Well, it was a busy weekend around our house! I spent part of Friday afternoon at a synchronized skating competition. Got home in time to make supper and get the kids to bed. Saturday we went out to Scott's parents for a visit because his brother and wife and kids were around. Saturday night I was back at the skating competition -- arriving home after everyone was in bed. Sunday morning we did some cleaning and laundry and playing with the kids. I got groceries during Violet's nap, had a cooking adventure (which follows), and went back out to Scott's parents' for a birthday party. Whew!
My cooking adventure: I decided to try and make caramels for the first time. For some unknown reason, I have been craving the homemade caramels my aunt use to make a Christmas time. So I decided to find a recipe and try and make some myself. Wow. Big mistake. Cooking FAIL!
It seemed deceptively easy -- there were only a few ingredients and two steps. Well, I'm a whiz in the kitchen, so I really should be able to do this, right?
It started off pretty well. I got all of the ingredients into the pan per the recipe and started heating them through, stirring as instructed. And stirring, stirring, stirring... Fine. I knew that was going to happen because it said I'd be stirring for about twenty minutes. I took several quick breaks to butter a pan and to open and wash my brand-spanking-new candy thermometer. Back to stirring.
Violet is napping, Scott ran on campus to get his finals to grade, and Milo was plaing a game on the Wii. Or at least I thought he was. About 5 minutes into the stirring, he came into the kitchen hopping and red and clearly frustrated.
"I can't do it! Ben Ten won't jump the way he's supposed to jump! I need help!"
"I'm so sorry, little buddy, but I can't take a break from stirring right now. Maybe you should pause the game for a while and do something else."
"No-o-o-o-o-o! I'm going to try again!" So he did.
Back to stirring. Only now I've decided to get the candy thermometer involved as the caramel mixture is starting to boil. I try to clip it to the side of the pan, but can't get it so that it's not touching the pan, throwing off the reading. I have the brilliant idea to rig it to a wooden spoon so that it was suspended over the middle of the pan. Super idea!
As I'm rigging the spoon and thermometer, whose directions, by the way, say "do not submerge", and Milo comes back in again, crying about the game. I look away from my pot for a split second and SPLASH! I'm suddenly feeling about a dozen little burns in my hand because my non-submersible thermometer has just fallen into the molten caramel mixture, submerging and splshing up on my hands. Crud!
I use the extra wooden spoon to fish it out and stand it up in the pan, but how do I get it out? It's covered in caramel! I stretch like Mr. Fantastic and grab a paper towel, hoisting the dripping thermometer out and setting it on the spoon rest.
"Milo, love, I think you need to turn your game off NOW. It doesn't look like you're having any fun playing it."
"Noo-o-o-o-o! I just need Daddy! He can help me, you can't because you're really bad at it!" He stomped away. More stirring. Eventually I hear him yell in celebration, then he whips back into the room to tell me, "I did it, Mom! I didn't need help, either!" I guess persistence pays off?? I really would have preferred him to shut off the game...
I realize then that I have no way of knowing if the caramel was at the right temperature, so I scrape the setting stickiness off the thermometer and try again. Only this time, I've managed to get the clip over the markings for the temperature I'm supposed to use. And it's been twenty minutes, so I should be there soon, right? Who knows. The red line is behind the clip, so it's in the right range. I set the timer for 2 minutes and remove the pan from the heat at the appropriate time, adding the vanilla with a hiss as directed.
The rest is the easy part -- pour into baking pan to cool and set. I let it cool and set all night and was eager to see how it turned out this morning.
I open the microwave where it is cooling -- we have two large dogs and you don't leave anything you really want to eat on the counter tops. It looks lovely -- nice color, slightly buttery sheen. Smells great! I poke it and my finger dents all the way to the bottom of the pan. The caramel is roughly the consistency of thick paint. Not "wrap in wax paper and eat" caramels. D'oh!
I have the feeling we'll be eating a lot of caramel ice cream sundaes this week...