Made a batch of my jasmine-vanilla caramels last night and another batch of lavender-honey caramels this morning. The air in the apartment is rich with the scent of honey, caramel, and lavender – I’m practically gaining weight just breathing it – making for a very pleasant morning.
Caramels, it turns out, are tricky. My first batch, which I made with glucose, boiled to a satisfactory texture at 246 degrees, the very bottom end of the firm-ball range. My second batch, made with honey, I naturally boiled to the same point, expecting it to be similar, but it came out WAY too runny. The next batch, boiled to 249 degrees (the high end of the firm-ball range), also came out too runny. So I threw it back in the pot and reboiled it to 251 degrees, which produced the right texture – soft, chewy, and firm enough to hold its shape.
My conclusion from this is, as the textbooks mention, that caramels are a product of more than just temperature, and that the “old-fashioned” ways of measuring doneness, like dropping a bit of it into cold water, are a better way of establishing a baseline than merely going for temperature. I’ve made enough caramels that I can also recognize doneness by the way the boiling syrup drips from the spoon – this surprised me, but it seems to be true.
I cooked the lavender caramels, which are off the same recipe, to 251 degrees again, but this time I also did an “eye” test and an ice-water test. It seems to be OK, so perhaps I’ll use that temperature for other batches off the same formula.
In case anyone is wondering, here is my basic formula for honey caramels, adapted from Wybauw’s book, Fine Chocolates: Great Experience:
- 600g honey
- 1000g sugar
- 875g cream
- 250g butter, softened
Boil cream and steep with any flavorants (lavender, jasmine tea, vanilla bean, what have you). Strain out flavorants, and add sugar (use a large pot as it will foam up a LOT). Once the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is boiling, add the honey. Cook to about 235 degrees, then add the butter. Cook to 251 degrees or when the ice water test reads “firm ball” (this may be more dependable).
This makes two 9×14 cake pans’ worth of caramels. That’s a lot, but I have 100+ boxes of candy to make…and I LOVE leftover caramels.
Tonight I’ll cut up and dip the caramels. Tomorrow, who knows: English toffee?