? Any advice?

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Today has been a very caramelly day. I used Kerry Beal’s recipe once again, but this time, shame to tell, I turned away and forgot the cream. The cream boiled over. I guess I did not add back enough cream because the caramel, although it appeared to pour nicely, became brittle.

Read the entire troubleshooting thread, all 8 pages, and tried the following two suggestions:

1. Shane kekau@comcast.net

I've re-cooked many caramel by breaking it back up and adding 35% water to a pot. Cook as you normally would. Depending on the amount of inhibitor in the original recipe you can either leave as is or add 5-10% to prevent crystal growth. To be safe, you may also add 1-5% salt to balance out the sweetness level, and if added at the beginning of the cooking process will also aid in inversion of the sugars. Good luck.

****Added the water, ignored the inhibitor and salt. But then, didn’t know how long to cook it. Till it reached 250F degrees? Actually, I used only 100 grams of the crunch, so we ate it all before it had a chance to set. A useless experiment, but delicious.

Tri2Cook

I know a firm caramel simply warmed to melt over water with a small amount of cream will set again when cooled and be softer. As for whether it causes crystallization to happen quicker, I don't know... I've only done that for dipping apples. Definitely works though, you just have to be careful with the cream. Too much in one batch caused some droopy looking caramel on the apples. Had that wrinkly, elephant-leg thing going on.

*****Chipped up the remainder, put it in a bowl over gently boiling water. It took FOREVER, but finally it all melted, just like that. Added ‘SOME’ cream…no idea of how much to add…just slurped it in. Poured it out and now am waiting to see how it sets up.

ANY and ALL advice and comments are welcomed. :rolleyes:


Darienne

learn, learn, learn...

Cheers & Chocolates

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Darienne, You obviously know what you did wrong this time--not enough cream which reacts the same as over cooking (too much liquid removed). Some other things to remember next time-- check your thermometer. You are at 4000 feet now, and should reduce your cooking temp by 8 degrees. Most flat landers overcook everything when they come to the mountains:-) Is your thermometer a good one? The cheap ones are worse than no thermometer. Good luck.


Ruth Kendrick

Chocolot
Artisan Chocolates and Toffees
www.chocolot.com

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Darienne, You obviously know what you did wrong this time--not enough cream which reacts the same as over cooking (too much liquid removed).  Some other things to remember next time-- check your thermometer.  You are at 4000 feet now, and should reduce your cooking temp by 8 degrees.  Most flat landers overcook everything when they come to the mountains:-)  Is your thermometer a good one?  The cheap ones are worse than no thermometer.  Good luck.

Thanks Ruth,

Your comments are very useful. I'm up at 4000 feet and normally I live at about 600 feet. Wow! :raz: No one has ever called me a 'flat lander' before. :raz:

Here's another factor. The humidity here is about 40 % and normally in Ontario it is ALWAYS over 80%. Would that make a difference?

The caramel looks and cuts fine this morning. I'll cut it and coat it later.

I think my thermometer is fine. How can I test it? In Ontario, I would test it in boiling water, but does water boil at a lower temperature up here? (The DH has just said, yes it would. OK. Now we do a test.)

I must admit I love the endless complications of it all even while I am frustrated dealing with them at the time.


Edited by Darienne (log)

Darienne

learn, learn, learn...

Cheers & Chocolates

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Darienne, You obviously know what you did wrong this time--not enough cream which reacts the same as over cooking (too much liquid removed).  Some other things to remember next time-- check your thermometer.  You are at 4000 feet now, and should reduce your cooking temp by 8 degrees.  Most flat landers overcook everything when they come to the mountains:-)  Is your thermometer a good one?  The cheap ones are worse than no thermometer.  Good luck.

Thanks Ruth,

Your comments are very useful. I'm up at 4000 feet and normally I live at about 600 feet. Wow! :raz: No one has ever called me a 'flat lander' before. :raz:

Here's another factor. The humidity here is about 40 % and normally in Ontario it is ALWAYS over 80%. Would that make a difference?

The caramel looks and cuts fine this morning. I'll cut it and coat it later.

I think my thermometer is fine. How can I test it? In Ontario, I would test it in boiling water, but does water boil at a lower temperature up here? (The DH has just said, yes it would. OK. Now we do a test.)

I must admit I love the endless complications of it all even while I am frustrated dealing with them at the time.

Yes, water boils at a lower temp. That is why you reduce the temp on your sugar solution. Test your thermometer in boiling water. Note at what temp it boils. It usually lowers 2 degrees for every 1000 feet you go up. Water in Moab probably boils at 204. Standard at sea level is 212. Subtract the 204 from the 212. That will tell you how many degrees you need to subtract from the cooking temp. Thus, if your recipe calls for 240, you will cook to 232. It is the air pressure that is less, therefore the water boils sooner and the moisture is driven off at a lower temp. I'm surprised the humidity is that high. Must be the river. If it gets over 15% here, we all think we are dying. Dry humidity is great for chocolate and hard cooked candies. R


Ruth Kendrick

Chocolot
Artisan Chocolates and Toffees
www.chocolot.com

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Yes, water boils at a lower temp.  That is why you reduce the temp on your sugar solution.  Test your thermometer in boiling water.  Note at what temp it boils.  It usually lowers 2 degrees for every 1000 feet you go up. Water in Moab probably boils at 204.  Standard at sea level is 212.  Subtract the 204 from the 212.  That will tell you how many degrees you need to subtract from the cooking temp.  Thus, if your recipe calls for 240, you will cook to 232.  It is the air pressure that is less, therefore the water boils sooner and the moisture is driven off at a lower temp.  I'm surprised the humidity is that high.  Must be the river.  If it gets over 15% here, we all think we are dying.  Dry humidity is great for chocolate and hard cooked candies. R

The caramel is saved and all is well. It cuts beautifully. Tastes divine. It probably won't last long enough to see if it crystallizes.

Did the water test. My electronic thermometer registered 203 so I am probably alright with it. We are higher than the town proper thus the one degree difference. Right. :wink: Works for me.

However, my glass thermometer registered only 199 thus being in the category of not very useful. Still, how can I use the metal probe to work with candy? I seem to recall some posting about stringing wire across the pot and clipping the wire onto it????

Just checked the current humidity. 23% Feels incredible to someone who lives at around 90% most of the time and hates it. :angry:

Ruth, you are a dear. Thanks for all the help. :wub:


Darienne

learn, learn, learn...

Cheers & Chocolates

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I've been lurking for over a year now and finally registered. This is a wonderful community! I've spent hours already reading threads on truffles- while I do bake quite a bit, chocolate is my passion. I've been doing truffles for years but with the ecole course I've found that I love making other candy as well.

I did a batch of soft caramels using the Fern's caramels recipe posted here. They set up quite well and tasted AMAZING. I put them in a tupperware-type container and tried to avoid eating them all. It had been probably two weeks and I came home to find the bowl empty and washed- my boyfriend said they'd gone liquid?! Does anyone have any possible cause for this? I just noticed the post about them getting crumbly but I seem to be having the opposite problem. I have a slew of caramels on my x-mas candy list but am worried about going forward without getting this figured out. I appreciate any help you have to offer!

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I've been lurking for over a year now and finally registered. This is a wonderful community! I've spent hours already reading threads on truffles- while I do bake quite a bit, chocolate is my passion. I've been doing truffles for years but with the ecole course I've found that I love making other candy as well.

I did a batch of soft caramels using the Fern's caramels recipe posted here. They set up quite well and tasted AMAZING. I put them in a tupperware-type container and tried to avoid eating them all. It had been probably two weeks and I came home to find the bowl empty and washed- my boyfriend said they'd gone liquid?! Does anyone have any possible cause for this? I just noticed the post about them getting crumbly but I seem to be having the opposite problem. I have a slew of caramels on my x-mas candy list but am worried about going forward without getting this figured out. I appreciate any help you have to offer!

Welcome Aza.

Did your boyfriend say what he meant by liquid? Were some drops of caramel just oozing out between cracks in the chocolate, or did the whole filling liquify?

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I don't think she mentioned they were chocolate covered. In that case then I won't be surprised if they liquefy, expecially in a humid enviroment.


Vanessa

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They weren't dipped, I'd wrapped them in wax paper after cutting. I just asked him if he recalled what it looked like and all he could tell me was that there was liquid in the bottom of the container. :( I had wondered about the humidity but they'd been stored in the same type bowls I use to store chocolate and have never had a problem.

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Well chocolate isnt hygroscopic like sugar ( caramel). I have noticed some type of commercial caramel have a longer shelf life, and they usually dont " melt" like the homemade ones, I am wondering what they use to prevent that. A undipped caramel will definatelly "melt" after awhile, dipped ones can last for months, at least they do here in COlorado.


Vanessa

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i made a batch of chocolate caramels yesterday using herme's recipe, but this morning i noticed that they are too soft.

any suggestions as to how i may possibly remedy them or an alternate use for soft caramels? (they taste great)

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