You didn’t think I would give up on candy making so easily did you? When I get an idea into my head I don’t let a little set back stop me from figuring it out. My first attempt at a chewy caramel confection ended up brittle and crunchy. Much like an Almond Roca so I just pretended that I had planned it that way and passed it around at work calling it “Bacon Roca”. It tasted quite good (hello? bacon!) but it wasn’t what I had set out to make. I have heard it said that cooking is an art and baking is a science but clearly anyone good at either will tell you that all cooking is both science and art. Nowhere does it seem more true than in candy making. Sugar going through its various transformations when heated is the realm of science and technique. Only after understanding the nuances therein can you then apply your art. While I understood the basic transformative effects it turns out I was way too eager for my own good.
Once I was done
pawning off handing out my failed tasty bacon candy to coworkers I took a sample to someone I knew would have the forensic skills required to illuminate the error of my ways. Turns out there were quite a few! After describing my technique and process in detail (I take a lot of notes when in new cooking territory!) to one classically trained dessert chef he had no hesitations to tell me where I went wrong: I was practically devoid of any proper candy technique! Who knew that heating to the correct temperatures and following the step by step is not enough! What did I learn? 1) Don’t stir! When the mixture is cooking and going through its various stages you aren’t supposed to stir. If you do need to stir to get some mixture off the sides of the pan try to limit this to the early stage of the cooking process and then only use a silicone spatula or spoon. I was stirring constantly as if had I stopped the entire mixture would boil over. It won’t. Let it go. 2) Heat slowly. I had my fire quite high rushing to get to the right temperature. Don’t do this. I was paying attention but sugar wants to be cooked on moderate heat and it will raise to the correct temperature as it transforms. Upping the heat to get there quicker is not helpful. If the fire is too hot the mixture will continue cooking even after removing it from the heat and your sugar mixture will cook cook up to the next stage even if you take it off the fire. This is probably what went wrong with my bacon candy.
Armed with this new information I put my candy shoes back on, dug out my thermometer from the back of the drawer and went digging for my silicon spatula. Feeling that I had exhausted my workmate’s tolerance for bacon (I know, who gets tired of bacon?) I leaned once again on my friend Jules for inspiration. She had made these black salt peanut caramels in addition to the bacon caramels I was trying to copy and since I actually had black salt and an open can of spanish peanuts in the pantry I was on my way. Rather than rushing the recipe I used moderate heat and let the sugar mixture itself moderate the heat and rise slowly. The mixture hit the desired temperature and then turned out easily into the pan. In hindsight I probably would not have used Spanish peanuts as their skins flake off and aren’t that pretty. I actually had to pick them off one by one from the finished caramels with tweezers! That was where my art was taking over from science.
Peanut Black Salted Caramels