getting caramels to keep shape
With the help of posters here I have managed to make tasty caramels but cannot seem to get them to stop spreading once cut. The texture and taste are great but they are an unsightly mess once cut, converting from lovely little squares to blobs making it impossible to gift them. I cook them to 248-250 degrees per my recipe but wonder if a higher temp is what 's necessary to firm them up.
Thanks to all who chimed in with suggestions. Opinionated, I tried your recipe and had much better results even though it is very similar to the one I've been using. Never used brown sugar before or stirred/scraped once the boil begins. I panicked at 252 and took it off the stove. They firmed up nicely and kept shape much better than other batches. I still can't imagine getting to 265 without disaster and I'm not sure I'd want to because I was quite happy with the consistency I achieved this time.
The simple answer is your temperature is too low and I would cook to 250F and a a little higher.
The more complex answer is it depends upon your recipe.
For example, my go-to caramel recipe is Golden Vanilla Bean Caramels from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich. (Note: You'll find people have blogged the recipe.).
This is recipe has a two-step cook.
1) Cook the sugar to 300+ degrees before adding butter and cream.
2) reheat until 260F-265F non-runny caramels.
I think I can get away with a much higher cook temperature due to the butter and dairy fat (heavy cream) used in the recipe. Hence, my recommendation to try this recipe. :-)
dave, i am on your caramel making bus. (Alice Medrich- genuflect, genuflect). I don't know her recipe, but sounds like mine is similar and i take mine to 265 F. They are not soft but they are definitely firm/chewy and not crunchy/crackable. Here i pour the caramel over pecans, for 'toffee turtles'. The advantage of this recipe is you don't have to go up to 310 first; you just go directly to 265. I hope you'll try it and let me know how it compares!
** Thanks to a poster on another thread, I work with a CDN candy thermometer (web-purchased). SOOOO worth the small price- because it is digital and is programmed to begin beeping 5 degrees before the set goal. SO helpful!
** DO NOT try caramels on a humid rainy day. The mixture will likely separate.
COFFEE TOFFEE TURTLES (Caramels w/ Pecans)
As a cardamom lover, I recently have riffed on it, making Cardamom Pistachio Caramels w/ 1 T. espresso powder and 2 1/2 T.freshly ground cardamom seeds for x1 the recipe.
It takes me 45 minutes to make a batch, after my ingredients have been gathered. This does not include the optional chocolate chopping /melting /glazing, which only takes a few minutes.
X1 / x2 Ingredients:
x1 fits in an 8” x 8” pan ; x2 fits in a 9” x 13” pan ; or combination of sizes and shapes of Silpat and/or pam’d disposable type aluminum pans. (the set caramel pops right out of these types of pans but not foil lined pans.)
13 ½ T. / 1 2/3 c. heavy cream
¼ c. / ½ c. Medaglia d’Oro Espresso Powder - optional
½ c. / 1 c. Lyle’s golden syrup or light corn syrup
½ c. / 1 c. white sugar
1/3 c. / 2/3 c. packed light brown sugar
½ / 1 stick unsalted butter
¼ / ½ tsp kosher salt
¾ / 1 ½ tsp. vanilla in 1 T. water
1- 1 ½ / 2- 3 c. raw pecan halves or toasted skinned broken hazelnuts (or less)
4 / 8 ou. Chopped chocolate ( I prefer 72% Dark Caillebaut)
Heat ½ - 1 c. heavy cream. Whisk in the espresso powder til all is dissolved. Add rest of cream through salt. Stir with a wooden spoon over medium high heat and bring to a boil until sugars and butter are melted. Continue to boil briskly (but not to overflow the pan.)
Every few minutes, gently stir/scrape the bottom of the pot so the mixture doesn’t burn.(A wooden spoon/ paddle with a flat bottom edge is best for this.). Keep nearby a small pot of warm water with a pastry brush. A few times during the ½ hr. or so of cooking, wipe down the insides of the pan with the wet pastry brush(this eliminates sugar crystals). Keep the brush sitting in the water. Check temp every 5-10 minutes.
While sugar syrup is cooking, spread nuts in single layer in bottom of pan.
Keep stirring mixture gently ; cook another 20+ minutes til a thermometer shows 265 degrees. Temp will rise more quickly as it approaches its goal. Immediately remove from the heat and quickly stir in the vanilla mixture (keep back your head in case the mixture spatters.) Pour the caramel quickly into the pan, scraping out the pot. (Most recipes tell you not to do this, in case there is any crystallized sugar on the sides of the pan, but I have had no such trouble.)
Sprinkle lightly with sea salt to taste. Let cool til warm and slightly stiffened, 30 minutes. Chill the pan in the refrig.on a flat cookie sheet for stability. Remove from the frig , pop out of the pan, smooth side down. Let return to room temp so caramel won’t crack when cut. Cube and wrap as desired. Store in frig or freezer in airtight container.
To glaze for Turtles :Put the chocolate in a microwave- proof dish, cover loosely with a lid and put in microwave on medium to med high Power for 2+ minutes. Stir and repeat til melted. Pop out the caramel from the silpat pan, smooth side down. Spread a thin layer of melted chocolate over; chill ; etc.
Wowee gee, Mr. Bill!
Thanks for the Turltles recipe and I'll give it a try towards the end of the year. I've been kicking around the idea of making Turtles.
During Christmas, I made salted caramels for little gift baskets. I'm kind of burned out on caramels for now. :-)
Also, Golden Syrup is a much better alternative to plain corn syrup.
Seems that although we are all discussing caramels, there are 2 different approaches that contribute to the extreme range of temperatures. The recipe I'm using has all the ingredients--water, sugar and dairy cooking together until the temperature of 248 is reached. Another approach dissolves the sugar and water, heats that combination to the higher temp of 350ish, then adds the dairy and raises the temp again, but to a lower 248. I think this is our point of confusion.
Using my recipe (courtesy of chocolate chick and adamclyde of this forum) I increased the temp to about 250 as suggested (before this epiphany) and ended up with toffee like caramels which were initially hard and brittle, but softened as they became chewable. Yummy, but not what I'm looking for. I'm certain that if I let it go any hotter, the whole batch would simply burn. It couldn't take much more heat and remain edible.
Thanks to all for your input. I will try making ahead and keeping in the fridge as suggested by many.
I've had this same problem in the past. After lots of trial and error I have discovered that heating to just ABOVE 250F (I don't have an exact temperature as I eyeball it these days - somewhere between 250-255) ) as well as refrigerating before cutting makes a world of difference in keeping the nice square shape well.
Wrap in professional-grade wax paper (not the grocery store version) and they should do well.
Sounds like you should have taken them to at least 255. I have recipes with different methods that are cooked to 245 to 260, so it just depends on the recipe and the firmness you desire, there is no universally perfect temp to cook caramels to. You can easily re-cook them, just put a little water in a pot, add the caramel and heat until melted, then cook, stirring, to the desired temperature. I actually did this yesterday with a big batch that was too hard, then cut and dipped 110 of them this morning. Originally cooked to 243, added water (and some extra butter, just 'cuz) and re-cooked to 238. Perfect. It's just adjusting the water content slightly.
One other quick check worth doing - testing your thermometer. They can go off (both electric and bulb) . . . .
put it in water - bring to a boil and make sure you're at 212. with candy making even a few degrees matters, so if you're only at say 205 in boiling water then you're not really at 248 with your caramel.
Could be that simple.
I don't have my caramel recipe with me right now - so let's just assume the temp is correct right now.
A basic question (but one I have to ask): How long are you giving the caramel to set up before cutting?
Assuming it is a few hours at least to be sure - you probably have too much dairy in the recipe. My recipe that I use for cut caramels calls for creme fraiche instead of cream. You can try cooking your caramel once the dairy is added for a while to reduce the water content, which may help thicken it so it is cuttable. Boiling it at this point isn't the same as changing the temp that you cook the sugar to, so if you're trying to save this batch that is worth a shot.
found it - your temp could be too low too - This is from Sherry Yard's the Secrets of Baking (love her books - recommend them on here all the time).
1/4c + 2 Tbs light corn syrup
heat to 350 - let cool 1 minute
Add 1c creme fraiche, 1/2 stick butter, 1/2 vanilla bean and 1tsp extract
heat and stir until reaches 245 - test that it is hard ball by dropping small amount into cold water, if not check after each additional minute of cooking until hard ball (could do this with yours - before it has cooled - to see if it will be cuttable)
cool and cut
So there are a few things you could test/compare from that recipe - how much milk/cream are you adding? sounds like temp might be off? try testing for hard ball by dropping your hot caramel into ice water and see if it seizes up into a ball.
If not - try her recipe, it is SO good. I did them for a dessert party and wrapped them in foils - almost every woman on the way out said that they stole a few and put them in their purse ;)
Might we be having a units problem? There's no way that sugar should be heated past 310 F or it will burn. 310 F is hard crack stage - it will make hard candy at that stage. Caramel should be cooked to 245- 250F. What I have learned over the years of making candies is that caramels need to set up for a few days before you cut them.
you'll have to take that up with Sherry ;)
I'd say something more insightful but I follow her recipes and they all work for me - so when it comes to the finer details of candy making and pastries I have to defer . . . .
Edit: From my understanding - that first 350 is well past hard crack stage and is what is making the dark caramel. You might not like your caramel that dark - that is a taste choice - and you're right you should watch it VERY closely at that point because you are walking a fine line between the end product tasting wonderfully deep and complex or burnt and bitter at that point. But you can get to hard crack at 310 without coloring your sugar really at all, in which case you won't have much flavor to your caramel in the end either - and it will be beige and gross (in my opinion).
The second 245-250 we all seem to agree on as the final temp of the actual sugar/dairy/butter caramel itself before pouring, cooling and cutting - but that isn't the point or purpose of that first sugar cooking step.
I get it now - it's a burnt sugar caramel Sherry is making, not a "regular" caramel. Not sure what kind the OP was making. Anyway, that's not why the OP's posters recipe isn't setting up - I think letting them set for a few days will help matters. I make a lot of candy....I will have to check Sherry's book out, although it seems to be more of a baking book. Thanks for the idea!
I've made them 3 times and only once did they come out as what I would describe as a "hard candy", though you're right the other two times they still were probably more what I would describe as . . . . .. hard and become chewy (okay I couldn't come up with another adjective to start with). But yes, maybe not "chewy" as say a brach's candy.
The key here would really be temperature control, a few degrees in sugar can make a huge difference. make sure that you are bringing them up to the final temp slowly (not on high heat) or you will overshoot your final temp since it will continue to heat once it is off the stove for a few minutes as well.
Give them a try and let me know what you think. You could also add more butter to increase the chewy factor too. It is a great book, I hope you enjoy it and let me know.