***NOTE-This is a repost so I can share with you some of my favorite holiday sweet recipes. Enjoy!***
I love salty and sweet things. Cheese and caramel popcorn. Chocolate and pretzels. Me after a few drinks. And of course, caramel and salt, the latest food combination that is sweeping the nation. I tried making salted caramels before using this recipe from Ina Garten on Food Network, and I ended up with a caramel sauce, not a proper chewy candy. This is partly the recipe’s fault because the ratios were a bit off. Okay, so TECHNICALLY I don’t have a candy thermometer, and TECHNICALLY you need one to make candy like chewy caramels. But TECHNICALLY, you can kiss my ass because I know that (at least when it comes to caramels), you can use the cold water test and be just as successful with your candy making. And isn’t it to so very old school to do that? To cook by sight instead of by technology? I won’t always have a thermometer on me, but I will always have my brain…unless the cyborg aliens with cowboy hats take it. Then, I’m just plain old fashioned screwed. I found this recipe and the ratios looked a little better, so I decided to give it a go. I also found this guide to using the cold water test, which has handy little videos for those who need a bit more instruction. This recipe has you take the caramel to the firm ball stage, roughly 248 F. Making caramels are tricky because sugar burns quickly, and it could be a matter of seconds between the perfect caramel and a piece of molten tar. I like the cold water method because even when I do use a candy thermometer, I mess up caramels. I might not get the cold water method perfect on the first try, but after a bit of practice, I am sure it will get easier and ultimately be the best way to make these bad boys. The method is really simple. Get a cup large enough to fit your hand in and fill it with cold water. When you caramel is close to done, drizzle a bit into the cold water. If if remains gooey when you squeeze it together, it is at the thread stage. If it forms a ball that melts on your hand when taken out of water, it is at the soft ball stage. When it can form a ball that doesn’t melt, you are at the firm ball stage.
On my first try, I came pretty close to perfect. My caramels were chewy and held their shape, but after sitting at room temp for a while, they began to weep a bit. I had to store them in the fridge, which is fine for eating, but makes it difficult to wrap in cute little pieces of wax paper and give away. I did dip a few in chocolate, which tasted perfect with the caramel texture, but sort of looked like a candy version of Sloth from The Goonies. I am so not a chocolate master. Next time, I probably try to take it just a bit further using the cold water method. Also, I will not trust the recipe and used wax paper to line the pan for caramels–it sticks like a mofo. Silpats (silicon baking sheets) only for me. I think there are still bits of caramel wax paper stuck in parts of my hair.