APRIL 1999

Whoopie Pies

Mousse au Chocolat

Mocha Caramels

Chocolate Rice Pudding

Sweet Spot


Mocha Caramels

Tips: Chewy but meltingly soft, these fresh caramels are wonderful! Do not attempt to make them on a humid day, or a day when you have no patience or are liable to be distracted. They demand time, attention, and some babying, and are worth every second of it. You must use a candy thermometer to make these (mine is mounted on a stainless steel frame and made by Taylor), and you'll need a pastry brush as well. If wrapped individually and stored airtight, these will keep for at least a week at room temperature.

  • 1-1/2 cups light cream
  • 3 squares (3 ozs.) semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 3 squares (3 ozs.) unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup mild, light honey
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 tsp. instant espresso powder
  • 1-1/2 tsp. hot water
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into thin pats, at room temperature

Line an 8" square pan with aluminum foil as neatly as possible, smoothing out as many creases as you can, and making sure to leave some overhang on all edges (fold the overhang over the outside edges of the pan). Make sure there are no holes in the foil! With a crumpled paper towel, lightly oil the foil with tasteless vegetable oil. Set aside.

Clip candy thermometer onto side of nonreactive, heavy-bottomed three quart pot. Adjust height of thermometer so that bulb does not touch bottom of pot (if thermometer is mounted on a frame, bottom of frame may touch bottom of pot). Remove candy thermometer (reserve three quart pot); place thermometer in two quart pot filled about 3/4 full of cold water. Place this pot over medium or low heat so thermometer can pre-warm while caramel mixture cooks to a boil.

Heavily butter the sides of the three quart pot. Pour in the cream. Over medium heat, bring cream to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. Carefully, avoiding splashing, add both chocolates and whisk briefly until chocolate is in small flecks (some chocolate, but not all, will be melted now). Add sugar, honey, and salt. Replace over medium heat, whisking gently but constantly to dissolve sugar. Do not beat vigorously with whisk--just stir with it. While mixture heats, carefully wash down the sides two or three times with a pastry brush dipped in hot water, squeezing out most of the water before brushing down the pot sides (start at the top and work downward to do this). Cook and stir until mixture comes to a boil (if you wish, you can use a large spoon instead of a whisk to stir with after incorporating the chocolate).

Boil over medium heat, stirring every few minutes, until mixture reaches 248-249 degrees F on candy thermometer. This may take 45 minutes or longer. Be patient; my caramel mixture seems to get to about 222 degrees F and hover there forever, but the temperature will rise eventually. Mixture should boil rapidly, but reduce heat if it threatens to boil over. BE CAREFUL WHEN STIRRING!!! When mixture is less concentrated, at lower temperatures, some can splash out of the pot as you stir, even if you stir gently. You might want to wear long sleeves and/or a glove style pot holder. Some chocolate flecks will still be visible as mixture boils--OK. While it boils, dissolve instant espresso powder in hot water in small cup; set aside.

When caramel reaches end temperature, remove from heat. Add butter pats, then dissolved espresso. Gently but thoroughly stir to incorporate (this will take a minute or two; make sure the melted butter is really mixed in). Turn into prepared pan, scraping pot bottom well, but not pot sides. If required, quickly spread evenly. Cool undisturbed at room temperature. When completely cooled, store airtight overnight to allow flavor to develop.

To wrap these once they are cut, you'll need wax paper. If you have a yield of 64 caramels per batch, as I do, you'll need 64 pieces of wax paper, each about 5" long by 4" wide. Remove uncut block of caramel, still in foil, from pan. Place on cutting board. Lightly oil the blade of a large, heavy, sharp, straight-edged knife with tasteless vegetable oil. Score the uncut block into squares, then cut it. It will be necessary to run the knife blade under very hot water, dry it, and re-oil it frequently. Once the caramels are cut, wrap as follows: place a piece of the cut wax paper so that a 4" side faces you. Place a caramel about 1/3 of the way up the length of the wax paper and centered regarding the 4" width. Starting from the 4" side closest to you, fold the caramel over and over in the wax paper, rolling tightly. When folded to the end, pick up the wrapped candy and twist the ends in opposite directions (exactly like a salt water taffy "kiss"--in fact, the caramel will probably take on a "kiss" shape instead of a square shape). Wrap remaining caramels the same way. Caramels can be cut smaller or larger, if desired. Store airtight.

64 squares or "kisses"

Variation: Mocha-Nut Caramels

Make caramels as directed above. When butter and dissolved espresso have been partially incorporated, add 2/3 cup medium-fine chopped, toasted, cooled nuts (usealmonds, walnuts, or pecans). Stir until blended in; proceed as above.

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