The color/opacity of caramels vs. caramel sauce
Posted: 02 July 2010 10:22 AM   [ Ignore ]
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When I make caramels (the kind you cut into cubes and chew) using the short cut sweetened condensed milk method (illustrated here on epicurious), they are opaque and a light brown color similar to the familiar Brach’s.

When I make caramel sauce—cooking sugar and then adding cream, butter and vanilla—it is a dark and not exactly transparent, but not exactly opaque, either.

I’m making the double-whammy next weekend and was going to put a caramel sauce on it. Planning on using Rose’s sticky caramel from the little turtle cuppies in RHC. This obviously follows the caramel sauce method. I sort of feel like the lighter color might look better over the choco whammy bundt, but not at the expense of flavor.

Does anyone know why this color/opacity variation exists? I know the caramels only go to 242, so the sugar part probably never ambers, so that probably accounts for the lighter color, but any confirmation—and especially thoughts on opacity—would be greatly appreciated!!!

Many thanks, all! And happy weekend!

—ak

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Posted: 02 July 2010 11:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Hi Anne,  I’m sure this won’t help you but…Last night I watched an episode of Good Eats where Alton made carmel (he topped it with salt for a taste contrast)..As is his style, he usually explains the science behind his recipes. Just thought you might be interested

http://www.foodnetwork.com/dark-salty-caramels/video/index.html

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Posted: 02 July 2010 11:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Thanks, Missy! That was a very enjoyable video to watch, and I like how he associated the bubbles and other visual cues with temperature.

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Posted: 02 July 2010 12:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Here’s my theory. The Epicurious caramels (including the sugar) are only heated to 242 degrees F. The sugar in Rose’s caramel sauce is heated to around 370 (I actually prefer the flavor at 360, but that’s another story.) The hundred-plus degrees difference in temperature accounts for the color. The higher the temperature of the sugar, the darker it becomes and the darker the final product. My theory on the opacity is that the sweetened condensed milk of the Epicurious recipe is thicker than the heavy cream and butter mixture of Rose’s recipe, and hence, determines the opacity of the Epicurious recipe. It might also be that the Epicurious recipe doesn’t allow the sugar to dissolve and crystallize the same way as it does in Rose’s recipe, thereby affecting the opacity.

I agree that the contrast would be nice with the lighter caramel, but you will have a sweeter caramel, from what I can tell by looking at the recipe. In RHC, the filling for the German chocolate cake uses sweetened condensed milk, if I remember correctly (maybe it is evaporated milk), and it is positively scrumptious. When I made it, I omitted the coconut, and I could not stop eating it by the spoonful right from the bowl. Maybe you could use that instead of a the caramel sauce, since it is light and opaque. Omit the nuts and coconut if you want a smooth texture (or use nuts and coconut as a garnish on the finished cake).

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Posted: 02 July 2010 12:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Oh, Christine!  You are awesome!  German Choco Cake filling—What a great idea!  Naturally, I’d love to add the nuts, but my friend is a no-nutter.  Not sure about the coconut, but I’ll probably skip due to sweetness.  Just wanting to “birthdy-up” the bundt a little with something, and I thought caramel would be a great option.

I think all of your theories make good sense, too.

Thanks!!!!!!

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Posted: 02 July 2010 02:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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My two cents:  opacity could be determined by milk proteins.  Condensed milk is probably higher in milk protein and lower in butterfat and water than cream and butter, which are higher in butterfat but lower in milk proteins.  My thinking is that the proteins are what contribute to opacity.  Think of the difference between clarified butter and melted regular butter- after removing the milk protein solids, the clarified butter is transparent.  Also, there may be a difference in the quantity of added liquid. 

On the color issue, as Christine mentioned, the temp of the sugar is a determining factor, not only for the color of the sugar (sugar is colorless/flavorless at 242 but full of flavor and color at 360-370) but also the color of the milk proteins.  The main benefit of pouring milk or cream/butter into the searing hot caramel is to get a browning reaction on the milk solids, so you have even more darkening of color and increased flavor.

In my humble opinion, I wouldn’t worry too much about the looks of the glaze, go for flavor.  The most I would consider is to use milk instead of cream to see if it gave a little more opacity. 

If you have questions, make the glaze ahead and see what you think of the taste and texture.  You can always re-warm to pour over the cake.

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Posted: 02 July 2010 02:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Mmmm. that makes sense, too, Julie!

Okay!  A poll!  For topping the double-whammy chocolate cake (the domingo with chopped up fudgy pudgy brownies baked within), do you vote for:

A.  German chocolate cake filling (sans nuts and coconut)
B.  Sticky Caramel sauce (which is the regualr caramel sauce, just a bit less cream so its….stickier…and holds its position without running all over the place)

Re going for flavor—Julie, you are absolutely correct.  However, we are delaing with two Rose recipes, and if they are Rose recipes, they are no doubt both fab.  I haven’t made either, so which is the fabbest for this particular use?

Votes anyone???

: )

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Posted: 02 July 2010 09:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Sorry, I haven’t made the ger choc filling so I can’t really say.  I was comparing the epicurous with the sticky caramel.

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Posted: 02 July 2010 11:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Oh, yes, sorry, Julie!  My misunderstanding!  And I’d definately go Rose over epicurious, for sure!

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