One thing I have always wanted to attempt, but never felt I would be successful at, was to make confectioneries and candies. However, I had always found and made an excuse not to cook, or even try. Mitigations are made, plans are rescheduled, and work needs to be finished. We are so “busy” being wrapped up with being busy, that we forget what is truly important or matters…ourselves. What makes our heart, and soul, sing. But, excuses are not reasons. Nor, are reasons relatively excuses.
Here is a shortened version of my caramel karma…
In April 2012, when I was struggling with the worsts of my diagnosed acute anxieties and variable symptoms of PTSD that were at highs taller than any mountain peaks, I was taking a children’s literature course as a part of an early childhood education program. As I was enrolled in many early morning classes and had difficulty focusing, I started self-medicating with any foul substance (without the pursuit of alcohol, however) that would soothe and calm me down, ultimately in the hopes of being able to sleep through the night. I would wake up consistently in hot sweats, suffer from hot flashes and dry heave until there was nothing left in my stomach. I would not be able to pull myself out of bed some days and procrastinated to the night’s end. (Even writing this hurts the wounds I told myself I would move forward from). During that period of time, the only person who truly stuck by my side, was (and still is) my mother, the angel that she is. School work was overwhelming and in that time, I would procrastinate to no end, deeming that life, school, and humanity was an unfair mockery deemed upon me at only 21 years of age. Yet, I was able to push forward and finish the spring semester. And as blurry as the memory seems now, I found a safe haven in reading children’s books. As silly gags can create miraculous inspirations, I, with my go-getting mother, collaborated on a children’s picture book (currently in the midst of working towards publication). That book is called Patrick’s Big Mistake (all rights reserved.)
The story goes as follows: A young pig, named Patrick, was assisting in his father’s popcorn factory on their farm and was asked to make a batch of delicious, buttery popcorn to sell locally. However, Patrick being an idealistic and charming child, his day dreams got to him, and he became unfocused. With this, he accidentally used the incorrect ingredients to make the butter, (sugar instead of salt) ultimately making caramel. In a rush, he poured it over the popcorn and was terrified that he ruined the batch of freshly popped popcorn his father slaved over to create. But…was it truly a mistake? For, Patrick created caramel popcorn…re birthing the popcorn with a new identity, flavor and delectable design…one that no one every thought of. And, ultimately, gave it a new beautiful life…
This book has been deemed successful, and the innovative brilliance of the moral culminated in – there is never a wrong way to do things. Everything is a learning experience and every lesson has a moral within itself. And, sometimes a mistake is not a mistake at all. Perhaps, we could all learn from Patrick and his “big mistake”…never be afraid to admit you were wrong, and never be afraid to tell the truth – for the truth can help take the weight of the world off your shoulders.
It has taken me a year to come to terms with my anxieties, to begin releasing my inner demons, to accept my faults and flaws, and to seek treatment and therapy in holistic remedies, as well as through various artistic mediums. I never realized how closely I could relate to Patrick’s story…the guilt and agony of making a mistake. Or, allowing a short lived lesson learned to burden your soul. Being human means finding beauty in the error of our misguidance and mishaps…something we should shape into positive attributes and take forward to unconditional happiness.
One year later…now, in April 2013, I have faced one of my fears – candy making. I have always wanted to create caramels, but without the proper training and holding onto an irrational fear of burning the sugar, I allowed my anxieties and misfortunes to get the best of me. Now, within two days, I have put together two different adapted caramel recipes, one of which is posted at the end of this account.
There is much truth in the idea that you must struggle through your doubts and deeds, only to remain strong and courageous in the end. My heart goes out to those suffering from irrationalities, paranoia, hallucinations and most of all, mourning devastation and terrors. You are never alone. But to face those fears head on allows you to see light and beauty at the end of the dark, almost endless, tunnel. I promise you…the tunnel does end. The well will hit rock bottom. However, if you are able to crawl out of the darkness a better person, shining brightly and flourishing with strength, life, unconditional love and beautiful innovations to justify your creativity, then you have already succeeded at something that many people cannot fathom – that life goes on. Mourning is only one stage of the process, grief is merely an illusion of the resentment and guilt we put upon others and ourselves. It may be a step backwards, but it surely enough pushes us on a golden path of enlightenment and wisdom.
Please, I encourage anyone and everyone to follow their dreams and passions, you don’t have to “quit your day job” to try something new or to even conquer your deepest embedded fears. For, even I still hold onto plenty. The end result is worth the wait and the violent bubbling. The patience and calmness will be worth the risk factor and the judgements…they are all delusions and manifestations of the mind (in humans and animals alike). We all make mistakes, Patrick and myself included, but we can take action to control our lives in the present moment, and in the future.
(This is dedicated to my mother…and to the relationships that I have struggled with my entire life. I am blessed and grateful for this life, for everyone I have met and for everyone reading this blog. I am thankful for the support in my journey to recovery, and this life…it is surreal. It is one of a kind. And it is ours to share.)
[Please, feel free to contact me if you need a helping hand, advice or someone to banter back and forth with. It is devastating to feel as if there is no one out there who understands. We are never alone. There is always someone who understands, not always for the worse, but always assisting for the better…to put an end to the bitter and the hatred.]
Let’s get to the good CARAMELS. Below is the original recipe (link included) along with my personal adaptations in bold (first discovered it on http://www.foodgawker.com). I encourage anyone interested in taking a risk to take it in the sweetness and pure beauty that is sugar.
Fleur de Sel Caramels
Originally posted recipe: http://www.completelydelicious.com/2012/11/sea-salt-caramels.html
[I also referred to this recipe to ensure that I was pursuing it correctly: http://www.annies-eats.com/2010/12/13/vanilla-bean-caramels/ ]
Ingredients (with my adaptations)
- 1 cup (236 ml) heavy cream
- 5 tablespoons (70 grams) unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon fleur de sel or other coarse sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling
- 1 1/2 cup (300 grams) sugar
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) light agave nectar
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) water
- 1/8 teaspoon rose water (added to 1/4 cup water)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 vanilla bean pod, split lengthwise and scraped
- Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper.
- In a saucepan, bring the heavy cream, butter, and salt to just a boil. Keep warm.
- Meanwhile, combine the sugar, light agave nectar, and water (with a touch of rose water) together in a separate sauce pan over medium heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Once dissolved, stop stirring and let simmer until mixture turns an amber color. Watch closely that it doesn’t burn, and swirl the pan as needed so that the mixture caramelizes evenly.
- Remove from heat and add the cream mixture slowly while whisking constantly. Mixture will bubble violently. Once combined, stir in the vanilla extract and scraped vanilla from bean pod. Return to heat and insert candy thermometer. Let cook, without stirring, until thermometer reaches 248 degrees F (between soft ball and hard ball).
- Immediately pour mixture into prepared pan and let sit for 2 hours until firm (I allowed it to cool for about 30-50 minutes and it was firm enough to cut). Sprinkle with additional salt and cut into 1-inch squares with a sharp greased knife. Wrap in 4-inch wax paper squares. Store at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.
Note: Fleur de sel can be found a fine grocery stores. Any other coarse sea salt can be substituted just fine. (I found Fleur de sel at Fresh Market in the spice aisle)
Fleur de sel (“flower of salt”) is the top layer of salt that is collected before it sinks to the bottom of the pan. If interested, check out http://www.saltworks.us/salt_info/si_gourmet_reference.asp#.UW3N_YJ0TYs for a comparison of various salts used in cooking and baking.
Notes for this recipe: IT IS ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS! Light, with a hint of the rose water gives it a fresh floral note and the fleur de sel spikes the roof of your mouth with an earthy tone. And the vanilla bean pod truly adds a fresh vanilla flavor you can only find using the real deal!
I suggest not buttering the parchment paper too much, because from my experience, the caramels were a bit too greasy for my liking. (The next day they seemed to be fine, but they were also wrapped individually). In addition, it is probably not the best idea to over butter the pizza cutter. Again, it may manifest itself into greasy caramel cubes. Using vegetable or canola oil is a viable option.
If you want to use something besides light agave nectar in place of corn syrup, perhaps try a light maple syrup or a molasses. Heavy cream could also be substituted with soy milk, but it may change the consistency. It would also be interesting to see how espresso or coffee extract effects the texture, as well as the taste of the caramel. I think I may save that for next time. But in my opinion, it is way too good to even want to mess around with the recipe anymore.
Also: I have a very strong urge to share this with anyone willing to watch:
Part of Your World, The Little Mermaid: http://youtu.be/mGoXtSw0Ias
Set yourself free from the deep plunges of the ocean waters…sobriety is worth it, life is worth it, and so are you.