Yesterday was Attempt #2 at making caramels. I used the same recipe as the pomegranate caramels, except that I stuck with using honey instead of pomegranate molasses. As you might recall, the pomegranate caramels were very soft, and my suspicion was that honey (as the recipe specifies) would make everything alright. And so it did. These caramels came together quickly and perfectly--they are the exact right texture and thickness, and the honey flavor really shines through.
Today was my first actual attempt at tempering chocolate. However, my electronic probe thermometer clearly crapped out on me in the midst of it, so I was not getting appropriate temperature readings. This was very sad, because you really need exact temperatures to temper properly. Nonetheless, my end product has a nice snap to the chocolate shell, even if it's a bit streaky.
Salted Chocolate-Dipped Caramels (from the NY Times and a tempering tutorial from About.com)
-1 1/3 cups heavy cream
-2 cups sugar
-1/2 cup light corn syrup
-1/3 cup honey
-6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-3 tablespoons fleur de sel or sea salt
-24 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1. Line a 8x8" baking pan with parchment paper that extends over the sides. Grease with vegetable oil or cooking spray. **Please note that the original recipe says to use foil, which I did the first time...it's a terrible idea. It sticks and you have to cut it off.**
2. In a heavy 4-quart saucepan, bring the cream to a boil. Add the sugar, corn syrup and honey, and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes to a boil. Cook over medium to medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches 257 degrees on a candy thermometer--about 15-30 minutes.
3. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in butter, vanilla, and 2 teaspoons salt. Pour into the prepared pan and let cool. When completely cool, coat a cutting board and the blade of a large knife with vegetable oil. Invert the caramel onto the cutting board; peel off parchment paper and invert again. Cut the caramel into eight 1"-wide strips. Cut each strip into 1/2" or 1" pieces.
4. To coat with chocolate, melt 2/3 of the chocolate in a double boiler set over simmering water. Stir gently but steadily with a rubber spatula as the chocolate melts. Bring the chocolate to 115 degrees for dark chocolate, or 110 degrees for milk or white chocolate. Do not allow chocolate to exceed this temperature. When it reaches the right temperature, remove from heat, wipe the bottom of the bowl, and set on a heat-proof surface.
5. Add the remaining chunks of chocolate to the bowl and stir rapidly to incorporate. The melted chocolate will melt the chopped chocolate and bring down the temperature. Cool this mixture. Once the mixture gets below 84 degrees, reheat the chocolate by placing the bowl back over warm water in the double-boiler for 5-10 seconds. Remove, sir, and repeat until the temperature reaches 88-89 degrees (or 87 for milk and white chocolate). Do not leave the chocolate over hot water or allow it to exceed 91 degrees.
6. Your chocolate should now be tempered. Keep it warm, but not hot, ideally in the 85-88 degree range (or 86 degrees for milk/white chocolate) You can either keep it over a pan of warm (but not simmering) water, stirring occasionally, or try placing it on an electric heating pad set to low. Remember to stir often so that the chocolate remains a uniform temperature throughout.
7. Once the chocolate is tempered, use a fork to dip one piece of caramel in at a time. Gently shake the fork back and forth to expedite excess chocolate dripping off. You may gently scrape the bottom of the fork on the top of the pan. Set them on a parchment-lined baking sheet to dry. After dipping 4 caramels, sprinkle each with a little sea salt. Let cool completely.
-Makes between 64-128 caramels, depending on the size you cut them to.