Dipped Caramels

Sweet Impact Mama
@sweet-impact-mama
05/14/17 07:57:51PM
14 posts

Hello to all the lovely experts out there. I'm a 1 year old newbie, when it comes to working with chocolate and have managed to get myself into a predicament. Hoping there might be some techniques out there I'm not aware of.

One of the first things I made that were a total hit are my Bourbon Salted Caramels. I do them in 4 forms... naked, dipped in a Peruvian milk chocolate and sprinkled with Hawaiian lava salt, dipped in Ecuadorian 65% and sprinkled with Applewood smoked salt, and then I do turtles. I've posted some older pics, to give you a bit of an idea. 

My problem is this. They have become really good sellers... particularly when it comes to shops that carry them. And I'm very low-tech, in terms of my operation. The caramel is made in double batches, using a 13 quart tri-ply pan on stovetop. It's poured into a sheet pan and cooled, then, at this point, I'm still scoring them with a pastry cutter (not the super sturdy type) and cutting by hand. Then, I dip them all by hand. 

All my chocolate tempering is by hand/seed method and I hold my chocolate in 2 3kg Mol d'Art melters that I found used, on Ebay, for a song...I've become very obsessive about tracking when this sort of stuff shows up. Again, very low tech, in terms of shop size, equipment, etc. 

I don't bottom them... not sure how to do that with a sheet pan full of caramel. I just cut, group for dipping type and go. But this is taking FOREVER. And with the 3 shops buying them at several dozen at a wack (but wholesale) and then weekly markets and my online sale, I need to figure out a faster way to bang these out. 

Anyone have a non-expensive recommendation on how to speed things along? I am looking at a caramel roller cutter, since that would speed it along a little. If not, I'll just muddle along until we can afford some higher tech stuff. ;-) 

Greg Gould
@greg-gould
05/14/17 10:49:26PM
68 posts

I haven't figured a way.  I bought a caramel roller and it doesn't get through caramel.  The handle has a terrible grip.   It is great for scoring them before you cut them.   Don't get a guitar cutter.

If you want to speed things up, I'd recommend getting a Chocovision Delta to automate up your chocolate tempering.  They're used on eBay regularly.  

Daniel Herskovic
@daniel-herskovic
05/15/17 03:07:16PM
132 posts

Hi there!

Yes! we need to find you a faster way to get these done.

Getting some new equipment can be helpful. Of course none of this stuff is cheap. IF you want to make dipped/enrobed caramels, one of the best things you can get is an enrober for obvious reasons. This will bring your daily production from the hundreds to the thousands. Of course this involves several thousands of dollars, even for the least expensive unit.

The other thing is cooking your caramel in one large batch versus multiple smaller batches. We cook all of our caramel in a copper kettle. I have an extra one that we don't use that I would be open to selling ( I know that is an issue for classifieds and I can post there) . When I used to make caramel in stainless steel pots, the pans would often get scorched and ultimately ruined. For some reason this does not happen when I use my kettle and if a little scorching happens then it washes out really easily. Anyway.... our kettle can make a batch of 1,000 caramels in one pot.

When the caramel is done cooking we line our granite table with silicone mats and use long metal bars (6 feet long) to contain the caramel. The bars on the ends are about 2.5 feet long. I had a machine shop make these out of food grade stainless steel. It was a few years ago, but I think I paid around $150-200 for 8 bars total.

The next day when the caramel is cooled, we spread some untempered dark chocolate (you can use tempered too -- either works) on the caramel. Believe it or not, we cut the caramels with a confectionery guitar. If you want to use a guitar, you must be extremely careful with the final temperature of the caramel. Our caramels are soft enough to cut, yet firm enough to hold their shape. If you cook your caramel to a higher temperature then you may break guitar strings. We are very exact on a caramel temperature so that we can achieve the exact texture. Many times, we need to use a knife to cut the caramels again -- regardless, the guitar establishes and marks the perfect shape of the caramels.

Then we put the caramels through an enrober.

If you cant afford some of the equipment I am mentioning, you may want to consider making molded caramels. For a very small operation, I believe that you can get more molded chocolates done in a shorter time than hand dipped chocolates. Also, it is easier to achieve a more liquid caramel for molded chocolates then firmer caramels for dipping/enrobing.

Glad to answer any questions you may have.

Sweet Impact Mama
@sweet-impact-mama
05/15/17 03:49:33PM
14 posts

Thank you for all that great advice, Daniel! 

I never seem to have any issue with scorching, and my caramel is the texture you describe. If I cut it, it holds it's shape, in a room at about 66 degrees, for about 10 minutes, before it starts to spread a little. I'm neurotic about temp, but I only get 150 caramels from each double batch.  I am using my modified version of the master recipe they gave us in Ecole Chocolat's chocolatier course. It has always worked brilliantly for me... my only trick was to discover the precise temp I wanted to use to get the right texture, while adding about a 1/2 cup of bourbon to the double batch.

That kettle you use sounds huge. How do you get it onto the stove????

Good to hear the guitar cutter works for yours... that's my first option for a big expenditure, because it will also help improve my options for truffles. 

I already do a liquid caramel in a 70% shell, that is a HUGE hit. Everyone that tries, in my little area, has never tasted something like it. But I want some chew to these and that one doesn't have it. It literally just flows into your mouth. I'm using a dry caramel for that one - no water... just dissolve the sugar, get it to toffee colored and then add butter and cream, vanilla and salt.

Sweet Impact Mama
@sweet-impact-mama
05/15/17 10:02:11PM
14 posts

So, I've been doing some research on copper pots... not sure how big yours is or how much you'd be asking for it, but would something like this work?

http://tigercook.com/product_info.php/products_id/195

Daniel Herskovic
@daniel-herskovic
05/16/17 08:38:59AM
132 posts

If you would like to invest in a larger pot, then you need to have a burner that is strong enough to heat the contents of that pot. The kettle we use most often is made by Savage bros and we have purchased a candy stove to hold this copper pot. Our copper pots are round on the bottom. so your stove will need to be capable of stabilizing the pot.

The link you showed was interesting. I imagine it would work and it is flat on the bottom like standard pots. I prefer what I have, but I also have the matching stove to work with it.

Nicole5
@nicole5
05/20/17 04:16:14PM
35 posts

I have a caramel cutter I might be able to sell to you.  Where in the U.S. are you?

Sweet Impact Mama
@sweet-impact-mama
05/20/17 04:33:00PM
14 posts

I'm in Southeastern Wisconsin. :-)

Nicole5
@nicole5
05/20/17 05:12:47PM
35 posts

I'll see if I can figure out how to send you a PM.

Sweet Impact Mama
@sweet-impact-mama
05/20/17 05:14:12PM
14 posts

if you can't, my email is sweetimpactchocolates@gmail.com 

Nicole5
@nicole5
05/20/17 05:23:19PM
35 posts

email sent

Jayne Hoadley
@jayne-hoadley
05/20/17 06:03:52PM
8 posts

Hi there.

Caramels are a huge part of my business.  I have many things on my equipment wish list, but I will tell you what we use.  I do have a guitar cutter, and I would never use it for my caramels.  Our caramels are cut with a Tomric caramel cutter, and we also use this for toffee.  Our production time has been cut down by 75%! and we still hand dip everything.  We do not foot the caramel....we repair if needed.  You will find what works for you, and if I can answer any questions let me know. 

Sweet Impact Mama
@sweet-impact-mama
05/20/17 06:07:05PM
14 posts

Tomric's was on my possible list... it's in my "affordable" range, so it's good to hear it has made that much of a difference! Thanks!

Jayne Hoadley
@jayne-hoadley
05/21/17 04:02:42PM
8 posts

I found the key is to first score the number of rows you will be dipping.  Cut that piece of caramel and transfer it to a cutting board for cutting.  If it is firm I usually do not need to reshape, and if it is softer I just reshape it.  Cutting smaller amounts helps the caramel to hold shape through dipping.  I have used this cutter for 4 years now.  If I have a few people helping we can get through 4 full sheets in just a few hours....when I started my business ....10hrs for one pan from start to finish with just me.  I have a low tech business, but I also got a bit of advice from a chef I studied under...."Be the machine, before you buy the machine."  It takes a lot of money to buy equipment, so I always make certain that I have the need and the money.  Hope this is helpful.

Jim Dutton
@jim-dutton
05/24/17 09:22:08AM
76 posts

I'm afraid I don't have the expertise to be of much help in your quest, except to say that I would not use my guitar on caramel. If you have ever replaced even a single wire on a guitar, you will know why (though I realize that knowing your caramel and its consistency might change that rule for others). I do have a question. When you say:

"my only trick was to discover the precise temp I wanted to use to get the right texture, while adding about a 1/2 cup of bourbon to the double batch"

to what temp do you cook the caramel? I have the problem that when caramel is cooked to the right consistency (in my case, for piping), it means the correct amount of liquid has evaporated. If I add liquid (I have tried pineapple purée), the proportions are thrown off and the caramel is too thin to pipe into a mold. Of course, adding flavoring liquids earlier means the flavor often gets cooks off.

Sweet Impact Mama
@sweet-impact-mama
05/24/17 09:37:09AM
14 posts

I haven't yet gone to a piping consistency for the Bourbon Salted Caramel. I pipe my dry caramel (more of a French, dark caramel). My bourbon one is cooked to 116.5-117 C. It is cut and dipped, or made into the turtles ( think I posted a pic up there.) 

Jim Dutton
@jim-dutton
05/24/17 09:48:49AM
76 posts

Just to be certain I understand you: you are adding the bourbon after all the cooking is complete?

Sweet Impact Mama
@sweet-impact-mama
05/24/17 09:50:35AM
14 posts

oh no! The bourbon goes in during the final stage of cooking.

Jim Dutton
@jim-dutton
05/24/17 09:54:40AM
76 posts

Thanks for clarifying. I'll give that a try with pineapple purée, which scorches easily if added at the beginning of the process.

Dale Anderson
@dale-anderson
06/02/17 11:12:27AM
9 posts

I cut my caramels with a "cheese knife" (Dexter brand). It's a long straight knife with handles at each end, and cost about $25. I mark off the edges of my caramels with a ruler and small knife, and use the cheese knife to cut it into pieces. It works great even with caramels that have lots of crunchy inclusions. All the best!

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