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Maple Pecan Caramels Tested Recipe

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Maple Pecan Caramels Recipe

The word "Caramel" may have different meanings, but the word "Caramels" is a candy; a square-shaped, soft and chewy golden colored confection made from a boiled mixture of sugar, butter, milk and cream. Maple Pecan Caramels still have that sweet and creamy caramel flavor that dissolves slowly on the tongue but, as their name implies, they also contain toasted pecans and pure maple syrup. These two ingredients add a rich and complex nutty flavor to the caramels that makes it impossible to eat just one. 

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As I have said before, many approach candy making with trepidation and you can blame the problem on sugar crystallization. Luckily there are a few precautions you can take to help prevent this from happening in your kitchen. First, do not make candy on a humid day unless you have adequate air conditioning. Second, the equipment. It is important to use a heavy duty saucepan so the candy will not scorch under high temperatures. Be sure to use a wooden spoon to stir the syrup as the sugar crystals will not stick to wood as easily as they will to metal. And most importantly, buy a good mercury candy thermometer with a metal clip so you can fasten it to the side of the pan. When using a candy thermometer make sure the bulb of the thermometer does not rest on the bottom of the pan as this can cause an inaccurate temperature reading. It is also important to read the temperature at eye level and you may have to wipe the steam off the thermometer first in order to read the numbers. If you think your candy thermometer may be inaccurate, you can test its' accuracy by placing it in a saucepan of boiling water. The temperature should read 212 degrees F (100 degrees C). If you find your thermometer is off by a degree or two, simply adjust your recipe to take this into account. Another thing about candy thermometers are that they are fragile so after each use place in hot water (not cold) to dissolve the sugar coating. Never place a hot thermometer into cold water as this can cause it to break. And be sure to store your thermometer away from other kitchen utensils so it won't get banged around. Lastly, cleaning the saucepan can be a problem. The best way to remove all that hard caramelized sugar is to fill the saucepan with water and bring it to a boil. Turn off the heat and let it sit until the sugar dissolves.

Before you begin making caramels make sure you are familiar with the recipe and have all your ingredients measured and within easy reach. This means having the vanilla extract and chopped nuts at your side so when the caramels reaches the firm ball stage (246 degrees F) (119 degrees C) you can immediately stir these two ingredients into the caramel. Now, this is the important part. To prevent sugar crystallization, which means your caramels will have a grainy texture, make sure to stir the ingredients constantly until they reach the boiling point. (This ensures that the sugar has completely melted.) Then, place a tight fitting lid on the saucepan and let the sugar syrup boil this way for three minutes. (This allows steam to form which then condenses and washes off any sugar crystals that have attached themselves to the sides of the saucepan.) Then remove the lid and clamp a candy thermometer to the side of the saucepan. Do not stir the boiling syrup, just brush down the sides of the pan, with a heatproof pastry brush that has been dipped in warm water, to remove any sugar crystals that may have formed on the sides of the saucepan. Watch the caramel closely and remove from heat once it reaches 246 degrees F or 119 degrees C. Stir in the vanilla extract and chopped nuts and pour into your prepared pan. Let it cool, at room temperature, for about an hour or until set. Then cut into squares. Caramels can be stored for a few days at room temperature, a few weeks in the refrigerator, or a few months in the freezer.

 

To Toast Nuts:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven. Place the pecans or walnuts on a baking sheet and toast the nuts for about 8 minutes, or until lightly brown and fragrant. Cool and then chop coarsely.

Maple Pecan Caramels: Line the bottom and sides of an 8 x 4 inch (20 x 10 cm) rectangular loaf pan with aluminum foil. Lightly butter the foil.

In a heavy 2 1/2 quart (10 cup) saucepan, stir together the brown sugar, cream, milk, maple syrup, butter, and salt. Place the saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Once the mixture boils, cover, and boil this way for about three minutes. Uncover and clamp a candy thermometer to the side of the saucepan. Boil the mixture over medium heat (do not stir) until the temperature reaches 246 degrees F (119 degrees C). (If sugar crystals form on the sides of the pan, wash them down with a heatproof pastry brush that has been dipped in warm water.) Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract and chopped nuts.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread evenly with a small offset spatula or back of a spoon. Leave to cool at room temperature for about an hour or two, or until caramels are firm.

To cut into squares: Lift the caramels from the pan by holding onto the edges of the aluminum foil. Peel pack the foil and, using a sharp knife (oiled with a tasteless vegetable oil, like safflower), and with a sawing motion, cut into one inch (2.54 cm) squares.

These caramels can be stored at room temperature, between layers of wax paper, for a few days. They can also be stored in the refrigerator for two weeks, or in the freezer for two months.

Makes about 24 - 1 inch (2.54 cm) caramels. Preparation time 45 minutes.

Adapted From:

Seibert Pappas, Lou. 'The Christmas Candy Book'. Chronicle Books. San Francisco: 2002.

Maple Pecan Caramels:

1/2 cup (50 grams) pecans or walnuts

1 cup (215 grams) firmly packed light brown sugar

1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy whipping cream

1/4 cup (60 ml) milk

1/2 cup (120 ml) pure maple syrup

2 tablespoons (28 grams) unsalted butter

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

 

 
 
     
 

 

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