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Caramels...to stir or not to stir

With the help of many on this board, I have finally mastered caramels using a recipe that has heavy cream as the dairy. Yesterday I tried a different recipe that uses condensed milk. The two recipes I consulted had similar ingredients but one called for constant stirring and the other only an occasional stir (every 3-5 minutes). Fearfully of burning the mixture I decided to play it safe and stir. The results were great and the caramels so rich and creamy! I think I'm going to jump camps and convert to the condensed milk recipe!

When I make the heavy cream ones, I don't stir, just let the bubbles do the work. If you have experience with this other type would you let me know what method works for you? It would be great not to be a slave to the stirring which can take several minutes as you know but pouring a batch of burned ingredients would be a worse fate!

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  1. When do you intend to stir - after the dairy is added it sounds like? If so i find stirring constantly unnecessary.

    The creaminess is from the condensed milk, which gives a different flavor element. I am still a heavy cream person, b/c I like dark tasting caramel.

    1. Here are some links to maybe answer your questions. The Chow thread is currently going on on this board, maybe you're read it:

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/689649
      http://www.baking911.com/candy/carame...

      I've never made caramels with condensed milk but now I'm thinking of trying it. I do stir the mix the entire time, which on some days is a labor of love and on others I'm just in the zone so it's ok.
      Can you please post your condensed milk version recipe? Thanks!

      7 Replies
      1. re: bushwickgirl

        Adapted from Boston Globe, chocolate caramel turtles...Dec. 2006. Also refered to this one from Fun with Food on a previous CH post :

        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/337552

        I cut the recipe in half and used the caramel for Millionaire bars and Samoa bars, two cookie based bars with a caramel layer topped with chocolate. it made enough for about a cup for each recipe and bit left over for snacking!

        I can condensed milk
        1/2 cup sugar
        1/3 cup brown sugar
        3/4 cup corn syrup
        4 tablespoons butter
        3/4 teaspoon vanilla
        1/2 teaspoon salt

        Combine milk, sugars and corn syrup in medium heavy based pan. Stir to dissolve sugars over medium heat. Wash down the sides to avoid crystalizing. When the mix bubbles turn down the heat to medium low. Stir every 3-5 minutes until temp reaches 236. Remove from heat and add vanilla and butter. Use caramel as desired!

        As I wrote, I opted to stir and not lower the heat as much. The result was a much darker, deeper, creamier caramel than those I've made with cream and it worked much better in the bars! Going to see if it improves my attempts at turtle brownies. Previous caramel layers have only sunk into the par baked bottom layer instead of sitting pretty in the middle.

        1. re: tweetie

          Looks good, can't do it today, will do soon, thanks for posting it!

          1. re: tweetie

            Which recipes did you use for the cookies? Thanks!

          2. re: bushwickgirl

            My first time making caramels, so curious question, what is your stirring weapon of choice?

            Last time we did fudge learned real quick not to use a spatula as they will start to melt under the heat of scraping the sides and bottom of the pan. after this I'm not sure what to use/how often to stir

            1. re: Issues1991

              Maybe not a problem with the condensed milk but for fudge or a fondant it is important not to let the mixture go to grainy sugar, so every time you do stir, use a clean spoon because if there are sugar crystals on it and you introduce these into the mixture, it will cause a reaction that forms more crystals. Also, get the crystals off the side of the pan by puttng a lid on for the first two minutes of boiling so steam will form and wash the crystals down. Or take a fork wrapped in a damp napkin and wipe them off.

              1. re: Issues1991

                You might want to acquire a silicone spatula. Unlike rubber spatulas, they're heat safe, so can safely be used for cooking and can withstand much higher heat than caramelized sugar reaches. If you get one without a wood handle it can go in the dishwasher, too.

                Here is one example, though you can find various brands at any kitchenware store: http://www.oxo.com/p-596-medium-spatu...

                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                  Thanks for the Tip Miss Caitlin. :D you just made the holiday candy season much safe at least in one way...

                  Will look at getting one ASAP :D

            2. Mine has cream and condensed milk. If I don't stir constantly it burns (but I make a large quantity).

              1. For those lazy days when you don't want to stir, try this:
                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Njwidy...

                1. My ingredients are similar, if memory serves, but I just nuke it. No temperature-taking at all. Faster, too.