I was an alchemist this week, I created gold from sugar and cream. I left the pot boiling and filled the dogs' water bowl while it simmered in sticky excess of itself. A wooden spoon sat sideways off a plate, dripping liquid sugar, hardening in stalactites of golden-browns.
Candy making is a simple pleasure. It brings joy; so I make it. I whisk things into an emulsive state, I tuck them away in boxes and blankets of tissue paper. I do it for the pleasure of family practice, to keep the heartbeat strong between my mother's craft and my hobbies. I do it to feel her pulse on every countertop surface. She showed me at Christmas how to temper chocolate and three months later I began a candy business. She showed me at Christmas how to make caramel and I haven't stopped trying to perfect the recipe.
I make candy to remember my past. To remember my mother, to remember my high school friends who passed around bags of Werther's Originals in AP Chemistry. The nostalgia I feel is simple, heartbreakingly simple.
I make candy so I don't forget those feelings, those memories. I can create magic through baking, I'm able to revive the dead. Necromancy vis-à-vis the Maillard Reaction. I created these caramels with this intention. To layer all my old selves into one complicated morsel, to embrace those resurrected memories and wrap them in wax paper, tuck them away in a small and pretty box, and pull them out when I start forgetting where I came from.
Duck Fat Caramels with Smoked Salt
Savory and sweet caramels topped with a curious salt. Makes 81 pieces.
- Heavily grease a 9x9 brownie pan and line bottom with parchment (use a lot of room temperature butter here and cover all surfaced). Set aside
- In a 4 quart dutch oven, combine all ingredients except vanilla and salt
- Heat on medium-high and allow to simmer until butter is melted. Stir occasionally to incorporate ingredients.
- Once butter is melted, bring to a boil on high heat. Boil for 5-7 minutes.
- Lower heat to medium and simmer for 27-35 minutes. Bubbles will appear tight and sticky. Do not stir once reached this stage, but allow mixture to continue to caramelize. It will become slightly fragrant, smelling fatty and slightly nutty.
- Once temperature reaches 240-243 *F on a candy thermometer (or, if you're old-school and the caramel has reached the hard-ball stage), splash in vanilla and give a quick stir with a wooden spoon
- Pour into prepared pan (be EXTRA careful) and allow to cool for at least 6 hours, until slightly hardened but pliable. Invert onto a cutting board. Sprinkle generously with smoked flaked salt
- Using a ruler, mark and cut into inch pieces. Cut using a sharp knife or bench knife.
- Wrap in wax or parchment paper.