"Food: Science, Art, Passion, Pleasure, Adventure & Exploration"

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Baking Adventure 5: Candied Brown Sugar Melts

I cooked up two big trays of three cheese enchiladas recently. I do have photos (great since it's a savory dish) but I will upload them later in a proper entry dedicated solely to the enchiladas. I think I'll post a recipe too. I haven't done this yet and it's time. Enchiladas are so easy to make and customize.

So, now to my brown sugar melts. Basically, these are rich sugar cookies made with golden brown (light brown) sugar and lots of butter and vanilla, rather than with white granulated sugar. The taste of brown sugar is very distinctive when it cooks within the cookie batter. The entire house smelled like buttery caramel pancakes.

One thing I noticed with this recipe is that I had to turn down the oven temperature a bit because the brown sugar cooks quicker in the dough I made. I also had to raise the oven rack up higher so that the bottom of the cookies would not burn as easily and too quickly. I used a non-stick baking pan and skipped the cooking spray this time around. I found that with my first batter, adding cooking spray at the bottom like I usually do, made the bottom of the cookies slightly burn. I barely had them in there for 8 minutes without noticing a slight borderline burning aroma.

Once I had decreased the temperature, raised the oven rack and nixed the Pam, everything was perfect. The cookies came out wonderfully with a yummy flavor and a light golden brown bottom. NO burning.

I call these cookies "melts" because they came out very moist and rich and when bitten into, the cookie felt like it kind of melted in my mouth as I rolled the baked dough around on my tongue.

These tasted far more interesting that they looked, however. So I had to do something about that. I wanted to add a candied topping to them. But what flavor would go well with brown sugar? Caramel of course. And I LOVE caramel.

In order to create a candied caramel (meaning that it will harden once cooling down, rather than becoming chewy or sauce-like), I used less cream in the mixture. The amount of cream used in the caramelizing process controls how loose or soft the caramel will be, in the end. If I want a caramel sauce that will stay loose, I add more cream to my mixture.

Here's my recipe (do this recipe only ONCE you are ready to use it immediately as it will set up quickly and you don't want that happening in the pot):
Hard Caramel Candy Topping
1.5 cups of granulated white sugar
2 tablespoons of butter (salted or unsalted, although I prefer salted)
1.5 to 2 tablespoons of heavy cream

  1. Begin placing the sugar in a cooking pot after being measured out, on the stove, at moderately low heat.
  2. As the pot warms up, use a spoon (wooden or metal) to constantly stir the sugar. Eventually it will heat up and begin to form clumps of crystals.
  3. Keep stirring as the crystal clumps will eventually begin to melt and as you stir the texture of the sugar, it will feel gummy, gritty and gooey. It's officially caramelizing.
  4. Make sure to watch the coloring of your caramel. It should turn a rich golden brown as the sugar dissolves, not a dark brown. That means you've burned it and you'll smell that, too.
  5. Once all of the sugar crystals completely dissolve, add in your butter. There will be some sizzling and bubbling, Continue to stir.
  6. Once the butter dissolves completely, take the pan off the stove right away, wait for 8-10 seconds and add in your heavy cream.
  7. The mixture will foam up. Continue to stir until it is well blended

I used the hard candy caramel mixture for spooning a heap onto the center of each cookie. Once the caramel cooled down it became a shiny, glassy-looking, hard candy texture on top of each cookie. The texture is not as hard as a lollipop as I don't think it's cool to crack a tooth while biting into a cookie (LOL!), but they are like very firm pieces of toffee that snap and break into a crispy crunchiness When I run my finger over the candied centers, the result stays shiny and smooth.

I quite like how these turned out. They are very distinctive looking. The texture contrast between the soft-centered, crispy-edged cookie and the candied caramel topping and the caramel-brown sugar flavor profile is heavenly.

I made several batches of these cookies.

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