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12.03.2012

ALL CARAMELS ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL



I have a plethora of preferences.  They range from the I would prefer category to the I will not tolerate anything else definitive line drawing sort of stance.  Caramels, specifically Brach's Milk Maid caramels, fall into the above mentioned latter category.
 
I am not a paid spokesperson for Brach's candy, though if they asked I would not decline the offer, especially if given the option of a lifetime supply of caramels in lieu of pay.

 You can clearly see above that I ate two caramels in the photographing and typing of this blog post.  They are my weakness.  My affinity and love affair with that buttery, creamy caramelly goodness began as a child.  My Grandma June made home-made caramels every Christmas.  She painstakingly stirred that cast iron pot still that buttery sugary confectionery mix reached some heat index marker called the soft ball stage - a Fahrenheit temperature of 240-245.  In reality, it meant a couple of hours time spent stirring so it would not stick or scorch and then hand cutting and individually wrapping them.  They were not only good at that moment but the memory of their goodness still screams loudly after all these years.
 
Since her departure from earth to heaven, I have attempted to make those caramels once or twice.  The first batch was a bit too hard.  You don't want caramels hard or too chewy as it becomes expensive to re-set crowns and fillings and the like.  The second batch was too soft.  You don't want caramels too soft or you cannot remove the paper from them properly.  Making caramels is an art.  And, in my family it appears to have perished with grams.
 
My hankering for a good caramel led me to a bag of Brach's Milk Maid Caramels.  They too are reminiscent of my childhood years.  My other Grandmother, Sarah, must have liked caramels too as she usually had Brach's Milk Maid Caramels in a candy jar.  I chased none too few a caramel down with a hard swig from an ice cold glass bottle of 7-Up.  Believe it or not that is a great winning food pairing, much like watermelon and bacon.
 
I bought a bag of caramels.  Every once in awhile I need a bit of something to satisfy that goo-o-meter.  A caramel is a lot less fat and calories than an entire candy bar. My justification for them anyway. The flavor sensation pounded my taste buds with a flood of buttery smoothness that was complimented by a sip of my coffee.  I remembered in that split second why that little caramel satisfies my soul so much.
 
Over the next couple of weeks that bag became emptied of caramels.  When it did, I went looking for its replacement.  I went from store to store but no more could I lay my hands on a bag of Brach's Milk Maid Caramels.  Feeling desperate for hit of caramelly goodness to soothe my hankering for a bit of creamy sweet yum, I purchased Kraft caramels.  I was beginning to shake from the effects of caramel withdrawals.
 
There is a vast difference in the appearance of a Kraft caramel to a Brach's caramel.  Forget taste momentarily.  Even if unwrapped with no name brand moniker to give it ownership, its shape and structure clearly defines each.  Kraft caramels hint their precise shape by their name - Kraft.  Completely and uniformly square they are aseptically all the same.  Color, shape, and size are crafted to perfection.  Their taste though is not crafted well.  They have a chalkier texture, less buttery soft gooiness.  Maybe their design is more structured to be used in recipes; caramel brownies, apple caramel pie, or caramel apples.  They are not a stand and eat alone type of caramel.
 
I do not like Kraft caramels.  I do not like them Sam I am.
 
Brach's Milk Maid Caramels are now fully seated in the I will not tolerate anything less category for me.  They are rectangularish and sometimes misshapen leaving you with a hand-made feel and look.  They are a darker caramel color with an intense smooth buttery richness that melts in your mouth.  It leaves its residue with a satiating to the very core foodie kind of way.
 
While at Menards over the weekend my husband spotted a bag of Brach's Milk Maid caramels.  Mostly I would ridicule Menards for their weird mish mash of construction items, home improvement materials, and appliances interwoven with a few food aisles, shoe laces, frozen pizza and milk.  I now hail them as great.  To be a purveyor of Brach's Milk Maid caramels means you have taste and quality that far surpasses Lowes and Home Depot.
 
I would never use Brach's Milk Maid caramels in a recipe.  That would be to waste their original design - to be eaten and then chased behind with a good cup of coffee or possibly a glass of milk.  They are a stand alone caramel.
 
Next week Doug and I are going to try to make a batch of Grandma June's caramels.  I have her cast iron pan and her recipe.  I'm sure that my third attempt will be the charm.  If not, I know where Menards is.

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