Caramels – Love to Eat Them, Like to Make Them, Hate to Wrap Them

I am stimulated by new adventures and challenges.  Therefore, I decided to make caramels for the first time in 2009.  I performed the standard Google operation and a multitude of recipes resulted.  I selected one, based on subconscious criteria.  I already had the one tool I needed – a candy thermometer.  I purchased it a few years ago at an estate sale. 
Taking a trip off topic, estate sales are marvellous places to find quality kitchenware, books, dinner and serving ware, and furniture, at very reasonable costs.  My sister is the master of estate sales and once suggested I bid on an antique accountant’s desk.  The desk was made by a Boston cabinetmaker, Stephen Smith, in the middle 1800s.  Mr. Smith invented the roll-top desk.
Much to my and everyone’s surprise, I won the bid and now sit at that desk.  Thanks to my mother’s husband and my brother for moving the grand piece of furniture from the estate sale to my home.
Now, back to the caramel experience.  The 2009 caramel cooking adventure was a success.  The caramels were so fantastic that my super-cook mother was impressed and made the same recipe today.  During the cooking, I was a bit annoyed by the time required for the caramel mixture to reach 240-250 degrees Fahrenheit, but stayed with it until the end.  There is chemistry involved, here.  I never did take a formal chemistry course, so I cannot explain it in detail.  However, my uncle and godfather, a semi-retired chemistry teacher, did recently educate my mother on the two temperature plateaus in making peanut brittle.  I know caramel has at least one temperature plateau, which occurs between 210 and 220 degrees Fahrenheit.  It takes *forever* to get above 220.  [I’m not recognized for my patience.]  When I made the caramels in 2009, I didn’t have a chance to cut and wrap them, so I took them to my mother’s house.  She proceeded to take care of the post-cooking processes.
It’s now 2010 and I found an intriguing gingerbread caramel recipe from Martha Stewart.
I proceeded with the cooking process and experienced the same frustration with the temperature stall.  However, there is a feeling of satisfaction when you watch the color of the mixture darken and thicken.  It’s exciting.  Due to lack of patience, I did turn up the temperature a bit too high, but the caramels do taste exactly like gingerbread.  They are just a bit harder than the ideal.
About that wrapping — I have little patience for tedious tasks, so the thought of cutting the caramel and wrapping all those little pieces was ominous.  I finally took on the challenge with the butcher knife and cut the caramels.  I need improvement on size consistency.  I started wrapping the pieces in plastic wrap that I cut to size, but quickly grew tired of that exercise.  I wished I had thought to purchase pre-cut wrappers.  I decided to try the little paper cups used for candy boxes.  In theory, it was a great idea, but they do not stack well.  I finally went with tearing wax paper into appropriately-sized pieces to wrap the caramels (my mother’s suggestion, of course).  I might outsource the wrapping next year…


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