Techniques + equipment

Techniques + equipment

By
Chloe Timms
Contains
2 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781784881122
Photographer
River Thompson

Just a few lines of me being bossy, then we can get on to the fun stuff!

Ingredients

Store cupboard essentials to start you on your sticky journey.

Sea salts

There are many different varieties of sea salt – experiment to find your favourite flavour profile. When fine sea salt is required use a fine ground sea salt or grind your own in a pestle and mortar. NEVER USE TABLE SALT.

Dairy

Always use the best dairy products you can. The tastier the cream and butter you start with, the tastier the finished product.

Sugars

Caster sugar forms the base of most caramels. It has a small grain that easily liquefies. Darker sugars can add caramel flavour to a recipe without the actual inclusion of caramel.

Invert sugars

Invert sugars are mixtures of glucose and fructose. I like to use glucose syrup in my caramels for a clean flavour, but you can also use other inverts such as golden syrup and treacle. Temperatures may need to be adjusted if substituting glucose syrup for natural inverts such as honey and maple syrup in recipes such as Classic Chewy Salted Caramels.

Vanilla

Vanilla pods, seeds and extracts are perfect for flavouring, but never use essence – it can taste bitter and synthetic.

Chocolate

Use the best chocolate you can. Dark should have at least 70 per cent cocoa solids, milk between 38 and 40 per cent, and white should have a minimum 30 per cent cocoa solids. Never use anything marked as ‘chocolate coating’ or ‘chocolate-flavoured’.

Equipment

There are just a few items that you need before you get started on your caramel adventure.

Heatproof silicone spatulas

Heatproof spatulas are imperative when cooking at high temperatures to avoid molten plastic. Caramel can easily stick to wooden spoons but chips right off silicone.

High temperature digital thermometer

A digital, instant-read probe or thermometer makes reading temperatures easy and clear. Unlike old-fashioned sugar thermometers, there isn’t a submersion level, making it easy to measure small quantities as well as large.

Large, heavy-based pan

This should have at least a 7-litre capacity. Heavy-based pans are great for even heat distribution. A light-coloured pan is perfect for making caramel as you can easily observe the colour changes; however, you just can’t beat a copper sugar pan for perfect caramel cookery.

Mini blowtorch

Strictly non-essential but super fun for toasting and charring all things mallow.

Heatproof pastry brush

Great for washing away errant sugar crystals.

Portioners

A set of metallic sprung-handled portioners is a great way to equally divide cookie doughs and batters to achieve uniform results.

Set of measuring spoons and a mini measuring jug

Useful for measuring small amounts of wet and dry ingredients.

Sharp, long-bladed knife

Makes slicing up chewy caramels a snip.

Stainless steel ruler

Extremely useful for neatly cutting caramels and their wrappings. Stainless steel rulers are durable and hygienic.

Whisk

A good whisk is essential for achieving smooth batters, sauces and custards.

Mise en place

I have my neurotic moments, but trust me this isn’t one of them. Being organised and having everything weighed out, laid out and to hand will make you the best caramel cook.

Things can move quickly when working with caramel. The last thing you want to be doing is running to the other side of the kitchen, grabbing the cream, weighing it out, warming it and only then being ready to add it to the cooking sugar.

Not only is it dangerous to leave a pan of hot sugar unattended, it’s possible that your caramel could turn from perfection to burnt in a matter of seconds, forcing you to start over. You should always work calmly around caramel; you don’t want to be sploshing things about in a panicked hurry.

The same should apply to equipment: it is useful to have clean set of spatulas, pans and cloths to hand.

Most importantly, this way of cooking leaves you calm, organised and ready to enjoy the joys, excitement and transformations of caramel making.

Sterilising + filling

Jars of Salted Caramel Peanut Butter and caramel sauces make wonderful homemade gifts. Even better when they contain no nasty bacteria! Enter sterilisation.

To sterilise your jars, preheat the oven to 140°C and bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Wash the jars and lids thoroughly in hot soapy water and rinse well, ensuring no traces of soap remain. Place the jars on a baking sheet, not touching, and bake for 20 minutes. The jars should be bone dry when removed from the oven. While the jars are in the oven, boil the lids for 15 minutes before removing with a pair of clean metal tongs to air-dry upside down on a clean cooling rack.

It’s important to make sure that the jar and the contents you are putting in it are at the same temperature to avoid the glass cracking or shattering. Hot in hot jars and cold in cold jars. Jar caramel sauce when it is hot, but wait for the jars to cool before filling with the salted caramel peanut butter.

A clean piping bag or two sterilised metal spoons (follow instructions as for lids) are perfect for getting the peanut butter into the jar. For the salted caramel sauces, a wide funnel is brilliant to avoid spills.

As soon as the jars are full, tightly screw on the lids straight away. Store as instructed in the recipe.

Cutting + wrapping

I am often asked how I cut my Classic Chewy Salted so cleanly. The trick is to cut the caramels when they are only just set, so here are a few indications of when that might be.

Setting times vary due to ambient temperature, humidity and cooking temperature, which can be anywhere from 1–4 hours. Caramels cooked at a higher temperature will set faster than caramels cooked at a lower temperature. If the ambient room temperature is cold, this will speed up the setting time, and vice versa if warm. But note: any kind of caramel hates humidity! If the environment is damp, wrap the caramels as quickly as possible to avoid a sticky mess.

Cut the caramels on a clean, flat chopping board with a sharp, long-bladed knife and stainless steel ruler.

Caramels must be wrapped before being stored. In the UK it’s really hard to find premade wrappers, so I make my own. Doing it this way also means you can whip up a batch of caramels and wrap them without the need for specialist wrappers. Depending on the size of your cut caramels, you will need 70–80 wrappers per baking sheet.

The best and most effective way to make the wrappers is to cut 5–7.5 cm squares out of parchment paper on a clean cutting mat using a scalpel and stainless steel ruler.

To wrap the caramels, take one caramel and one wrapper, then place the caramel three-quarters of the way down the paper in the middle. Fold up the shorter piece of paper to cover the caramel and continue to roll up tightly. Holding the wrapped caramel in one hand, pinch one end of the overhanging paper and twist to secure. Flip and twist the other side. Continue until all the caramels are wrapped.

Safety + troubleshooting

Although I want to show you how simple caramel is to make, there are a few words of advice I should impart before we begin.

Be safe. Caramel is hot, please be careful

Until you are a confident caramel maker, it is prudent to cover your hands (and arms, if you are super clumsy) with oven mitts, but be sure they have a good grip. Wear tight-fitting sleeves that are unlikely to catch on pan handles and send molten sugar flying.

If hot caramel splashes onto your skin, it will cool and harden very quickly. Remove the caramel from your skin as soon as possible and run the affected area under tepid water for 20–30 minutes. If the burn is very bad, seek immediate professional medical help.

When adding liquids to caramel, the mixture is likely to bubble, spit and steam. Stand well back after any additions and only stir once the bubbling has subsided. If lots of liquid is being added – as in the Simple Caramel Syrup – I would recommend covering your hand with a mitt to avoid the risk of a steam burn.

The smoke alarms are ringing and my eyes are burning!

If not monitored, caramel can easily burn. That’s just a fact and in no way do I want that to put you off. But it’s a fact.

There’s a fine line between wonderfully dark, smoky caramel verging on burnt, and actually burnt. If, when trying to find this sweet spot, you do burn a pan of caramel, don’t panic. Very calmly and carefully remove the pan from the heat, wait for a few seconds for the caramel to stop bubbling ferociously, then pour out the burnt caramel onto a sheet of baking parchment or a silicone mat on a baking sheet. Leave it to set and then dispose of it.

As for the pan, it is salvageable: simply wait for it to cool before filling with water and bringing to the boil, which will dissolve the caramel.

My caramel is pale and lacking the flavour i want

The colour of caramel is a sliding scale in parallel with its flavour profile. How you like it is up to you. For the recipes in this book, I have recommended the colour of the caramel I prefer, but you can adjust this to your taste.

However, if you want to experience the wonderful bitterness of a really dark caramel but can somehow never achieve it and keep pulling off pans of pale, straw-coloured caramel, here is why: you are not being brave enough. Cook the caramel for a little longer than you feel comfortable with, remembering that what can be confused with smoke is often the evaporation of water. If you burn a couple of pans along the way, it’s ok. After all, you've got to crack a few eggs to make an omelette.

My caramels won’t set

Exact temperature is a key player in the Classic Chewy Salted Caramels recipe as well as Marshmallow Fluff and Malted Mallows. If things aren’t quite right, it’s most likely that your thermometer isn’t properly calibrated.

To recalibrate your thermometer, bring a small pan of water to a boil. Insert the thermometer, making sure not to touch the sides or bottom of the pan. It should read 100°C (at sea level). If it registers a few degrees out, you can add or subtract this difference from the desired temperature.

Recipes in this Chapter

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