Sometime last year jinian
gave me a little box of caramels from a company in Seattle who are primarily chocolatiers and do caramels on special occasions. The theme of the box was 'mirepoix', and it had a caramelized onion caramel, a fennel caramel, a celery caramel, and a carrot caramel. I must admit to eying it rather dubiously.
I had to give away the onion one because I am allergic to onions. The fennel one tasted of licorice. I like licorice, so that was fine. The celery one was exactly the sort of thing you put in a box of gimmicky caramels to carry out the mirepoix theme.
The carrot one filled my eyes with a wild surmise as I started muttering things about why isn't this object in every store in the country
how did they do
this how can I recreate this I cannot have this only once in my life it is neither humanly tolerable nor fair.
It does not taste a thing like carrot. I took my version to a party tonight and asked people to guess the mystery ingredient. The guesses I got ranged from 'booze of some kind?' to 'nuts of some kind?' to, by far the most common, 'I have no idea but this stuff is amazing'. Carrot-haters will like this. You can't tell what it is even if you already know. The best way I can describe the taste is that it is caramel, but better somehow. I can't even really describe the direction in which it is better. It's just better. If this had been genuinely my idea, I would be seriously considering starting a small candy company right about now.
Carrot Coriander Caramel (makes about fifty bite-sized caramels)
4 medium carrots
2 tsp. canola or vegetable oil, not an oil that has taste
1 heaped tsp. ground coriander
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
5 tbsp. butter
about 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup light corn syrup, or other corn syrup, molasses, malt syrup, whatever of this sort you have lying about
a baking sheet
two large sturdy pots
a potato masher
a candy thermometer if you roll that way
a dish to pour the caramel into-- I have had good results with either a square Pyrex casserole, heavily buttered, or a square silicon cake dish, lightly oiled
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Peel and end the carrots and cut them in 1-inch rounds. Halve the rounds lengthwise. Oil the baking sheet.
Put the carrot pieces on the baking sheet and sprinkle the coriander over them. Muddle the whole thing with your hands until the carrot pieces are evenly coated in both coriander and oil and are in a single layer. Roast for 22 minutes or until a fork goes in, but not very easily.
When the carrots are cool enough to touch, put them in the bowl and pour over the cream. Make sure all carrots are submerged. Cover the bowl, but do not refrigerate.
I left mine two hours and I think it was enough, though longer couldn't hurt. Anyway, you can go do something else in the interim. Oh and oil or butter your dish.
Pour the carrots and cream into a pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer. Simmer it about seven minutes, and then go after the carrots with a potato masher, not too vigorously (you don't want splashes). They will not entirely deliquesce.
Ladle the liquid through a strainer and back into the pot, pressing firmly but not fiercely. Set aside the solids-- they are creamed carrots, and can be eaten, with added salt and pepper, as a side dish at your next several meals. Melt the butter and the salt into the simmering liquid, and stir. Note: salt is really to taste, just try not to burn your tongue. Once everything's stirred together, take this pot off the heat and set it aside.
In the other pot, put the corn syrup, sugar, and water over high heat, and boil it stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Then stop stirring and wait until it goes light golden, swirling the pan gently every so often. This will only be about 2-3 minutes.
Then add the cream mixture. It will froth up at you wildly; that's normal. Cook, stirring frequently, until-- well, if you have a candy thermometer it should say 248 F. But I do this by eye, which means a jelly jar of very cold water at my elbow, in which a drop of caramel should instantly form a soft ball. Honestly, though, if you want to learn candy stages by eye I suggest learning on jam, as the failure modes remain entirely edible.
Pour the hot caramel into the dish, cover the top, and refrigerate for at least two hours but this is the phase where I wandered off for the night and that works too.
The next day, or when you get back to them, butter the blade of a sharp knife. Score the lines you intend to cut along before going back over them to cut squares of caramel. Wrap each one in a much bigger piece of wax paper than you think you need, pile the wrapped ones in a bowl and refrigerate again until serving. You will wind up sticky to the elbows but that is, I'm afraid, just one of those things. Store in the fridge; they keep for weeks and they like to try to melt.