Caramel: My Nemesis

These baking adventures gone wrong happened a while ago.  I’ve been trying to get over the emotional scarring so that I can share it with you.

Tomorrow I will bring you a happier tale from the kitchen.

Today you will learn why I will never again bake with caramel.  Or at least until I can find another occasion to make caramel buttercream frosting (God’s gift to our tastebuds).

As as happened on occasion before, I decided to do some baking one day.  A seemingly innocent decision.  I had stocked up on the needed ingredients and was ready to set to work.

Task 1: Candied Caramel Popcorn.

Task 2: Snickers Cupcakes.

Task one involved steps such as:

“in a small saucepan, make homemade caramel”

*Note to self: small saucepan seems to be secret chef code for medium sized saucepan.

This caramel was poured over this tasty mixture: popcorn, peanuts, and perhaps something else that I’m forgetting.

Then into the oven it goes.

Here is where what looked to be a simple task broke down entirely.  If you are ever baking with caramel, or anything else that has potential to drip, overflow, or bubble up uncontrollably and commandeer control of your oven  like my caramel popcorn did, do yourself a favor and line the lower tray in your oven with tin foil.  You won’t regret it.  You will however deeply regret it if you skip this step.

This photo was taken after I wised up.  After the caramel catastrophe of 2011.  After the kitchen filled with smoke.  After burnt caramel adhered itself to the bottom of my oven.  After the smoke alarm went off: beeping accompanied by the helpful female voice alerting us, “FIRE!  FIRE!  FIRE!  FIRE!”  After the oven cooled, I scrubbed the bottom of the oven and still had to bake with the fan under the microwave sucking up all the smoky air.  I also spent a fair amount of time standing on a chair and waving my apron in front of the smoke detector so that it wouldn’t feel the need to detect more smoke.

After 5 years of turning trays and mixing caramel popcorn, and wiping up sticky overflows, I set it out to cool, and topped it with Eastery things such as pastel colored M&Ms (the last bag in the state of MN on the weekend before Easter) and white chocolate drizzles.

Isn’t it pretty?

You may want to comment here, “oh, it is so pretty!  that must have been worth the blood, sweat, and tears.”  False.  The caramel sugary glue stuck itself to the wax paper and I couldn’t get it off.  I pried away the top layer of popcorn-ness, put it in some tupperware, and then threw the rest away.

I didn’t feel as though I should serve it to my friends.  So instead, I served it to my family.  It was waaaaay sugary, but served in a large orange tupperware at a Twins game it was a delightful little treat.

The popcorn pretty much soaked all the caramel right up.  To the point I felt I had to rename what the recipe called, “candied caramel popcorn.”  I call it, “Help!  My name is popcorn and I’m drowning in caramel!”  And yes, I made my entire family refer to the treat by its full name, accompanied by a high pitched voice and little flailing arms in order to have the bowl passed to them.

I’m sure somewhere out there, caramel popcorn pros would have no problem making this.  I applaud you.  I will never be you.  I need to remember that my attempts to make caramel popcorn never go well.  And just stop trying.  If you are a better carameler than me though, here is the original recipe: recipe for pure sugar and pure disaster

After this, I still needed to accomplish task 2: Snicker’s Cupcakes for my mom’s birthday.

These weren’t SO awful to make, except that I never wanted to see caramel (the main ingredient in these cupcakes) again.

I love all the cupcake recipes on Annie’s Eat’s, but for this one, I said, “I’m sorry Annie.  I know you like to make things from scratch, but if I have to make more caramel from scratch today, well, it won’t be pretty.”  So I went to the store and decided on Mrs. Richardson’s caramel.  I made this decision based solely on the name: I thought it sounded more homemade than the other options.

Other than the oven still angrily smoking and me being in a time-crunch so I had no choice but to bake on, waving smoke away and opening windows as needed, it went pretty well.  The little cakes were filled with caramel-coated-pieces of snickers.  I felt the cupcake corer wouldn’t make a big enough hole, so I made them extra big.  I’d say this affected the stability of the cupcake, and thus made it a definite fork-required dessert.  Other than that, they were delish!  Especially the caramel buttercream frosting.

Here is the recipe.

And here is what they looked like!