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Trufflenaut

Technique for making small caramel balls?

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Does anyone have any tricks for making small balls of caramel (suitable for panning with sugar and chocolate)?  So far I've tried making a batch of caramels, cutting them into little squares after they cool, and rolling them by hand into balls, but I very quickly run into the problem of the heat from my hands warming the caramels enough to release some of the fat from the butter in the caramel, making my hands too greasy for rolling.  I could cool the caramels first to minimize this, but then they'd be too hard and won't change shape.  I solved a similar problem when hand-rolling chocolate truffles by coating them in cocoa powder first - can I do something similar by tossing the caramel squares in powdered sugar first, or will that cause the caramels to crystallize?

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How do you keep them from sticking together while tumbling?  Aside from stickiness, I wonder if just tumbling them for a while would round off all the corners. 

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Posted (edited)
54 minutes ago, pastrygirl said:

How do you keep them from sticking together while tumbling?  Aside from stickiness, I wonder if just tumbling them for a while would round off all the corners. 

 

If they’re rounded enough, they don’t stick together - tumbling would round the corners pretty well, but I don’t think it would be sufficient to get them round enough (basically it would make rounded cubes, like gambling dice) - I need as close to spheres as I can get, since any flat spots will stick together once I start panning.

 

(I might try it though, if no one has any better ideas)


Edited by Trufflenaut (log)
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Why not sprinkle them with a mixture of cocoa and powdered sugar before rolling. I suspect if your caramel has enough glucose they won't crystallize.

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I think I might try that - not having any significant experience with accidental crystallization of caramels, I wasn’t sure if it was something I needed to be super-cautious about...  In a worst-case scenario of caramel crystallization, does the entire thing become crystallized, or just the edges (over a time scale of several days)?

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2 minutes ago, Trufflenaut said:

I think I might try that - not having any significant experience with accidental crystallization of caramels, I wasn’t sure if it was something I needed to be super-cautious about...  In a worst-case scenario of caramel crystallization, does the entire thing become crystallized, or just the edges (over a time scale of several days)?

Would start on edges and work it's way through over days to weeks. 

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Hrm...  That might work, but may not be optimal...  Would cornstarch work? (for one of the things I have in mind, cocoa powder would not be optimal)  Is sugar crystallization triggered only by sugar crystals, or is it also triggered by anything that's sufficiently "not smooth"?

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16 minutes ago, Trufflenaut said:

Hrm...  That might work, but may not be optimal...  Would cornstarch work? (for one of the things I have in mind, cocoa powder would not be optimal)  Is sugar crystallization triggered only by sugar crystals, or is it also triggered by anything that's sufficiently "not smooth"?

I think that a lot of things can serve as a nucleus for crystallization but sugar is going to be the most likely.

 

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In that case, I may just try the powdered sugar and see if it works.   I’ll report back once I’ve done some testing.  Thanks for the help. 

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You might consider using organic powdered sugar for this. Stella Parks (BraveTart) enlightened me that the organic version uses tapioca starch rather than cornstarch, which is less gritty on the tongue and generally better for uncooked applications.

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I chuckled to myself when I saw this topic, this is something I tried to figure out a few years ago. I searched for molds that would let me make a small cube, so I can then pan them and round out. Honestly, I really didn't find anything that I thought was suitable, but I did have some ideas, but please keep in mind that I havent tried any of them.

 

One idea was adding cocoa butter to a caramel, so when it is cut into cubes of the desired size, it would help with there not being too much cold flow. Its sort a weird balance with caramel, obviously, you don't want too hard of a caramel, that wouldn't be pleasant to eat, but too soft, and you unable to pan them, and there would be too much cold flow, making it rather frustrating when trying to make a bunch of little centers. Caramel is a great center to pan, and Sugar Babies are a good example of that. But in looking at the ingredients, you see the caramel centers for that candy have modified starch, which would help in a massive way to stabilize the candy and give it a soft chew. I feel like panning a caramel without additions like that would be a difficult thing to replicate without stabilizers like that. Hopefully cocoa butter would aid with that, but again, its not something I've been able to try.

 

Another idea I had for the panned caramel was coating the centers in chocolate by hand, then finishing in the machine rather then try to actually build up the layers of chocolate inside the pan. Really, I don't think it needs to be pretty, I think speed is more of a factor here. You could coat them all very quickly by hand, stick them in the fridge to set up, then start panning. It wouldn't really matter if they looked uneven or ugly, or even if the chocolate is tempered, everything would smooth out.

 

Something I also looked into was a marzipan roller board, used to making spheres from marzipan. It is, however, a bit expensive for me without knowing for sure if I'll be getting the desired result, and a 3/4" sphere is a bit large for a center before panning.

http://www.pastrychef.com/MARZIPAN-ROLLERBOARD_p_1073.html

 

Then there's something like these

https://www.amazon.com/niceCube-Mini-Ice-Cube-Trays/dp/B01L7ZFBXW/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1520952783&sr=8-4&keywords=mini+ice+cube+silicone

3/8" actually does sound like a good size for a center before panning. I almost picked these up a while back, but over the years I've accrued white a few a these types of inexpensive molds "just to see if it would work," and don't really want to add to that collection.

 

But really, this is something I put a lot of thought into over the years. I've also wanted to pan fondant to make something like Junior Mints. And now as I write this post, those mini ice cube molds look more desirable. I could pour the warm fondant into them, scrape the top as clean as you can on a silicone mold like that, and pan. Fondant centers should set up hard enough that they don't stick....hopefully.

 

Hopefully this helps! I love that you built your panning setup, and seeing the products that resulted from it!

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The panning process itself for caramels doesn't seem to need any special considerations - I just recommend popping them in the fridge for half an hour or so first to make sure they're firm - panning on small scales (1-2 lbs or so) doesn't seem to put a lot of "squishing" force on the centers, except in any corners that exist.  If you want to pan caramels with chocolate, I recommend just trying it - it will probably go a lot better than you fear. :)

 

The marzipan roller board looks perfect.  If I get some time, I'll fix up my 3D printer and try printing one - the finish on it wouldn't be perfectly smooth, but it will work fine for something that's going to be panned with a smooth coat anyways.

 

I wouldn't recommend any molds (and especially not ice cube trays) for caramel - the last time I tried it the caramel stuck to the mold quite viciously, and getting them out was a significantly unpleasant process, with a high casualty rate (but also keep in mind that I'm a noob, and I'm sure there are more competent people who know how to do such things correctly).

 

 

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On 3/13/2018 at 11:12 AM, Trufflenaut said:

The panning process itself for caramels doesn't seem to need any special considerations - I just recommend popping them in the fridge for half an hour or so first to make sure they're firm - panning on small scales (1-2 lbs or so) doesn't seem to put a lot of "squishing" force on the centers, except in any corners that exist.  If you want to pan caramels with chocolate, I recommend just trying it - it will probably go a lot better than you fear. :)

 

The marzipan roller board looks perfect.  If I get some time, I'll fix up my 3D printer and try printing one - the finish on it wouldn't be perfectly smooth, but it will work fine for something that's going to be panned with a smooth coat anyways.

 

I wouldn't recommend any molds (and especially not ice cube trays) for caramel - the last time I tried it the caramel stuck to the mold quite viciously, and getting them out was a significantly unpleasant process, with a high casualty rate (but also keep in mind that I'm a noob, and I'm sure there are more competent people who know how to do such things correctly).

Where did you get your caramel formula? What kind of mold were you using? Caramel that has been poured or deposited into a silicone mold shouldnt have problems releasing. And if you print a marzipan board, please post pictures!

 

Hopefully I can get to panning caramels one day. Really, I just assumed I'd have trouble with them sticking. When cutting caramels for wrapping, If two pieces touch more a few minutes, they just stick together, then after separating them, I sort of have to shape them back to where they were. Of course if the caramel is cooked to a higher temp, it isnt as big of a issue, but I imagine myself adding caramel centers to the pan and they either all slowly stick together until I have 1 large clump, or they just adhere to the sides of the pan. I did try chilling centers before and didnt like the outcome. Granted, it was about 30 min in the freezer, not 30 min in the fridge, but as soon as I started to add chocolate, I had so many doubles and triples it was insane! But if the centers were crystallized, I dont see any problem in panning them.

 

I meant to include this in my last post, on the note of crystallizing caramels. I have done that, not intentionally, but totally by accident. A years ago I made a slabbed caramel. On it setting up, I started pulling it as you would taffy. I'm not totally sure why I did this, I think it may have been just to see if there would be any texture change or softening like you would get after pulling taffy. Anyways, I thoroughly pulled it and set it back into a rough slab shape. Came back to it about an hour later, totally opaque, and very crystallized. I tasted it, it reminded me of fudge, it had that short texture and sliced cleanly. I trashed it at the time, but that actually could be a very real starting point for caramel centers that are easy to produce. No depositing required and I imagine that the pieces would have no problems in the coating pan. I'm sure the crystallized caramel could be formed into a slab and cut into desired size to pan, or while it is still malleable, pull into a rope and cut the pieces like hard candy drops, and let them crystallize individually.

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16 minutes ago, minas6907 said:

Where did you get your caramel formula? What kind of mold were you using? Caramel that has been poured or deposited into a silicone mold shouldnt have problems releasing. And if you print a marzipan board, please post pictures!

 

Hopefully I can get to panning caramels one day. Really, I just assumed I'd have trouble with them sticking. When cutting caramels for wrapping, If two pieces touch more a few minutes, they just stick together, then after separating them, I sort of have to shape them back to where they were. Of course if the caramel is cooked to a higher temp, it isnt as big of a issue, but I imagine myself adding caramel centers to the pan and they either all slowly stick together until I have 1 large clump, or they just adhere to the sides of the pan. I did try chilling centers before and didnt like the outcome. Granted, it was about 30 min in the freezer, not 30 min in the fridge, but as soon as I started to add chocolate, I had so many doubles and triples it was insane! But if the centers were crystallized, I dont see any problem in panning them.

 

I meant to include this in my last post, on the note of crystallizing caramels. I have done that, not intentionally, but totally by accident. A years ago I made a slabbed caramel. On it setting up, I started pulling it as you would taffy. I'm not totally sure why I did this, I think it may have been just to see if there would be any texture change or softening like you would get after pulling taffy. Anyways, I thoroughly pulled it and set it back into a rough slab shape. Came back to it about an hour later, totally opaque, and very crystallized. I tasted it, it reminded me of fudge, it had that short texture and sliced cleanly. I trashed it at the time, but that actually could be a very real starting point for caramel centers that are easy to produce. No depositing required and I imagine that the pieces would have no problems in the coating pan. I'm sure the crystallized caramel could be formed into a slab and cut into desired size to pan, or while it is still malleable, pull into a rope and cut the pieces like hard candy drops, and let them crystallize individually.

Wonder if you could crystallize and add invertase and pan fast!

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I don't remember what recipe I had used for the caramel, but it was fairly soft once cooled, and I used one of the cheap clear plastic molds used for chocolates - at room temperature the caramel stuck like crazy to the molds and I couldn't get it out cleanly, and after putting it in the freezer for a while, the caramels stuck even harder to the molds, and were still soft enough that I couldn't just leverage them out.  


For panning, if the caramels are rounded enough, they shouldn't stick significantly, and even if they do, once the first coat is on they'll act just like anything else in the pan.  At least in my experience, the stickiness of caramels is directly related to their temperature, so even a little bit of cooling should drop the stickiness quite a bit.  You may have had a problem with doubles and triples when panning with chocolate on very cold centers, simply by insta-hardening the chocolate before it had a chance to thin out across the whole batch - cooling the caramels in the fridge for a while should cool them enough to reduce their stickiness while not being so cold that the added chocolate won't flow at all (but this is speculation, and warrants experimentation to verify :) ).

 

I think with taffy-pulling the caramels you basically made fudge...  That actually gives me some ideas for interesting panning experiments to play with later, and makes me worry a lot less about the result if my panned caramels do crystallize - if I end up with chocolate covered caramel-fudge instead of chocolate covered caramels, it wouldn't be a disaster. :)

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5 hours ago, Kerry Beal said:

Wonder if you could crystallize and add invertase and pan fast!

 

That sounds like exactly the type of crazy scheme I'd come up with...  I like it!

 

Not gonna try it, but I do like the way you think. :P

 

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Speaking of crazy schemes, how about an oiled Parisienne scoop?  Aka melon melon baller, the tinier the better ;)  Could maybe work if the caramel is the right texture ... 

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That one is smaller than the DeBuyer one - and it's held together with binder clips.

 

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10 hours ago, minas6907 said:

I just came across, the panning attachment at Design and Realization is on sale for $415, not a bad price for a panning attachment, down from $550. I'm not sure how long it will be for, I just randomly came across it. .

https://www.dr.ca/confectionery-coating-pan-attachment.html

 

1 hour ago, Kerry Beal said:

That one is smaller than the DeBuyer one - and it's held together with binder clips.

 

 

I have the DR one, the binder clips work fine. I’ve only tried panning a handful of times, turns out that watching the pan spin makes me feel seasick. Yeah, I know ... ridiculous :$  

 

Anyway, I’d be happy to consider offers if anyone would like a slightly used coating pan. PM me. 

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Makes me laugh - I've felt that way occasionally when watching it too carefully!

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