Thursday, November 5, 2009

Soft Caramels & Peppermint Patties

Yum yum yum!!! Both of these confections were sooo delicious!!! And so much fun to make! I am constantly amazed by how the ingredients we use come together in this class, based on the preparation techniques.

Soft Caramels:

These are characterized by their chewy caramel-flavor. The main difference between toffees and caramels is that the toffee is cooked to a higher temperature. These soft caramels contain sugar, glucose, evaporated milk, butter, and some flavorings (we used vanilla bean). The main flavoring comes from the Maillard browning of the milk and sugars - sweet! It required constant stirring until it reached a high enough temperature to evaporate some liquid and to reach the right consistency. I had to numb my fingers and then reach in and grab some of the caramel to check the texture... dangerous fun! Once it was chewy enough, we poured it into a frame and let it set.
We cut it by scoring the square first with a caramel cutter (think: six pizza wheels connected together) and then cutting them apart swiftly with a knife. The cuts have to be made with intent, otherwise the caramel will stick and you'll end up with smashed squares instead of nice, straight sides.
Then we dipped 'em in dark chocolate, did a little wavy pattern with the dipping fork, and let them set.
The flavor reminded me of Werthers, and I bet if I cooked it a little bit longer, I could have made a Werthers-like confection!

Mint Fondants/Peppermint Patties:

I was sooo excited to make these! Usually, people buy fondant because it is cheap, easy and convenient. Sometimes it is necessary to make your own so that you can have more control of the consistency. In my cakes class, we made rolled fondant ourselves, which was pretty easy. It is more like a dough. In this class, we made fondant to be used as centers for our confections. It was an easy process.

We cooked sugar, glucose and water to the soft-ball stage, then poured it out onto an oiled marble and let it cool a little bit. Then we vigorously agitated it with a scraper for a good 10 minutes.. and by vigorously, I mean it was like a workout! My abs hurt afterwards! It was scooped up and then spread out across the marble to encourage crystallization. It went from a clear liquid to an opaque white soft solid... so cool! We wrapped it up to be used the next day.

(Next day) My group got assigned the Mint Fondants (also known as Peppermint Patties). We were told to go down to the garden and check out the varieties of mint, then to pick the one we wanted to use in our confection. There was variegated pineapple mint (eh), lemon mint (bleh - tasted like Pinesol!), chocolate mint, and Kentucky Colonel, which we used. It tasted pretty normal!

I used a food processor to combine a bit of the fondant with the mint leaves, then combined it all and heated it over a water bath until it was fluid enough to pour using a funnel. Then, we deposited it into a mat with circle cut-outs. The fondant centers hardened in about 60 seconds! It was SO COOL! They were dipped in dark chocolate.
The other group across from us did the same recipe, but added another ingredient - invertase. It's an enzyme that breaks down invert sugar. This means that the group could make a product that was solid, encase it in chocolate, and then a few days later, the invertase would have broken the fondant down into a liquid - similar to Junior Mints! Isn't that cool??? That's also how liquor cordials and cherry cordials are made. AMAZING!!!

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