There once was a Le Creuset pot,
Whose insides were blackened a lot,
When a cook disregarded
To stir constantly when prompted –
Please learn from her: stir more often than not!
You and I both know that candymaking requires way more attention than say, a casserole or whatever you cook in that Set-it-and-Forget-it Ronco thing you got for Christmas. I don’t have to tell you that. But I do have to tell me that.
It’s what I like to call Recipe Performance Fatigue. After making a recipe a dozen times, you start to get a little lazy with it. Ingredients are skipped, corners are cut. The beauty of cooking is that most of the time, your dish will still be fabulous despite the RPF tendencies you gravitated toward while making it. But candymaking doesn’t have room for all that corner-cutting. This is especially true when you’re making caramels and are dealing with sugar that boils and bubbles like the contents of an active Hawaiian volcano.
RPF is how I skipped the part about “stirring constantly,” ultimately leading to the stubborn black circle of carbon lining the bottom of my beloved enameled pot.
But I will say that the Le Creuset pot’s demise wasn’t in vain. For one, I’ve been scrubbing and soaking it for a couple of weeks and it seems to be slowly helping in lifting out the blackened mess. And to my surprise, the batch of caramels set up beautifully, glistening and cracking in all the right places when you cut them. And they were lacking any foul taste that would hint at my kitchen debacle. It was a Christmas miracle, so much so that I had to sprinkle them with fleur de sel — delicate flakes and tiny cubes that would come as close to snow as Southern California would allow. RPF, eat your heart out! Now, back to scrubbing my pot.
(Click on “Read the rest of this entry” for recipe.)
For this recipe, you will need a candy thermometer or a digital thermometer that can read higher than 250 degrees. If you don’t have a Le Creuset pot, any heavy-bottomed pot will do. Just be sure to stir constantly so you don’t have to write cheesy limericks about your candymaking exploits (refer to top of post). The following recipe yields a chocolate caramel with a soft, buttery chew. The recipe that inspired it is from Epicurious, which yields a harder caramel with a heartier chew.
CHOCOLATE CARAMELS WITH FLEUR DE SEL
Adapted from Epicurious
Yield: 60 to 80 caramels (depending on how you cut them)
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 10 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate or chocolate chips (up to 60 percent cacao)
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces
- 2 to 3 tablespoons Fleur de Sel
1. Line a 9 x 11 (or smaller) rimmed baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.
2. Add cream to a small pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from burner and add chocolate. Wait about a minute, and then stir mixture until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth and creamy.
3. In a Le Creuset pot over high heat, add sugar, corn syrup, water and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring to make sure sugar is completely dissolved. Let pot boil for about 10 minutes, or until sugar is a deep amber color.
4. Slowly stir in chocolate mixture. At this stage, the pot will steam violently like you’ve made it angry or something. It’s cool, you’re doing it right.
5. Stir mixture constantly as you gauge the temperature of the pot’s contents. When it reads 243 degrees, remove the pot from heat and stir in the butter to finish.
6. Pour caramel into prepared pan (but don’t scrape the pan, it’s hot!). Let it sit for about 10 minutes, then sprinkle the Fleur de Sel over it. Cool completely.
To cut: Remove caramel slab to a cutting board and peel off paper. Cut slab into squares. If caramel is a little hard to work with, you can pop the slab into the freezer for a minute and it will be easier to cut. Wrap each caramel individually with wax paper squares. Caramels keep at room temperature in an airtight container for about 2 weeks.