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|
|I thought little hearts |
would be super cute
for the chocolate
caramels, but way too
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|
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.