Sweet, Sweet Sunday

How to Caramelize Onions—Review of the Sauteeing Method of Cooking

Now we’ve covered all the different steps involved in our first cooking method—sauteeing.

But before we move on to our next cooking method and slowly re-begin our crawl through the raw foods pyramid, I’d like to review the method…by telling you how to caramelize onions…

Caramelizing an onion brings out the natural rich and savory sweetness of the onion and calms down some of its undeniable intensity, sharp spiciness notes, and tear-inducing gases.

By cooking the onions for an extended period of time, the natural sugars in the onions “caramelize” and you end with an intensely and wonderful flavor.

So what can you do with these “caramelized” onions?

Lots___

This is a cooking “staple” that adds a depth of flavor to just about anything, such as…

  • burgers
  • casseroles
  • dip
  • French onion soup
  • grilled cheese sandwiches
  • pasta and pasta sauces
  • pastries
  • pizza
  • quiche
  • salads
  • sandwiches
  • soups
  • stir-fries

Ingredients…Obvously if you are going to caramelize onions, you will need onions…

But there are so many different kinds of onions…which onions should you choose?

Actually we will be talking about onions in the near future as we start moving through the Food Pyramid again.

For now, let’s just use yellow onions. Yellow onions tend to caramelize the most readily and be the most versatile to add to the various dishes that you use them in.

How many onions?

This is totally up to you and how many caramelized onions you think you might need before having to make more… I usually caramelize two to three at a time.

The onions will cook down quite a lot.

Slicing and Dicing…When you are slicing and dicing your onions, you want your cuts to be clean and consistent.

First cut the stem and root ends off of each of the onions.

Next remove the skins and cut the onions in half.

Now cut the onions into thin slices. The onions will naturally separate half-rings. Take time to make sure that your slices are even. If not, some of the onions will be undercooked and some of the other will be burned.

You could also dice the onions, but I think onions “rings” are so much more attractive.

Actually before you start slicing and dicing your onions, you should start heating your pan over medium-low heat. be careful not to turn your heat too high…if you do, the onions will burn.

Satisfying the Sweet Tooth

Holiday Baking—Candy

Before the Industrial Revolution in the late 1800s making candy was only done at home during the holidays or by professional candy makers in small specialized shops. Candy was very expensive and considered quite a luxury.

During and after the Industrial Revolution, candy became affordable and more readily available.

Competition became fierce, and large advertising campaigns were started. candy was often named after people such as…

  • Baby Ruth—Supposedly this candy bar was not named after the legendary baseball player after all….but for Ruth Cleveland, President Cleveland’s daughter.
  • Oh Henry!—The “Oh Henry! Bar” was originally named for Tom Henry, the owner of a candy factory in Kansas. He created this candy bar in 1919 and named it after himself…obviously…In 1920 the rights to the Tom Henry bar were bought, and the bar was renamed it the “Oh Henry!” for publicity purposes….O. Henry…
  • Tootsie Roll and Tootsie Pop—Leo Hirshfield named the product after his daughter, Clara, whom he called Tootsie.

Making candy involves boiling sugar with water or milk until the sugar dissolves and the sugar concentration of the mixture reaches the temperature needed for the type of candy that you are making.

The texture and type of candy depends on the ingredients and sugar concentration..lin other words, how long the mixture is boiled.

There are several stages or temperature ranges that determine the type of candy made, including…

  •  1. Thread or syrup stage
  • 2. Soft ball or fudge stage
  • 3. Firm ball or soft caramel candy stage
  • 4. Hard ball or nougat stage
  • 5. Soft crack or salt water taffy stage
  • 6. Hard crack or toffee stage
  • 7. Clear liquid stage
  • 8. Brown liquid or liquid caramel stage
  • 9. Burnt sugar stage

 

 

1. Thread Stage—The thread or syrup stage is met when the candy thermometer reads 230°F.

Chocolate Caramels

Line 8″ square pan with foil. Grease the foil with butter.  In a large saucepan, bring the following ingredients to a boil…

  • 1C sugar
  • 3/4C light corn syrup
  • 2oz unsweetened chocolate chips

Stir until smooth. Add 1/2C heavy cream. Stir constantly until candy thermometer reads 234 degrees. Add another 1/2C cream. Return mixture to 234 degrees, stirring constantly. Add the remaining 1/2c cream. Cook until temperature reaches 248 degrees. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Let sit overnight. Lift candy out of the pan, using foil to lift. Remove foil. Cut into 1″ squares. Wrap individual pieces in waxed paper, twisting the ends.

 

 

2. Soft Ball—The soft ball or fudge stage is reached when the candy thermometer reads 235°F.

Pumpkin Seed Brittle

Bring the following to a boil…

  • 1C sugar
  • 1/2C water
  • Pinch fine sea salt

Cook until thermometer reads 238ºF.Remove from heat. Stir in 3/4C green pumpkin seeds with a wooden spoon. Stir 5min. Return pan to medium heat. Cook stirring constantly, 5 minutes. Pour hot mixture onto parchment paper covered surface. Cover with a second sheet of parchment paper. Roll mixture between two sheets as thinly as possible with rolling pin.  Let cool until firm. Break into pieces. Cool brittle completely Melt 3/4C bittersweet chocolate chips in microwave. Dip cooled brittle in chocolate. Sprinkle with 1/4C chopped pumpkin seeds and large-flake sea salt. Let cool until chocolate is firm.

 

 

3. Firm Ball—The firm ball or soft caramel candy stage is met when the candy thermometer reads 245 °F.

Caramels

Prepare 9×13. In a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat, combine…

  • 1C butter
  • 1# light brown sugar
  • 114oz sweetened condensed milk
  • 1C light corn syrup
  • 1 pinch salt

Cook until thermometer reads 245 degrees. Remove from heat. Add 1 1/2tsp vanilla. Pour mixture into the buttered pan. Let cool overnight. Remove from pan. Cut into squares. Wrap pieces in waxed paper.

 

 

4. Hard Ball-–The hard ball or nougat stage is reached when the candy thermometer reads 250 °F.

Coffee Caramels

Lightly grease and line bottom and sides of 9 x 13. In a large heavy saucepan, combine…

  •   2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely ground espresso powder
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups light corn syrup

Cook until mixture has reached a temperature of 250. Remove from heat. Stir in 1tsp vanilla and 1/2tsp sea salt. Pour mixture into prepared tray. Let sit overnight. Slice into 1 1/4″ squares. Wrap each piece in waxed paper.