cooking caramels

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Joined Jun 22, 2004
I made a pie that called for a layer of caramels (7 oz) melted with 1/4 Cup evaporated milk and with an addition of chopped pecans after the caramels were melted. I did this in a heavy saucepan, stirring constantly. This layer was part of a chocolate cheesecake pie that required chilling.
The caramels did not seem to get softer with the addition of the milk, and after the pie was chilled, hardened so much that it was almost impossible to cut through that layer to get to the chocolate cookie crust under it and get the pie out of the dish.
The pie was delicious so I'd like to try it again, if I can figure out how to get a softer layer of carmel/pecan mixture. Any suggestions? Thanks for your help.
 
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Joined May 26, 2001
lorac -- I moved your question here because I think you're more likely to get a good answer from the bakers!
 
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Thank you, I'm completely unfamiliar with this site and didn't know where it was supposed to go.
 
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Hi Lorac,
If you'd like, I can give you a recipe for caramel that you can use instead of the individually wrapped candies. It is nothing more than sugar, cream, and a bit of lemon juice.

The recipe you have obviously needs more evaporated milk. Try doubling the quantity of milk for a softer caramel.

Welcome to ChefTalk! :)
 
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Joined Jun 22, 2004
Momoreg:
Thanks for your response. I actually did add more milk because the mixture was so thick while I was cooking it, it was apparent that it was not going to be thin enough. The problem was that when it cooled, it was like a hard brick. Have you cooked with caramel a lot, and if so, if I kept adding milk, would I get a firm but not soft or hard consistency? Thanks for your input.
 
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How long did you cook it? The "hard as a brick" part makes me think it was cooked too long or possibly at too high a heat. I defer to the experts....
 
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I concur with Mezzaluna.

Longer cooking = harder set. Try adding an invert sugar like corn syrup or honey. They have a bit of acid so like what momoreg said, a bit of lemon juice. I remember using evap milk or heavy cream for carmel too. Hope this helps somewhat.
 
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Thanks. I have done a lot of home cooking but this is first time I've used caramels. Interestingly enough, my first call was to Kraft and they did not have a clue about what to do.
 
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I'm with momoreg on making your own caramel...it's sooooo worth it. However, I do have a cookie recipe that uses Kraft caramels that I bake each year at Christmastime. The caramel part is 8 oz of caramels and 1/4 cup water. That caramel stays soft (but at room temp).

I wonder if subbing out the evaporated milk would help, not to mention the savings in fat and calories. And looking at your original post, the caramel to liquid ratio is about the same, so I too question the cooking. Maybe the stovetop part is right, but how long and at what temp does the cheesecake cook after the caramel is in? And where in the oven was your cheesecake? If the caramel layer was at the bottom and exposed to long heat, that could have hardened it as well.

Also, chilling caramel is apt to harden it. Maybe that's just the way this recipe works out?
 
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Joined Jun 22, 2004
Hello kthull,
The original recipe calls for a cream cheese mixture made with milk, cream cheese and instant pudding, so the only baking is of the chocolate crumb crust before the caramel and filling go in. I know that caramel hardens when it chills, but it hardened so much that the pie could not be cut--it almost required a hacksaw to get it into pieces. I'd like to perfect the caramel/pecan layer because despite the difficulty in dividing it up, it was such a tasty pie that it was completely consumed.
My question to you is -- will the homemade caramel stay soft enough to cut through after it's chilled? Thanks, Lorac
 
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I should think so. I've not specifically used caramel in this application, but I've been making a caramel-pecan topped chocolate tart quite a bit recently and that caramel remains very sliceable.

The specific recipe is in Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme: Tarte Grenobloise. It's a dry caramel, which is hard to do if you add all the sugar at once like you can with a wet caramel.

1 cup heavy cream
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
7 ounces pecan halves, lightly toasted and just warm

You melt a few tablespoons of the sugar over medium-high heat in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Once that's melted, add another few tablespoons and stir with a wooden spoon until that melts. Continue in small amounts until all the sugar is melted and cook to a deep amber.

While your working with the sugar, heat the cream to the boiling point, then set it aside. When the sugar is caramelized, slowly add the cream off heat. It will bubble up vigorously, so be careful and do it in a couple additions if you risk bubbling over. Return the pan to the heat and stir until the caramel is smooth again (it will clump up when adding the cream).

Cook the caramel to a temperature of 226. Then remove from the heat and stir in your pecans to coat completely. Transfer to a bowl and let sit until slightly warm. If you wait too long, it will be difficult to spread.

This recipe makes just enough to cover a 9" or 10" tart, so you might need to experiment to see if it's enough for the cheesecake. I've tripled it with great success.
 
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