Blog Post

Creating Caramels

But before I even get to the caramels, I have to say…we made MARSHMALLOWS today! I’ve seen many recipes for them, and thought often about making them, but never had. I mean, seriously, what would you do with a whole pan of marshmallows? I mean besides eat them? A batch is too many (unless you’re having a party, in which case you’d have to think of a reason to give everyone a homemade marshmallow), and I’m not exactly sure how long they keep. But making them professionally — well, that’s a different story.

So, caramel. Caramels are a trick, at least if you do them right. A short ingredient list, and combined and cooked simply enough. But if you do something wrong you can end up with crystallized caramel instead of smooth and creamy sweetness. (Although, certainly the crystallized caramel is plenty sweet, and mighty tasty. In fact, I’m told that some people even prefer it.)

What can go wrong? Just about everything. Too much this, too little that, wrong temperature or cooking time, or even the wrong order of ingredients. In fact, Confection Mentor Heather has been struggling for some time to develop a foolproof (read: Brian-proof) recipe that won’t crystallize.

There’s a simple solution to the problem, though: add corn syrup. Just a couple of tablespoons will stabalize the whole batch and make it perfect. Perfect, that is, except for the fact that it has corn syrup in it.

Corn syrup is what we at Kakao refer to as an “artificial ingredient,” meaning it’s something that we don’t use. I’m new to the business, but have absolutely subscribed to the idea that we simply steer clear of artificial flavors, colors and additives. And corn syrup is something we steer around.

Is this a quest for the Truth or a fool’s errand? Will we be destined to making batch after batch of caramels with a 50-50 chance of crystallization? Will we be forever forced to EAT and SHARE our highly textured but oh-so-delicious failures? Or will Heather find that perfect recipe? We’ll just have to see.

Meanwhile, this afternoon we took the caramels that turned out well and dipped them, along with the chile-vanilla ganache I made over the weekend, in tempered chocolate, and sprinkled a bit of sea salt on them to bring out the flavor and really make them sing. Several friends have told me they’ve been suffering from withdrawal from these while Kakao was on hiatus, and I can only imagine how they’ll react when they know I have some at the shop.

So, if you have a chance to stop by the shop, drop me a line and I’ll have some ready for you. You can probably have a marshmallow, too.