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Jan 9, 2013 08:11 PM

Caramel candy did not set

i made this recipe to a tee. i even have a new candy thermometer from Sur la Table. i don't think i skipped a beat with the process. it's now been 6+ hrs and the caramel is still gooey like thin nut butter. i left a message in her comments section but it's at 1200+ comments so i doubt anyone will see it.

i'm sad bc i wasted some very expensive apple cider. do i need to give it overnight to set? it's been in the fridge and i thought it would be done by now. any suggestions? thanks!!

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  1. Caramels cooked to 252F should be more solid than gooey once set (hold their shape well enough to cut and wrap, maybe even dip in chocolate, but still chewy, not hard or brittle), and it should be set once it is cooled to room temp. If the layer is as pictured and only about 1/4" thick, cooling should only take a few hours.

    That said, the fridge is not a great place for something that is mostly sugar, because the sugar will absorb water from the humid air and get even stickier and gooier.

    Test your thermometer in boiling water and make sure it is accurate. You can re-cook the caramels, just put a little water in the pot to prevent scorching, heat until the caramel is all melted, then bring it all back up to temperature.

    Good luck.

    4 Replies
    1. re: babette feasts

      does it matter if the thermometer is touching the bottom of the pan? it's not a lot of liquid and it's not a very deep pan (1.5 qt sur la table saucepan)

      1. re: trolley

        Huge deal, the thermometer should not touch the bottom of the pan. If it did, it read the temp of the pan, not what was in it, which could be different.

        1. re: wyogal

          OK! i did it! i scraped the goo back into saucepan and held the thermometer. it worked! although it's slightly burnt it has a nice taste to it. phew. gonna make a new batch tomorrow.

          1. re: trolley

            Good! Lesson learned! Does your thermometer have a clip for the edge of the pot to hold it up off the bottom?

    2. Oddly enough, I made this exact recipe yesterday too and I found they turned out pretty darn good.

      Did you reduce the cider enough? I measured mine out each time I thought it was reduced adequately.

      I made sure it heated to 252 and I also used a kitchen timer to keep track on time, plus I tested the caramel in cold water to make doubly sure it had reached the right stage of solidity.

      12 Replies
      1. re: Musie

        i made several mistakes so no, i didn't follow the recipe to a tee. i retract my statement above. first, i put in too much salt. secondly, it wasn't hot enough so i scraped up what i could and tossed it back in the pan. it burnt slightly but it's ok. i feel it's too salty. so here i am doing a do over right now.

        i'm also trying to wrap them in foil and they look terrible. no offense to 4 yr olds but they look like a project my 4 yr old preschooler and his friends would do.

        1. re: trolley

          wrap in foil if you use foil that has a coating, otherwise use parchment paper or cupcakes papers. Foil can stick and create another headache.

          If it makes you feel any better this recipe and others like it take a bit of practice. Candy therms are tricky and the advice you rec'd here does make all the difference.

          I really love SK's recipe.

          1. re: HillJ

            so i burnt the last pot of apple cider so i'm starting over with some inferior apple juice instead of cider.

            this candy making has been humbling to say the least. i can roll with the best of them. roll croissant dough and make genoise can't hold a candle to candy. it seems it's more of an EXACT science than baking.

            1. re: trolley

              I agree, that's why I don't make it. The only fudge I make is the kind where you melt chocolate chips in sweetened condensed milk. Otherwise, it turns out like chocolate sand.

              1. re: trolley

                don't give up. technique takes time. no more exact than homemade croissant dough.

                when i made this recipe I really let the rolling boil go. each time i've made the recipe the results improved. but i do prefer a chewy texture. i don't refrig the batch, i've let it dry out overnight and then wrapped in paper in the morning.

                working the candy therm. and the right boil should get you there :)

                1. re: HillJ

                  i'm not giving up but i am giving up on this recipe. i realized while i enjoy salty sweet (chocolate pretzels, salted butterscotch pudding) i don't enjoy it in my caramel. i don't think this recipe has enough sweet (1/2 cup of brown sugar) to compliment the 2 tsps of sea salt. maybe it's my salt? maybe it's not good? it's a flaky type from WF which cost about $10. another thing is the consistency wasn't very good. they were too chewy not tender enough. i think apple cider caramels need to not have too much salt. it takes away from the cider flavor. maybe 1/2 a tsp but not much more. i know i'm an outlier since i saw the comments on SK and people are raving. i do enjoy some of her recipes and like her online personality. however, there are people out there who would rave about anything Deb makes, even a lump of coal.

                  i may go with the recipe weezieduzzit posted below. while i'm not a big fan of overly sweet stuff i think either the salt needs to be reduced or sugar needs to be increased. i live the idea of corn syrup too. just my 2 cents.

                  1. re: trolley

                    From what you're describing it's not the instructions you tried following as much as the taste you found unappealing- so, I understand wanting to move onto another version. In the end, with any recipe, it's about what appeals to each of us.

                    I didn't find this recipe overly salty at all actually and salt is easy enough to adjust or omit- but (again) it's all about what appeals.

                    Please continue to report back on your caramel making though, it's always helpful to hear feedback.

                    1. re: trolley

                      Just because you don't like the flavor of a recipe doesn't mean it is bad. I love that amount of salt, my friend agrees with you. When I have made these caramels they have been very very tender. Perhaps your salt is a finer one, in which case the recipe asks you to reduce it. There is also another cup of sugar, so it is 2t ( or less) salt to 1.5 c sugar, not a lot of salt imo.

                      1. re: magiesmom

                        who said it was bad? i just said "i don't enjoy it in my caramel". i realize it's a personal preference so that's why i changed up the recipe to my liking.

              2. re: trolley

                My mom always used plastic wrap. Good luck, I bet it is yummy!

              3. re: Musie

                How much the cider was reduced is not that important. Either you cook the water out before adding the cider to the rest of the ingredients, or you cook the whole mess longer, until you have the desired concentration of sugar:water:fat:solids. The sugar, fat, and solids aren't going anywhere, temperature rises as water evaporates and everything else concentrates.

                Trolly, glad to see you managed to rescue it.

                1. re: Musie

                  I've seen recommended temps varying quite a bit. So more times than not I'm looking for the "back of the spoon" or "drop in water" to check hard stage.

                  Therms can be very inconsistent tools.

                2. I also used parchment to wrap my caramels. I started with a big sheet and just folded and used a bread knife to cut down until I reached a semi-desired size.

                  I'm actually curious if this recipe would work with an alternative juice. I'm tempted to buy blueberry juice this weekend to try in place of the apple cider.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Musie

                    i think it would work with other juice except i was thinking pomegranate or maybe even orange just to make them seasonal.

                  2. I tried this before Christmas and was less than impressed (as I often am by SK recipes.) There are better apple cider caramel recipes out there. I'll see if I bookmarked the one I ended up making several batches of- much better!

                    Mine didn't set up, either. I had to scrape it all back in the pan and cook it a second time to get it to set up.

                    ETA: I used this one and each batch was perfect. I decided to add extra spices, though, just my preference. Then I tasted the chai caramels I made and forgot all about the apple cider ones... they were awesome.



                    19 Replies
                    1. re: weezieduzzit

                      While I don't share your disappointment of SK tested recipes I did make the chai caramels myself from showfoodchef about two weeks ago and loved them!

                      That's now five caramel recipes in my arsenal with the pumpkin version remaining my absolute favorite but the options are endless.

                      And a blueberry juice would work just as well as apple to the posters above considering it.

                      I plan to continue experimenting all winter!

                      1. re: HillJ

                        look! i did it! i sort of gave up on the recipe by altering it a bit. so i added a 1/4 cup of agave syrup (was out of corn syrup and didn't want to go to the store) and reduced the salt to 1.5 tsp. oh, and i upped the cream to 1/2 a cup. you know bc i didn't want to throw away another $10 + on good cider so i stuck with unfiltered apple juice. i think the flavor is fine but i'm sure much better with the cider.

                        another lesson- those foil wrappers with the liners STINK for caramels. the paper got stuck on the caramel so i went back to the original plan with parchment.

                        thanks for the encouragement. i'm going to move on to chai caramels next. i think earl grey tea flavor would be nice too.

                          1. re: trolley

                            Look at you! How wonderfully delicious! Enjoy!

                            1. re: HillJ

                              Let us know how you like the chai version oh and Earl Grey sounds like a interesting idea!

                              1. re: trolley

                                Don't use the paper! I learned that the hard way years ago, but the foil is the wrapper, the paper is not a liner - it's just to keep the foil sheets separate. The foil alone is the wrapper, and it does not stick at all. They really should say that on the package!

                                1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                  yeah, they really should. so lame. well, as you can see from the picture i went with paper. maybe i'll wrap some of them in pink foil. oh, btw, i'm making all this for a baby shower. so in the picture you'll see the bark i made next to the wrapped candy. the bark, which is for another thread is as addictive as crack. dangerous!

                                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                    CMc, which foil/paper is this? I'm not familiar with the brand.

                                    1. re: HillJ

                                      There are various brands, colored foil squares in different sizes for wrapping chocolates/candies. You can see quite a selection at the link below (scroll down), though I've bought them in smaller packs from brick-and-mortar stores. I see there's a note at the top of the link explaining to discard the paper.


                                  2. re: trolley

                                    You can also buy patterned parchment if you wanted to jazz the wrap up a little more.

                                    1. re: Musie

                                      Which is why I like using cupcake papers-lots of choices.

                                  3. re: HillJ

                                    Hi HillJ,

                                    Would you mind sharing your recipe for pumpkin caramels? Thanks.

                                      1. re: HillJ

                                        Mmm, I think these are the next caramels on my to make list. Do you think honey might work in place of the corn syrup?

                                2. If you're asked to make bunny shaped caramels and they're about a half inch thick how long should you leave them in the frig? My caramel Tastes delicious and the recipe says to put them in the frig overnight but in a pan not shaped silicone. So how long should it take to stiffen up and not be so gooey?