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Dec 19, 2011 10:45 AM

Caramel Fail-Help!!

So I am not a baker. I love to cook, but not bake. I pushed myself to the limits this weekend and made a batch of gingerbread caramels from Martha Stewart.
I followed the recipe exactly and ended up with caramels that were way too soft. I temepered my thermometer, had correct measurements, what went wrong? The caramels are really soft, just slightly firmer than a thick sauce.
I am going to make another batch tomorrow but would like some insight as to where I went wrong.

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  1. If they were too soft, it means they didn't get cooked to a high enough temperature (despite what your thermometer said). It could be that the temp called for in the recipe isn't quite high enough to create a texture that you like. I prefer soft caramels myself, but if you like them firmer, by all means cook the mixture a little longer - maybe up to 250 or so?

    2 Replies
    1. re: biondanonima

      +1. I made caramels the other week that were firm enough to pick up but still soft enough to chew and I cooked the sugar/butter/cream to 250 before pouring it into my loaf pans.

    2. You can add about 1 1/2 cups of water to the batch and cook it again. I cooked mine a little to hard over the weekend.

      1. I will try another batch and get the temp up to 250. The recipe calls for the temp to be at 248, can 2 degrees make that much of a difference?
        Most of the reviews of the recipe said it took a long time to get the mixture to temperature, I got mine up to 248 within the 20 minutes the reipe says it will take.
        I also read that adding the cream and butter after the sugar has melted is the way to go, but the recipe has you add everything at once and cook it.

        2 Replies
        1. re: CraftyLatvian

          Yes, a couple of degrees in one direction or another makes a huge difference in texture when making caramels. The recipe that my family makes at Christmas calls for the mixture to be heated to 236, and they are perfectly soft and gooey at that temperature. Any less and they don't set, more than 1 or 2 degrees more and they come out much harder than they should. I also find that getting caramel up to temperature takes a lot longer than you think it should, and there are often stalls along the way - if you didn't experience any of that, perhaps your thermometer crapped out mid-batch?

          1. re: biondanonima

            I made this recipe a couple days before Christmas - thanks for the tip! My new thermometer probe read 277 the minute I put it into the ingredients - obviously crapped out on me! So, nervous about all those ingredients (a quart of heavy cream!) I went with my old pastry teacher's advice: " if you use a thermometer, it won't come out right" So I cooked it to firm ball (which means some syrup dropped into clean cold water makes a ball you can pick up, and just holds it shape) and it was perfect. Even after I check/calibrate my thermometer, there are some recipes that relying on the reading makes an undercooked mess. I know it's not much help for the beginner, sorry!