Saturday, December 18, 2010

Caramel Fail, Bag Win

So, I messed up a caramel recipe. Again. I found the picture of Chocolate Dipped Caramel Pecan Bars irresistible, so I tried them the other day.
The first step- the shortbreadish crust- went fine.

 The toasting of the pecans was hunky dory as well.

It was the *cook the sugar, syrup, and water until it changes color* that flummoxed me. The first time I tried a recipe like that (the salted caramels), I cooked too long and the caramels ended up like the Sugar  Daddy suckers of my youth (great flavor, but tooth breakers fer shure). So I watched this recipe very carefully, and as soon as I thought the mixture was *a light amber color*, I removed it from the heat, and added the cream.

 My light amber and their light amber were obviously different shades. The caramel didn't harden enough to stay put when the bars were sliced. We weren't able to cut them into triangle bars for chocolate dipping without the topping dripping off the piece. Instead, I just drizzled chocolate and salt over the rest of the pan. We're slicing and eating as we go, which is fine (this stuff is amazing!), but it's definitely not finger food. (Full disclosure: most of these high-carb things I'm making this year, are being given away. However, I do eat a little bit of each one... and I still can't run... I'm going to pay a price for all of this indulgence).

So recipe writers: please please please include a goal temperature for your sugar boiling stage. Or at least an amount of time for the boiling. This color matching thing is obviously not working for me.
However, this Old Port Carryall bag came out really really well. I did some quilting on the pocket,and I would have done more on the rest of the bag, but I ran out of the fancy schmancy matching quilting thread. So I went with quilted pockets only. I used wide double fold bias tape for all of the edging, rather than cut fabrics. That worked very well and looks good. However, my friend Cassie, from knitting, and I confabbed on the handle construction of this pattern, and we decided that we didn't like it (it's difficult to do, and looks awkward on the inside). So I just used fabric handles, sewn in place, covered with lampwork buttons.

The zipper pull of the little bag is another one of my lampworked beads. 

And the whole set came out perfectly!

I think I'm done with slippers for Christmas, but I might sew a few pairs for next year. The Big Tub 'O Knitted Things (which holds more than knitting) is just about empty.


joannamauselina said...

I have a history of failure with the "looking for the hair, or the soft ball," or whatever. I can't make candy turn out without a candy thermometer - or jelly either, for that matter. My mother did very well with the soft ball, and Sister Hilda Marie (in the eighth grade) showed us how to make divinity fudge with the hair, but I have never mastered these arcane arts. My initial jelly attempts were either apple syrup or apple taffy. Both tasty, but not jelly.

Barb said...

So this intrigued me and I tried it tonight. The shortcake, great! The pecans, a cinch! The caramel - won't know 'til tomorrow I guess or a little later tonight. I used a thermometer and it was at about 258 and still not very amber in my opinion. But I was worried it would get too hard. so I added the cream and vanilla then pecans and called it good. It looks a little light to me but we shall see. I will let you know soon. If this fails, I'll try my husbands recipe for caramel which he has down to a science.

Barb said...

This is an update to my previous post - Mine turned out pretty much like yours, not quite as soft but almost. My (inexperienced) conclusion is that the quantities are too small to accurately measure with a thermometer so you go by looks. The look should be dark honey as in her post as opposed to light amber (also in her post) but in my mind those are 2 different colors. Next time i'll try for the dark honey. I think the water in there keeps it from burning and that it takes longer to cook the water off. There is no water in my husbands caramel recipe.

Kathleen Taylor said...

joanna: heh
Barb: thanks for the report and update. The bars are totally yummy even with oozy topping, but I would sure rather have made them like the pic. If I try again, I'll just keep boiling the syrup.