Saturday, June 09, 2007

In Praise of Chocolate Caramels

chocolate caramels fig. a: chocolate caramels wrapped in wax paper

For some reason, I was taken by the urge to make caramels the instant the humid weather arrived. This, of course, flouts all laws of pastry and science (and of the science of pastries) for those of us who live and cook in un-air conditioned environments, and is akin to making a croquembouche in August in Montreal, even if the making of caramels is obviously a much less dramatic endeavour. Undaunted, I pressed on, knowing full well that for some infuriating reason my caramels had never before achieved that perfect texture: firm enough to hold their shape when cut, soft enough to give in to a bite. This time, though, I was a bit more confident. I'd found a recipe for chocolate caramels in a 1940s edition of The Joy of Cooking whose instructions were so convoluted that I became convinced here was the master recipe I was looking for, a recipe that not only would result in perfect caramels, but one that could withstand any adverse conditions. I was right. They turned out perfectly creamy, chocolatey and chewy, exactly what a Tootsie Roll should be but isn't, as Anthony pointed out. Now if you don't have the luxury of air conditioning at your place, you may want to wait until the humid weather blows over to make these, just to be safe (for those of us who live in Montreal, that means September). Among other things, you'll notice that the caramels will last longer than they do in this weather. This recipe worked like a charm for me, though, and shelf-life wasn't much of a problem for us because they were so good that they just kind of evaporated out of the jar we were storing them in.

Chocolate Caramels (with cream)

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup corn syrup
3 oz. chocolate
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup cream + 1/2 cup cream + 1/2 cup cream

Bring the ingredients to a boil, excluding two counts of cream, over medium heat, stirring. Once the sugar is dissolved, boil over medium-low heat until it reaches 238°F, stirring constantly. Add 1/2 cup cream and bring to 238°F, stirring all the while. Add 1/2 cup cream and cook until it reaches 248°F. Pour into an oiled loaf pan and let set at room temperature. Turn out onto a cutting board and cut into squares with an oiled knife. Let them dry 4 hours, then wrap in waxed paper. Enjoy.

[Recipe from Irma S. Rombauer's The Joy of Cooking (1946)]

Mona Lisa w/ chocolate caramel fig. b: perfect


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