About making caramel candy--you know, the nice soft chewy kind with cream and butter in it? Well, I've now tried twice to make it: the first time it came out too hard, but with a perfectly pleasant toffee-like result. Yesterday, I tried to make it again, and though it seemed to be going fine, suddenly burnt to an acrid blackness (despite the fact that my candy thermometer had barely reached 250 at that point). Completely inedible, whole batch went straight into the trash, leaving a very frustrated cook.
Should I get a new thermometer (it's OXO and not that old)? I would really like to make these, as I love them and think they'd also make a great gift coated in chocolate and wrapped up. Do you know of a good recipe for caramels? Any tips from other readers?
Juliet, we feel your pain; caramels are technically very straightforward but in practice we find them finicky and moody.
Since your other batch also heated too hot and became toffee-like, we suspect that your thermometer does have some issues. Also, is it a thermometer designed specifically for frying and candy-making? If you're trying to use a standard meat thermometer you'll have problems.
Also make sure that you are using a heavy pot with a thick lining. If it is hotter in spots then that could explain why the caramel burned before reaching a dangerous temperature on the thermometer.
We do have a good recipe for caramels - this recipe we used last Christmas turns out very soft and chewy caramels:
• Recipe - Ginger Cinnamon Caramels - Just leave out the ginger and cinnamon if you don't want those flavors.
We did talk about the differences between hard and chewy caramels here:
• Cook's Talk: Short and Long Caramels
Also see our tips for wrapping caramels and other small candies:
Any more tips for Juliet?
(Photo by Faith Hopler)