I am 22 and have never made caramel before today. Not something I felt particularly interested in botching. Nothing is so luscious as good caramel.....and nothing is quite so tragic as a burnt attempt at caramel. Before I began I read David Lebovitz's tips on making caramel and armed myself with a bowl of ice water and an oven mitt. No chemistry goggles to be found, unfortunately.
Gourmet made a simple addition to a simple list of ingredients: red wine. I had Cabernet Sauvignon on hand, so that's what I used, but perhaps I should've researched what other cooks have tried. No matter, in it went, and it smelled like Christmas as it merrily bubbled.
The wine took longer to reduce than I expected -- closer to 20 minutes. I then began the caramel. This process also took longer than I expected, but I didn't want to try to rush it and end up burning it with too high a temperature. I am trying to be less timid in the kitchen (who was it that said food can sense fear?), but neither do I want to be overly-confident when dealing with science I don't understand! So I watched carefully and swirled the pan every so often to make sure that the caramel colored evenly. At first it seemed that the sugar would never dissolve and boil, but I got quite excited when it very suddenly began bubbling and taking on an amber hue. It's really a beautiful transformation.
Then, in went the wine and cream. It doesn't translate very well in the photo, but it was such a gorgeous, deep red! I almost let it burn, I was so fascinated by examining the color.
Once the caramel cooled to 200 degrees I dipped the apples in it. I think I achieved a decent consistency, though I'm not exactly sure since I'd never made it before. It's not grainy, at least! I feel quite pleased to be able to say that I've successfully made caramel. No fire alarms were involved.
Thus ended my first foray into confectionery, as well as the first installment of my monthly dose of culinary self-education. I have no clue what to expect for November...."Tofurkey Three Ways"?