Saturday, December 17, 2011

Molasses Caramels

After my first few batches of honey caramels, I was on a role and looking for yet another variation.  Using the same cooking process and sugar/syrup/dairy ratio I tried my hand at maple caramels.  Something went horribly awry and I end up with a buttery granulated mess (which was salvaged to make many a cup of hot buttered rum over the next few days..)  I'm still not sure what went wrong. 

Back to square one.  So I tried molasses instead. 

The recipe is my own.

Yields approximately 60 one-inch caramels
The Ingredients:
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1 cup heavy cream
4 Tbsp salted butter
Salt to taste


The Process:
Prepare an 8 x 8 pan by lining with aluminum foil or parchment paper and greasing generously with butter.  Do NOT use wax paper...the heat from the caramel will melt the wax paper to the candy.

Set a  large non-reactive pot set over medium-high heat.  Add the sugar and molasses to the pot and allow to dissolve, stirring or shaking the pot just enough to melt all of the sugar granules.  Continue to cook without stirring until the sugar and molasses dissolve into a bubbling liquid and the liquid just begins to smoke, but is not burning.

While the sugar caramelizes, heat the cream to a simmer in a medium saucepan.

Once the sugar and molasses reaches the level of caramelization you desire, cut in the butter, one piece at a time and stir gently until each piece has melted.  Carefully whisk in the warmed cream.  This stops the sugars from caramelizing.

At this point add additional salt to sample the molten liquid dip a spoon into the caramel and very quickly dip it into cold water to cool. 

Clip the candy thermometer to the edge of the pot.  Cook the mixture slowly until the temperature reaches 246 for soft caramels or 250 for firmer caramels. 

Pour the hot caramel into the prepared baking pan and allow to cool to room temperature.  Once cool, remove the caramel block from the pan, peel off the parchment or foil and cut into one inch squares.  Wrap in wax paper or cellophane. 

The Review:
These make a very rich, deeply-flavored, wonderfully colored caramel.  I am very partial to the flavor of molasses--there is something very nostagic about it--so I had a hard time boxing them up to ship away.  The slight bitterness of the molasses cuts the sweetness of the sugar so the end result isn't as cloyingly and tooth-achingly sweet as some caramels can be. 

Caramelizing the sugar can be a bit of a pain given how dark the molasses is.  If you aren't certain how far to heat your sugar and molasses in the first stage, try caramelizing the sugar with just a bit of water, cooking it to your desired amber hue and then stirring in the molasses.  An even richer layer of flavor rewards this extra step.

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