Last week we made Pecan Caramel Clusters combining two of M’s favorite things, science experiments and cooking with me. Before we started the caramel, we watched this excellent video describing the process of caramelization in simple terms.
First we heated milk, sugar, and salt until the sugar melted. We sat that mixture aside and combined 3/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water. Then we watched the carmelization begin. M was fascinated by the wild bubbling, and she couldn’t wait to see it begin to turn golden.
To help M visualize the sugar molecules breaking apart, we held hands and pretended flames were jumping toward our hands we stretched further and further apart but finally had to let go to escape.
Once the liquid had turned amber, we added the milk mixture and pecans watched it turned into a thick caramel candy.
Finally, we took it off the heat, added the other ingredients and stirred and stirred and stirred until it cooled. Then we dropped clumps onto parchment paper and let it harden.
The recipe we used was based on one in the December 2009 Living Magazine:
Combine 1.5 cups sugar, 3/4 cup whole milk, and 1/2t salt. Heat until sugar is completely melted. Set Aside.
Combine 3/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water. Boil without stirring until the mixture turns golden. Swirl pan until mixture is amber (approximately 2 minutes). Remove from heat.
Add milk mixture and 2 cups pecan halves. Be careful because it bubbles up. Return to medium heat and cook for approximately 7 minutes or until a candy thermometer registers 242F. (Our thermometer is broken so we just stopped after 7 minutes.)
Remove from heat and add 5T butter, cut into small pieces, 2t vanilla and 4t rum. Stir until mixture cools and is very hard to stir (about 10 minutes).
Drop onto parchment or wax paper-lined cookie sheets and let cool until hard. Store in the refrigerator.
Read Full Post »