Saturday, August 30, 2014

Sticky, Time-Consuming Failure

Here's what I learned today: when making caramel sauce from scratch, don't try and substitute sweetened condensed milk for evaporated milk and 1 1/2 cups of white sugar. It's so not the same!
I woke up a few days ago thinking about caramel apples, especially since yesterday morning was so nippy. Well, today I decided I would give it a shot. But they would not be just any caramel apples. Oh, no. They would be rolled in deliciousness! I'm talking mini M&Ms, a rocky road blend of miniature chocolate chips, crushed graham crackers and marshmallows, and of course a few with chopped nuts. So I started looking up recipes and ideas for my endeavor. I had never made caramel apples before, so I didn't know if you had to get a special kind of caramel or if you could use the sundae kind or what. But I found this one website where a woman made her own caramel out of some very basic holiday baking ingredients, one of them being sweetened condensed milk. Along with white corn syrup, 1/4 cup of butter and a pinch of salt, that was your caramel sauce right there. So I measure out the corn syrup and dump it into my saucepan. But when I went downstairs to find the sweetened condensed milk that I was so sure we had, what did I find but evaporated milk! Evaporated milk! It was even in a can! Well for some reason I was crazy enough to add the evaporated milk to the corn syrup, hoping for the same result if I just heated it a little longer. (When it's in a can, you can hear the evaporated milk slosh around, whereas condensed milk is thick and goopy and doesn't slosh.) But after about a minute of stirring I began thinking, "What's the difference between evaporated and condensed milk anyway?" Google! A quick search had me thoroughly convinced I had ruined the recipe. But when I was seconds away from tossing the whole batch, I wondered if there was a substitute for sweetened condensed milk. Back to Google. As it turns out, you actually can use a 12 oz can of evaporated milk if you boil it with 1 1/2 cups of white sugar and then let it cool before using it. Now, I had already added the evaporated milk to the corn syrup, and I really didn't want to scrap all that ingredients. So I thought, what harm could it do? In went the sugar and I stirred in faithfully for thirty minutes straight. It had gotten the nice caramel color, but it wasn't thick and it still looked kind of grainy from the sugar. Maybe it will change once I add the butter and vanilla, I thought. In went the butter and vanilla. Stir, stir, stir. Taste. To my surprise it tasted great. Success! Rereading the directions, however, I ran across the line... "Stir corn syrup and sweetened condensed milk in a heavy saucepan, stirring constantly... Remove from heat and let cool five minutes... Add butter and vanilla..." Whoops! It was supposed to cool before I added the butter. Oh well. I'll just let it cool a little longer. This is like one of those bad sitcoms where the main character says something offhand and it always leads to disaster, like, "What could possibly go wrong?" So I prepped the apples and the things I was going to roll them in: mini M&Ms, Heath and Toffee chips (since I wasn't ambitious enough to create the rocky road crumble stuff), and chopped almonds. After allowing the caramel to cool a few minutes more, I brought it over and placed it at the front of my caramel apple assembly line. I decided to try out the almonds first. To me, if one of the dips were to fail, this would have been the most likely. I dipped my apple in the caramel and then rolled it in the almonds. Almost immediately the nuts began sliding off, and by the time I got them to the buttered parchment paper, they had all settled to the bottom of the apple in an unattractive clump. Well, they're nuts, and pretty chunky, was my thought. Maybe it's just too heavy for the caramel. It actually made sense since the caramel was going on pretty thin, despite my best efforts. I continued with the M&Ms and the Heath chips, and while those were a little more promising, before long they too began sliding off. My apples are now in the refrigerator where they will remain for the next hour and a half, at which time I will see how my toppings have fared. For anyone who has successfully made caramel apples and even tried to do what I did (dredging them in toppings), I salute you. I'll just stick to my cookies and brownies, thank you very much.


By the way, this was the expectation...  
This was the reality... 
Imagine clumps of candy all mangles at the bottom, and that's what I ended up with. Oh well. I guess I'll eat 'em. My mom will probably put on a good face and say they still taste good. God love that woman.

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