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Travails of a Novice Caramel Maker
Joined: Dec 12, 2005
Posted to Thread #8067 at 5:42 pm on Sep 27, 2007
Marilyn in FL: Travails of a Novice Caramel Maker
Posted: Dec 10, 2002 1:28 PM
Gailís Swap (www.epicurious.com) Post# 477768
Let me start right out by stating that I can be seduced by a recipe. If the ingredients are all available (yes...) and the methodology is simple (ohh, yes...) and the outcome promises a delightful combination of chocolate and nuts (Yes..Yes..YES!)...well, what's a good Catholic girl to do?
So I went home last night clutching the recipe for Michael's "Chocolate Macadamia Nut Caramels" (posting 48149). I'd never made candy before, but really, how difficult can they be? The Arabs invented caramels over a thousand years ago and that was <i>way</i> before foodtv.com.
Reading the recipe, it seemed simple enough. I'd heard the phrase "soft-ball stage", but the conversation involved a bunch of guys drinking beers in a local bar. I should have made the connection. Since the instructions recommended a heavy pan, I opted to double the recipe and make it in my mutant-size Caphalon stockpot. Opening the pantry door, I dumped in practically every type of sugar stocked there and added three types of chocolate. Then I reverently added the virgin candy thermometer and waited for the magic to begin.
Two hours and 15 minutes later, I was still waiting for "soft-ball" stage, a phrase I now associate with Dante's Fifth Level of Hell. (The others being hard-ball, hard-crack, soft-tack, and Bad Hair Day). Plus, I was worried about...dare we say it??? Crystallization. To stir or not to stir. The instructions said to stir continuously, and so I stirred and I stirred, till my stirrer was tired. But I've read many a post stating how "a single sugar crystal can ruin an entire batch." Oh, the anguish of it all.
I left the caldron bubbling, bubbling, toiling and troubling away and went to the Internet in search of solace. There I found the answer to my problem in 12-point Helvetica: "Do not make candy in the rain. Too much humidity will keep the sugars from reaching the correct temperature."
Aha. A minor point. Who took meteorological factors into consideration when chocolate is involved? It was--and had been--raining for 24 hours in our small Florida town. I'm happy when it rains. I open the windows just to listen to the sound. It was good for the aqua filter; it was good for the wetlands; it was bad for caramels. Who knew?
So, I finally gave up on this incredibly delightful batch of bubbling chocolate and walked out of the room. Immediately, I thought about my extremely expensive stock pot and thought it would get ruined, so I went back in to shut if off. There, right before my eyes, the texture changed and I noticed the temperature was just 4 degrees short of "soft-ball!"
My enthusiasm returned and fear of scalding the entire batch moved into first place on my Panic-O-Meter. I stirred a few more times, sending Ethernet blessing to Pat in North CA for the silicon spatula. The second it reached temperature (2 hours and 45 minutes, for those who care) I added the roasted nuts and vanilla. I sent a hasty prayer to the Candy Goddess for Wayward Girls and poured it out into two pans. The texture looks caramel-y and the chocolate is glossy, appeasing my fear of graininess. Taste test tonight. The dentist may be getting his Christmas bonus early.
Jesus saves. Buddha recycles.
Other messages in this thread:
- 8067. ISO Marilyn or anyone who might have saved Mar's famous "black garter belt" post. I looked for - Randi - 4:36pm on 09/27/07 (54)
- Awww, I'm touched that you thought of my warped sense of humor in your time of need: - MarilynFL - 5:41pm on 09/27/07
- Travails of a Novice Caramel Maker - MarilynFL - 5:42pm on 09/27/07
- Black Garter Belt Pie [LINK] - MarilynFL - 5:44pm on 09/27/07
- Continuing the saga of my pitiful inability to make candy: [NT] [LINK] - MarilynFL - 6:06pm on 09/27/07
- Shouldn't there be a special section in the HOF just for the brilliance, - orchid - 6:00pm on 09/27/07
- Or maybe a culinary essay section? - desertjean - 6:43pm on 09/27/07
- I agree dj. I think it would be nice to have them all in one place. [NT] - orchid - 6:59pm on 09/27/07
- and Joannie's travels too :-) [NT] - Randi - 8:26pm on 09/27/07
- I second that! I've printed some but I want the WHOLE collection!! [NT] - Sandy_in_Philly - 8:54pm on 09/27/07
- T&T--Guaranteed to Brighten Your Day Category [NT] - AngAk - 4:42pm on 09/28/07
- That's it Ang! What do you think Mimi? [NT] - orchid - 5:22pm on 09/28/07
- A "Classic posts" category? [NT] - Mimi - 6:56pm on 09/28/07
- yes, yes [NT] - AngAk - 7:19pm on 09/28/07
- Yes! Though Marilyn still might need her very own. [NT] - Joe - 8:26pm on 09/28/07
- Love it! [NT] - LisainLA - 6:44pm on 09/28/07
- Marilyn, is the Sodom and Gomorah casserole your's too? I have that. [NT] - AngAk - 6:35pm on 09/27/07
- Sister Mary Penitentia of the Wooden Ruler sent Marilyn to the cloak closet because she said "yes." [NT] - MarilynFL - 7:01pm on 09/27/07
- thank you darlin, I feared they were lost and they are a never-ending source of - Randi - 6:37pm on 09/27/07
- and that was supposed to go right under Marilyn's 1st post. Orchid, I was - Randi - 6:38pm on 09/27/07
- Yes, there's more to cooking than just cooking and Marilyn's way with words - orchid - 6:57pm on 09/27/07
- Awww, this is really boosting my mood, dear friends. Orchid, your words made me.... - MarilynFL - 7:03pm on 09/27/07
- Please do and thanks Randi for reminding me about these. [NT] - orchid - 7:08pm on 09/27/07
- Thanksgiving Tips from the Dark Side - MarilynFL - 7:26pm on 09/27/07
- This is hysterical! I can just see the cat...and the kitchen...and your blouse...! [NT] - Amanda_Illinois - 7:35pm on 09/27/07
- Marilyn, do you still have the chocolate saga that begins with "Hold onto your socks Bertha..." - Joe - 1:07am on 09/28/07
- I'll poke around, Joe. [so many posts, so many dead brain cells....] [NT] - MarilynFL - 2:38pm on 09/28/07
- Found it! I searched "marilyn, bertha" and it popped right up. It was our seats we were to hold onto [LINK] - Joe - 4:01pm on 09/28/07
- Marilyn, did you ever make this cake again(and live to tell about it)? [NT] - AngAk - 4:50pm on 09/28/07
- Yes, it is a joy to make. I use 54% semisweet now and it's not so...so. [NT] - MarilynFL - 5:02pm on 09/28/07
- Thank you Joe! I've copied and re-formatted it. Those mutated paragraphs give me a headache. - MarilynFL - 4:53pm on 09/28/07
- Marllyn, I had remebered it being longer. Where did you find the second part? Some of the best - Joe - 5:32pm on 09/28/07
- This extra text was in the comments...and since it had to do with - MarilynFL - 5:45pm on 09/28/07
- The "Daddy loves you very much..." bit is priceless. Thanks for adding it in. [NT] - Joe - 5:51pm on 09/28/07
- I can't link to it... and there are no little squares at the end. Here is the link it goes to: - cheezz - 7:19pm on 09/28/07
- Cheezz, click on Joe's link and look at the URL in the address bar. There - orchid - 7:46pm on 09/28/07
- nope - it appears in my url bar just like I cut/pasted it -- it ends with '88' [NT] - cheezz - 4:31am on 09/29/07
- I guess all links to that site are haunted. Enjoy Marilyn's re-formatted version, above, - Joe - 4:59am on 09/29/07
- LOL! [NT] - LisainLA - 3:21pm on 09/29/07
- I actually snorted laughing out loud here, Joe. Forgive me. [NT] - MarilynFL - 5:11pm on 10/01/07
- Hi cheezz - to get around the garbage Epi shoves into the address bar after you link, - LisainLA - 3:20pm on 09/29/07
- EUREKA!! Thanks Lisa :) [NT] - cheezz - 4:09pm on 09/29/07
- Then there's the Mailbox Macarena post. . . [NT] - AngAk - 4:51pm on 09/28/07
- I'm laughing just thinking about this one. Tooooo Funny! [NT] - orchid - 5:30pm on 09/28/07
- Both pieces are a lot of fun--thanks for posting. - Amanda_Illinois - 7:12pm on 09/27/07
- laughter really is the best medicine. thank you Dr. Marilyn, these are just fantastic! [NT] - Randi - 9:12pm on 09/27/07
- MariaD's pretty funny too..... [NT] [LINK] - Sandi in Hawaii - 8:44am on 09/28/07
- Oh my, thanks Sandi...I had completely missed this posting. Hilarious, Maria! [NT] - MarilynFL - 5:02pm on 09/28/07
- And who was it that when her recipe was "drafted up" to T&T and then gave - orchid - 5:39pm on 09/28/07
- Well, I became obsessed with this so I found it. I think it's hilarious! [NT] [LINK] - orchid - 9:59pm on 09/28/07
- And Debbie's tagline, always makes me giggle. Too funny! [NT] - Dawn_MO - 10:39pm on 09/28/07
- Wait, wait! Did anyone talk about Marilyn's discussion about the price of vanilla? - Barbara in VA - 1:02am on 10/02/07
- Okay, I vote that this post goes into the collection, too! SPATCHCOCK! *giggle* [NT] [LINK] - Julie R - WA - 2:40am on 10/02/07
- you've got my vote! [NT] - AngAk - 5:49pm on 10/02/07