Friday, April 18, 2014

Lê techniquê : How to Make Caramel Decorations

One of the biggest differences between a dessert from a pastry shop and your dessert made at home is probably the lack of decoration that yours has.  Usually when we casually bake at home we don't put too much effort to decorate it. But what if I told you that you could create amazing sugar decorations just like the ones used in a pastry shop in less than 15 minutes? Yes, the dry method used here to make caramel is a quick and easy technique to achieve that dark amber color fast and without all the hassle of brushing the sides of the pan and etc as the sugar melts.

With the caramel in the right consistency and a ladle it's possible to create a sugar cage. As this same caramel cools down a little bit it's possible to caramelize nuts and create an amazing "tear drop" effect from it. Just by pinching the sugar in the pan with the tips of your fingers and pulling it up it's possible to create an infinite thread of sugar that can be formed into a beautiful ball also known as sugar nest.

Sugar really is versatile and you don't always need a thermometer to work with it. Checking its consistency is really the best way to know when to re-heat it or to keep going as is. To pull threads of sugar for example it's necessary that the caramel has cooled down a little bit and testing it with a fork is always a good idea. If you pull the caramel and it leaves a thread behind it's time to start pulling this baby like crazy.

Things to keep in mind while working with caramel:

1. It burns fast so keep an eye at it at all times
2. The hotter it is the thinner and more liquid it will be. This stage is great to make caramel drawings and to create cages
3. The colder it is the harder (in consistency) it gets 
4. As it cools down too much it starts cracking and breaking easily so it gets harder to work with it.  Re-heat it as many times as you wish but always at a low heat to avoid continuing cooking
5. Caramel melts when in contact with liquids and when refrigerated. Keep it in a cool and dry place.
6. To clean up a pan with a hard rock caramel sitting in it, soak the pan in water overnight and by the morning the caramel should be completely dissolved.

Hope you enjoy this episode. To learn how to make homemade cotton candy click here. Keep in mind  that the sugar decoration will also add a great texture to your dessert!