Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Caramels for a Cause

Back in November, I signed up as a volunteer with an organization called Icing Smiles.  In a nutshell, Icing Smiles is a non-profit organization that coordinates local volunteer bakers with families of terminally and critically ill children to provide an amazing celebratory cake (or other treat) at no charge to the family.  It offers the opportunity for the family to create a positive memorable occasion.  Thus far, I’ve not been called on to provide a cake and, while it would be a privilege to provide this service for a family, I truly hope that for the sake of children and families that there’s never a need. 

But in the meantime, there are needs elsewhere and despite being an organization composed primarily of volunteers, there are still expenses to be met.  This Saturday, Icing Smiles will be hosting its first fundraising event, the Magic of a Smile Gala.  The gala is in Maryland, where the organization is headquartered, which precludes my attendance.  To help the cause, options were offered of purchasing tickets to the gala, making a cash donation, or providing sweets for the dessert buffet.  I went with the latter.    

They were seeking donations of items that could be easily shipped:  homemade marshmallows, brownie bites, macaroons (I think they’re actually looking for macarons), cake pops, meringues, chocolate pretzels or sandwich cookies, candy or candy bark.  I seriously considered marshmallows because I’ve not yet made homemade marshmallows and they’re on my “to accomplish” list, but humidity can be a problem anytime you’re dealing with egg whites.  Instead I chose to make caramels.

this was one large mold until I took the scissors to it
As you may have read in some of my previous posts, I’m a big fan of making caramels.  The fanaticism wanes when it comes time to cut them, however.  I’ve searched online for caramel cutters, and all that I’ve found are apparently very expensive given that one must call to obtain a price.  As they say, “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.”  Instead of an incredibly expensive caramel cutter, after some gnashing of teeth, I opted for a moderately expensive silicone mold.


chocolate caramels waiting to be boxed

My thought process was that I could just pour the caramel over the mold, spread it into the cavities, let it set and pop out perfectly shaped caramels.  I found this process was much easier in theory than in practicality.  Trying to pour the screaming hot caramel from a six-quart, heavy copper-clad pan cleanly into the tiny cavities of the mold is a challenge I’ve not yet mastered.  The molded caramels had rough edges that needed to be trimmed off, but that was much easier than trying to cut through a one-half inch thick slab of caramel. 

I thought little hearts
would be super cute
for the chocolate
caramels, but way too
time consuming
The production schedule I had set for myself had to be slightly altered due to illness.  (At least once a year Tug brings home cooties from school and shares them with me.)  For a few days I didn’t have ambition to do much more than make the short journey from the bed to the sofa.  Even if I did have ambition, I couldn’t prepare food for others while coughing, sniffling and sneezing.  I managed to get everything finished up this afternoon and even made it on time to get them shipped out this evening to arrive by Friday. 


goat milk caramels with coarse sea salt








I nearly fainted when the clerk told me how much the shipping cost was.  It was totally outrageous, but I had made a promise.  So I paid it.  When I got home, I told Tug the next time I have the brilliant idea to donate something I’ve made, he should gently, but firmly place his hands on my shoulders, look me squarely in the eye, and say, “Love, just write a check.”



Chocolate Caramels
Yield:  depends on how big you cut your caramels

1 tablespoon butter *
1 cup evaporated milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup water
2 cups light corn syrup
2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
6 ounces bittersweet (60%) chocolate pieces
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Lightly spray a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with cooking spray and line bottom and sides of the pan with parchment.  Rub the parchment with the one tablespoon of butter, paying particular attention to the corners.  You can also melt the butter and brush it on the parchment.*

 In a small heavy saucepan, combine the evaporated milk, heavy cream and sweetened condensed milk.  

Pour the water and corn syrup into a large (5 or 6 quart), heavy saucepan.  Pour the sugar into the center, avoiding contact with the sides of the pan.  Add the salt.  Let sit for 15 – 20 minutes, then bring to a boil over medium-high heat, and cook until the sugar is dissolved, about 6 to 8 minutes.  Stir as little as possible.  If necessary, brush down the sides of pan with a pastry brush dipped in water to remove any sugar crystals on the sides of the pan.  Stop stirring, insert a candy thermometer, reduce the heat to medium and let come to a boil.  Cook, without stirring, until temperature reaches 260°F (hard-ball stage).  This may take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, depending on your pan, stove and altitude.

Meanwhile, place the milk/cream mixture over low heat and stir until warm.  Keep warm but do not boil.

When the sugar mixture reaches 260°F, stir in the warm milk mixture and the pieces of butter.   This will drop the temperature.  When the temperature comes back up to 230°F, add the chocolate pieces.  Stirring constantly, cook over medium heat until the thermometer reaches 244°F (firm ball stage), 30 to 60 minutes.  Stir in the vanilla.  Immediately pour the caramel into the prepared pan without scraping the pot.  (Scrape the pot into a separate container if you’d like.)  Allow to rest, uncovered, at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours without disturbing.  

Unmold caramel by lifting the parchment paper out of the pan.  Place the caramel slab on a cutting board and cut into pieces with a very sharp, heavy knife.  If necessary, rub the knife with butter or spray with cooking spray.*  Wrap the caramels with waxed paper squares, twisting ends to seal, or place in individual candy cups.  The caramels will stick together if not individually wrapped.

*These steps are not necessary if you are using silicone molds.  Additionally, the caramels in molds will not take as long to set.


9 comments:

  1. These caramels are gorgeous. I love those little white hearts piped on top. And what a great cause. I definitely see your point about writing the check, though!

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  2. Thanks, Katie. This week I find myself wishing I had purchased a heart-shaped mold instead!

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  3. where did you get the caramel molds? We are looking for a 3/4" square mold without much success. Our current caramel batch makes 150 3/4" square caramels.

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    1. My apologies for not replying sooner. I've been unplugged for a few days.

      I purchased this mold from bakedeco.com (Kerekes). It came as a full-sheet sized mold, but I cut it in half to accommodate my half-sheets. They have many different molds available. They can be a little pricey, but I would do it again in a heartbeat for the time and effort they save. Thanks for commenting and I hope you can find what you're looking for.

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  4. Enjoyed your discussion about caramel molds. I am a baking caterer of one - me. I make Salted Vanilla Caramels, among other goodies, and get to wrap about 200 per 1/2 sheet batch. That's AFTER I cut and attempt uniform sizes. I will check out the molds and let you know. If you're interested, please go to my blog at patricescakes.blogspot.com or my Facebook page Patrice's Cakes.

    Much obliged. Happy baking!
    Patrice

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    1. I will be very interested to know how you like working with the molds. I've been fighting off temptation to buy some others in different shapes. The itch to make caramels has been creeping up on me again, but we've had such incredible humidity here it's going to have to wait awhile.

      Your dessert buffet looks amazing, by the way!

      Dawn

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  5. Hi,
    I followed your link and looked for the molds on bakedeco.com and I can't find it anywhere! Any idea what it's called so I can search for it? Thanks so much!

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    1. This is a direct link to the mold: http://www.bakedeco.com/detail.asp?id=19498&categoryid=0#.Uq3zD7TfSvk. If that doesn't happen to work, it's item number F1149. The original mold is full sheet size, but I cut in half to make it easier to handle. It's a bit pricey, but worth it. Now if I could just find a large, heavy pot with a spout for pouring hot caramel . . .

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    2. thanks! mauviel pots have a copper spout pots but they're heavy and kind of pricey... anyway, hoping this will make them look prettier, even though pouring them--like you said-- will probably be tricky! thanks for the tip ;)

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