I finally took a shot at caramels yesterday. For staters, I like to cook as a hobby, I like chocolate but I haven't done much by way of candy making. I bake with chocolate frequently bu don't have much candy making experience other than the occasional batch of toffee or brittle (which usually turn out fairly well). I bought Greweling's book as a starting point and yesterday was my first attempt so I decided to start with one of my favorites to eat (caramels) and something that looked relatively easy to make (the sweetened condensed milk version of the soft caramel recipe). Here's the good and the bad:
Good: Flavor was great!! I had planned to try all 3 soft caramel recipes in the book but now it's hard to imagine any of the others tasting better than these.
Color was good. I was a little worried here because the photo example in the book looked very pale. These had a nice deep, dark, brown, well . . . caramel, color. No complaints.
Bad: Way too soft! I poured them in a frame on a marble slab to cool. After slicing with a chefs knife, the sections would not hold their shape very well at all. Left them on the slab overnight and the sections had "melted" back together in a solid block although you could still see the lines made by the knife.
Bottom line is that these taste great but are way too soft to dip, IMO. I cooked them to 243 degrees, should I try going a little higher? Also, how sensitive is caramel to weather? It's unseasonably warm here (80 degrees today, nearly that yesterday). Do I need to cool the room? I know I do for tempering chocolate, not sure about making caramel.
All comments, questions, and suggestions appreciated.
Hmmmmmm . . . Where would one obtain such molds?
ChocolateLife sponsor Truffly Made molds can be used for caramel - the square may work for you. Right now they are offering a "buy five get one free" offer plus they are offering free shipping on orders of three or more.
If you don't want to make this sort of investment without first trying them out, just search for
" silicone caramel molds "
on Google. There are any number of suppliers offering many different shapes, sizes, and configurations. You do have to make sure that the mold is convex (wider at the opening or the caramel won't come out of the mold) and that there's not too much fine detail (the caramel will release cleanly and the detail that is there will be visible, when making harder caramels).
It's important to note that the boiling point of water changes with alititude, which is why most caramel recipes totally suck. They don't account for the altitude change which effectively causes the boiling point of your ingredients to change, and subsequently the amount of water left in the caramel at the target temperature.
For every thousand feet of altitude gain, your water's boiling point will drop by approximately one degree celsius. For example, here in Calgary, our altitude is 4,500 feet, and the boiling point of our water is 95.5 degrees, NOT 100. This means that we have to drop the target temperature of our caramel down by 4.5 degrees. While this may not sound like much, it is in fact the difference between a nice, soft caramel, and one that can just about yank out your fillings when you chew it.
Add into the mix, an inaccurate thermometer, and you could be waaaay out.
Make sure you take into account your altitude gain from sea level, and if following a recipe, try to find out what altitude the recipe was tested at. It's important, yet they never say that in the cookbook. Duh.... Why?
Thanks for the replies. I don't think altitude is a problem here (I'm around 250 ft above sea level). The weather is supposed to be more suitable so I'll hopefully try a batch late Wednesday or early Thursday. My plan right now, based on more research and replies to this thread) is as follows:
Cook to 245, try the cold water test, let them sit in the frame for 24 hours, chill before cutting and keep them cool until I dip them. Any obvious red flags?
Won't cooling the caramels before dipping throw the chocolate out of temper? I dipped my last batch at room temp and they turned out very well.
I 2nd Brad regarding altitude. I had been having issues with my caramels being too hard and I dropped the temperature I remove them from the heat to 240F and they are a nice soft texture. When removed at 245F they could be used as weapons. BTW, I am at about 5200 feet above sea level.
Temperatures are relative. You want the center at about the temperature of the work room. If the center is very soft at this temp it may need to be colder so that it will hold its shape. Will that affect the temper of the chocolate? It could. You'll have to work within your own situation to find out.