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lebowits

Brown sugar caramels (including butterscotch)

14 posts in this topic

I've been thinking about caramel recently, and specifically about butterscotch. I've not found much on the topic as a unique confection but came across a a reference to a butterscotch sauce in MIchael Ruhelman's "Ratio" app for the iPhone. In this, he states that butterscotch is a variation on a traditional caramel (sauce) that uses brown sugar instead of white sugar, and that it also has a significant amount of butter.

The app claims that the ratio for a butterscotch sauce is; 1 part brown sugar, 1 part cream, and 1/2 part butter. The method is the cook the sugar and butter together and then to quench with warmed cream. I used a "dry cook" method by adding a bit of lemon juice to the brown sugar. I'm guessing that cream of tartar might be more effective to prevent crystallization (or some glucose).

For my first test batch, I cut back on the cream by 25% so that the resulting caramel would be more viscous for use in a chocolate bon bon. The consistency came out fine, but the flavor lacked something.

First, I'd like to ask; How do you know that the brown sugar is cooked to "caramel" without measuring a temperature? White sugar clearly darkens when cooking, but brown sugar is already rather dark at the start.

Do you make brown sugar caramel or butterscotch? Any advice?

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Steve Lebowitz

Doer of All Things

Steven Howard Confections

Slicing a warm slab of bacon is a lot like giving a ferret a shave. No matter how careful you are, somebody's going to get hurt - Alton Brown, "Good Eats"

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Funny, I started to read your post, and realized that I didn't know exactly what butterscotch was -- only that I didn't remember brown sugar being in the mix. So before reading further, I consulted James Peterson's Sauces, where I found this:

. . . similar to caramel sauce except that butter is cooked along with the sugar, so that the milk solids caramelize and impart the characteristic flavor of noisette butter to the sauce.

I will say that a google search turns up a lot of recipes that call for brown sugar, so maybe Peterson is the odd man out (though I've found him to be extremely reliable). With respect to your observation ''but the flavor lacked something,'' Peterson goes on:

Some recipes use brown sugar to give the sauce a deeper color and flavor, but brown sugar also tends to obscure the flavor of the butter, which is what makes butterscotch sauce so delicious.

On the other hand, Peterson omits salt, which some people say is crucial.

So, a couple of possibilities?


Dave Scantland
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Eat more chicken skin.

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I've actually just recently figured this out for myself, and I'm proud to share my discoveries!

The "butterscotch" flavor you're looking for is a combination of both caramelized brown sugar, and the beurre noisette flavor that Dave the Cook mentions.

Start your measure of butter to melt, but before it clarifies, add your full measure of brown sugar. Cook this until the butter "clarifies" itself within the sugar. At this point, the whole mixture will begin to smell right, but continue to cook for a few minutes longer, until the aroma becomes intense. At first, the mix will appear oily and seperated, but keep cooking, and stirring, until the aroma begins to fully manifest. Add your whole measure of cream at this point, and stand back (unless you enjoy facial blisters, that is!) and continue whisking, until combined and viscous....

add just a few drops of vanilla, and...

goodness...


I'm a lifelong professional chef. If that doesn't explain some of my mental and emotional quirks, maybe you should see a doctor, and have some of yours examined...

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and stand back (unless you enjoy facial blisters, that is!)

It's not a good day in the kitchen until you've had facial blisters, huh :P

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Thanks for the suggestions everyone. I look forward to getting this right! Does anyone have experiences that differ from the ratio of ingredients I mentioned, or do you think their about right?


Steve Lebowitz

Doer of All Things

Steven Howard Confections

Slicing a warm slab of bacon is a lot like giving a ferret a shave. No matter how careful you are, somebody's going to get hurt - Alton Brown, "Good Eats"

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I think I figured this one out.  Here is a formula for what my taste testers have called a successful batch.  This is a small batch and I need to double it for production use.

 

150 grams cream

    1 vanilla bean, scraped

200 grams brown sugar (light or dark doesn't seem to matter though I used light)

        lemon juice

  50 grams glucose syrup

100 grams butter, unsalted

 

Combine the cream and vanilla bean into a small pot and put over a low flame to come to a simmer slowly

 

In a pot, combine the brown sugar with just enough lemon juice to moisten and combine to get a "sandy" texture

 

Add glucose to the brown sugar

 

Bring the sugar mixture to a boil over high heat stirring continuously.  The sugar will foam and it will be difficult to see when it melts and caramelizes

 

Use a candy or IR thermometer and continue to cook the sugar until it reaches approximately 320F (160C)

 

Add the butter and stir until the butter is completely melted and combined

 

Add the warm cream being careful not to burn yourself as the water boils off, stirring to combine completely.  Continue stirring until you're sure that you have a smooth mixture and that all the sugars are full melted

 

Remove from heat and pour into a pan to cool.  Let the caramel cool until room temperature before piping into prepared molds.

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Steve Lebowitz

Doer of All Things

Steven Howard Confections

Slicing a warm slab of bacon is a lot like giving a ferret a shave. No matter how careful you are, somebody's going to get hurt - Alton Brown, "Good Eats"

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Your caramel does sound really good! Coincidentally, I just read Ruhlman's book, and have been thinking of trying the recipe he gives.

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I think I figured this one out.  Here is a formula for what my taste testers have called a successful batch.

Thanks for sharing. I'm definitely going to give it a try.


It's kinda like wrestling a gorilla... you don't stop when you're tired, you stop when the gorilla is tired.

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Your caramel does sound really good! Coincidentally, I just read Ruhlman's book, and have been thinking of trying the recipe he gives.

"Ruhlman's Twenty"?


Steve Lebowitz

Doer of All Things

Steven Howard Confections

Slicing a warm slab of bacon is a lot like giving a ferret a shave. No matter how careful you are, somebody's going to get hurt - Alton Brown, "Good Eats"

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I've actually just recently figured this out for myself, and I'm proud to share my discoveries!

 

The "butterscotch" flavor you're looking for is a combination of both caramelized brown sugar, and the beurre noisette flavor that Dave the Cook mentions.

 

Start your measure of butter to melt, but before it clarifies, add your full measure of brown sugar. Cook this until the butter "clarifies" itself within the sugar. At this point, the whole mixture will begin to smell right, but continue to cook for a few minutes longer, until the aroma becomes intense. At first, the mix will appear oily and seperated, but keep cooking, and stirring, until the aroma begins to fully manifest. Add your whole measure of cream at this point, and stand back (unless you enjoy facial blisters, that is!) and continue whisking, until combined and viscous....

 

add just a few drops of vanilla, and...

 

goodness...

I have used the above description to attempt a butterscotch filling for chocolates.  Once it has succeeded, but twice the butter has separated from the caramel, and I would be grateful for any advice on conquering this problem.

 

The overall goal is to make a caramel that is lighter in color than the ones I usually make and that has a pronounced butter flavor.  This is the recipe I am using (it is based also on the quantities in the recipe from Lebowits, above in this thread):

 

Combine 90g of cream and a scraped vanilla bean in a small pot and heat.

 

In a larger pot, heat 60g of butter until it just begins to brown.  Then add 120g of light brown sugar, 30g of glucose, and 2 tsp. of lemon juice.  Cook until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture has an intense aroma (as described in the quote above).

 

Strain out the vanilla bean, then carefully add the hot cream to the mixture.  Cook to about 235F/113C (I aim for slightly beyond the soft ball stage).  Cool and then pipe into molds.

 

On two occasions, as the mixture cools (I stir it occasionally in order to obtain an accurate temperature reading), the butter has slowly but surely separated into a little pool in the pot.  Stirring has not brought it back, nor has use of an immersion blender (which gets more difficult to use as the caramel firms up).  In a production situation, where I was somewhat desperate, I put the caramel in a sieve and let the butter drain off and was able to use the mixture without further problems (no separation of butter once the butterscotch was in the mold).

 

I really like this filling, especially in combination with another layer of pecan gianduja and crushed feuilletine, and don't want to abandon it, but I can't have a filling that is unreliable.  I can't believe the problem is too much butter.  William Curley's recipe for orange balsamic caramel, using roughly equivalent amounts, calls for 100g of butter (added after the caramel has been taken off the heat), and I have never had separation problems with it.   The only unusual thing I do differently from a regular caramel is to cook the butter first.  Any advice would be appreciated.

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On two occasions, as the mixture cools (I stir it occasionally in order to obtain an accurate temperature reading), the butter has slowly but surely separated into a little pool in the pot.  Stirring has not brought it back, nor has use of an immersion blender (which gets more difficult to use as the caramel firms up).  In a production situation, where I was somewhat desperate, I put the caramel in a sieve and let the butter drain off and was able to use the mixture without further problems (no separation of butter once the butterscotch was in the mold).

 

I really like this filling, especially in combination with another layer of pecan gianduja and crushed feuilletine, and don't want to abandon it, but I can't have a filling that is unreliable.  I can't believe the problem is too much butter.  William Curley's recipe for orange balsamic caramel, using roughly equivalent amounts, calls for 100g of butter (added after the caramel has been taken off the heat), and I have never had separation problems with it.   The only unusual thing I do differently from a regular caramel is to cook the butter first.  Any advice would be appreciated.

 Jim, that sounds really yummy!  Have you tried not stirring as it cools?  Obviously it needs to be completely cool, so why not just leave it alone for a few hours?  Stirring at the wrong time or temp will ruin many a confection.

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 Jim, that sounds really yummy!  Have you tried not stirring as it cools?  Obviously it needs to be completely cool, so why not just leave it alone for a few hours?  Stirring at the wrong time or temp will ruin many a confection.

Thanks for that suggestion.  I could use a Thermapen to check the temp without stirring.  Another interesting development: As I was cleaning the pot from the separated batch, I saw the butter now solidified.  I mixed it into the remaining butterscotch, and it mixed quite well.  So I will try browning the butter, letting it solidify, then adding it after the caramel has been totally cooked.  I hate to abandon that wonderful taste/smell of browned butter.

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Have you tried not stirring as it cools?  Obviously it needs to be completely cool, so why not just leave it alone for a few hours?  Stirring at the wrong time or temp will ruin many a confection.

Once again you appear to be correct.  I did a small batch yesterday and did not touch it as it cooled.  It is fine, with no butter separation.  I don't understand the principle involved (since I have stirred many a caramel in the past), but I'll just accept it.  Perhaps something to do with cooking the butter first.  Thanks for the advice.

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Once again you appear to be correct.  I did a small batch yesterday and did not touch it as it cooled.  It is fine, with no butter separation.  I don't understand the principle involved (since I have stirred many a caramel in the past), but I'll just accept it.  Perhaps something to do with cooking the butter first.  Thanks for the advice.

 

Sugar is a fickle bitch. 

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