After careful thought, it seems that there are two camps in the kitchen—those who stir for the joy of it and those who prefer to leave simmering pots alone. There may be other sub-categories and side groups, but it seems that most people who join you in the kitchen will usually quickly announce their preference for stirring, if that is the case. My sister falls into this group. From an early age, our kitchen collaborations were usually begun with a “What can I stir?” from her. Initially, I did have my doubts, concerned that her willingness to stir was overshining her willingness to help with other prep tasks. But it doesn’t take long to see the balance that these two styles bring to the kitchen.
For me, I’d rather leave the pots alone, cooking things that can stand up to a little caramelization or simmer time on their own. This leaves me free to move from one project to the next. So when it comes down to some serious cooking, a combination of kitchen personalities seems to work best. And when the cooking project at hand is a few pounds of caramel, that stirring part becomes all the more important.
Caramel, and homemade candy of all sorts, really, have been somewhat of a mystery to me. Caramel is one of those ubiquitous flavors but it wasn’t really on our holiday treat tray growing up. Baked treats were most often our thing, so the sugary world of cooking caramel, brittle and fudge have all been new to me. I’ve lost many a pound of butter and sugar with my attempts to master science of candy making. Maybe it all comes down to the stirring, but I’m still trying. So when the December issue of Martha Stewart’s Living arrived, featuring caramel with tasty variations, I knew I would need help.
If making caramel can be described as any one task, it would have to be stirring. The ingredient list is not long—add everything into the pot, stir until it reaches a caramelly color (Martha was a bit more precise), then pour it onto a pan and wait. What happens in-between is about 40 minutes of stirring. OK, that might be an exaggeration or due to the fact that there was actually a double batch in progress, either way, whew! My weekend adventures included four kinds of caramel and a whole lot of stirring. Thank goodness for friends with an appreciation for stirring!
No recipe this time, friends. I’m just going to go with Martha on this one—check out her detailed directions and flavor combinations in the December issue of Living. And while they outlined a few delicious flavor combinations, I think the idea of an Earl Grey variety, or something nutty with rosemary would be worth a little experimentation with future batches! And if you’re still trying to come up with some treats to share with friends and family, I can’t help but believe a little box of marshmallows and caramel would make people very happy. Or, if you want to share a little more caramelly goodness, pour the caramel into a pan and give both as a gift, wrapped up in a bit of baker’s twine.