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caramel hell (or, how the heck do you caramelize a mold?)

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caramel hell (or, how the heck do you caramelize a mold?)

Rafi | Jan 2, 2002 12:35 PM

So...never having eaten let alone made a mexican chocolate flan I rashly volunteered to make one to go with my significant other's grandmother's tamales on xmas eve. Luckily, Rick Bayless had a recipe, and the flan came out...okay... more like a mexican chocolate pot de creme. (Everybody thought it was delicious but I knew better...) But nothing in my cooking experience has frustrated me more than trying to caramelize the little porcelain ramekins acquired for the occasion. I tried four times and never got it right. Three times the caramel turned to hard candy as it hit the porcelain -- even when I tried heating the ramekins beforehand. Once the caramel granulated in the pot. I consulted not only Rick Bayless but Martha Stewart, Julia Child and even (one of my favorites) the La Varenne Cooking course cookbook. All told me more or less what what Rick did -- half cup sugar, quarter cup water, cooked til golden, pour into mold. Simple. No mention of the agony and tears I was driven to. Although there was some disagreement about whether to stir, swirl, or leave the mixture sitting still... What's the deal? My father's wife tells me that her professional cook's cook book says to use lemon instead of water, then dilute at the end. Is this what I should have done? Do I need a candy thermometer and if so what temp should the caramel get to so that it stays liquid and doesn't harden? I figure if I start practicing now I should get it right by next xmas...

Thanks! Rafi

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