The Art of Stand-Up Caramel
So just what is a "stand-up caramel"? Simply put this is a caramel with straight sides. It sounds simple - but not so fast. Making caramel is about creating the flavor, texture, and appearance perfect all at the same time. It is often easy to get two of the three - but getting all three right at the same time can be tricky. But with our helpful tips and tricks, you’ll be able to make caramels with straight sides every time. Let’s see how we make our signature Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels!
Using a Cutter
Cutting caramels with a knife is one of the oldest methods, and it is still popular today. To do so, you will need a sharp chef's knife and a cutting board. First, you will want to line the cutting board with wax paper or parchment paper for easy cleanup later. Once the caramel has cooled, use the chef’s knife to cut the caramels into desired shapes. This method is best for larger pieces of caramel that can be shaped easily with a knife. In the factory, we use a large radial cutter that we can roll across a flat sheet of caramel to cut straight lines.
We made hundreds of pounds of caramel that we attempted to cut with a manual cutter with no luck. We could make them have straight sides, but since all of them were ready at the same time, they would rather quickly sag and develop flabby sides. We tried all types of tricks from the advice we received from other candy makers including chilling the caramels and cutting them into smaller blocks first which was very time-consuming. None of these techniques consistently worked to give us a 100% yield of perfect caramels.
So we gave up on the cutter.
A much easier, and in our opinion better, way to create consistently shaped caramels is to use silicone molds. We purchased our from Chef Rubber and piece together multiple molds so we can pour up to 40 pounds of caramel at a time. The hot caramel is poured over the molds on our water-jacketed table which allows us to adjust the temperature by controlling the water flow. We pre-warm the table and the molds before we pour the caramel which gives us some buffer against the caramel cooling too quickly.
We trowel the caramel into each mold with a heat-resistant spatula making sure that each mold is full. Once we are finished we scrape off the tops with a scraper so the surface will be flat. We then cool the molds by changing the temperature of the table. Once the caramels have cooled completely we pop them out of the molds right before we enrobe them in dark chocolate. This allows the chocolate coating to create a firm barrier and keep the sides of the confections straight. To complete the process we add a touch of fleur de sel sea salt.
Why do you add salt?
Salt is an amazing addition to caramel and can accentuate the intensity of the flavor. When caramel cooks for a long time it develops browning which is called the Maillard Reaction.
The Maillard Reaction is a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars that gives foods like caramel their rich flavor, color, and texture. It occurs when the amino acids react with the reducing sugars at high temperatures, creating hundreds of potentially flavorful compounds. This is very similar to what you find on the outside of steak that you sear on a cast iron skillet.
Just like salt makes a steak taste better - it has the same effect on caramel.
We use fleur de sel sea salt which is a type of unique, high-quality salt that is found and harvested along the coast of France. It has a slightly greyish hue due to its high mineral content, which also gives it a delicate and complex flavor. This fine salt is created naturally when salty ocean water evaporates in the sun, leaving behind a thin layer of delicate, flaky salt.
Adding fleur de sel sea salt to caramel is an incredible way to bring out the sweetness while also adding depth and complexity to the flavor.
Making caramels with straight sides can seem intimidating but with our helpful tips and tricks, we hope that we’ve made stand-up caramel easier for everyone!
What did we do with all of that caramel with the flabby sides?
We used it to make hundreds of caramel apples for Halloween!