Thursday, March 28, 2013

Fun with Condensed Milk: Easy Microwave Caramels & Easy Microwave Fudge

I was going to tell you all about the thing for which I am (relatively) (mildly) famous. There were going to be pictures and everything, and I had several pithy comments planned. Then I started eating caramels, and all my plans fell to the wayside.
Not the thing for which I am famous.
First I was eating caramels.
Then I was eating fudge.
Then caramels.
Then fudge.
Then caramels and fudge smashed together, which seems like it would be a Taste Sensation™, but was actually rather disappointing as the chocolate flavor completely took over. I know it appears obvious in retrospect, but I had to try. If I hadn't, you all would have been asking me why not.

So tonight was Fun with Condensed Milk night, and I'm going to share the recipes with you, because they're soooooooo easy, and sooooooooo good, and if you make these then everyone will think you are a Candy Wizard, even after your previous attempts looked like they belonged on the Island of Misfit Baked Goods

This is likely to be a long post since we're making 2 recipes; we're doing two recipes because each recipe uses half a can of condensed milk, and each recipe is very fast and small, (like a sugary Feegle!) so you may as well make both. Furthermore, please be advised, be very advised, that I am nowhere near clever enough to think of these things on my own. You can thank Averie Sunshine for both.

This is what you'll need:
1) a can of sweetened condensed milk
2) a stick of butter
3) white sugar & brown sugar
4) corn syrup
5) vanilla
6) chocolate chips or semi-sweet baking chocolate
7) peanut butter
8) a microwave, a big ol' bowl, and a functional water facet

See? Very easy. I'd be willing to bet that if you do any type of cooking on a regular basis, you already have most (if not all) of these ingredients. (Side note: First I typed "I'd be willing to bed". I think my fingers want a nap. There should be a law against getting up at 6am to work overtime on your day off.)

First up, the caramels. This stuff is going to get really hot, so you might want to lay out all your ingredients ahead of time, and have your oven mitts & trivet ready.

1/2 can of sweetened condensed milk (15oz can)
1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter (salted is better than unsalted)
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of brown sugar (dark brown gives the caramel color we're more used to)
1/2 cup of light corn syrup (light as in color, not calories)
1/2 tablespoon of vanilla

1) Line an 8x8 square pan with aluminum foil & spray with PAM*. Make sure you cover everything completely with the spray, because this stuff is going to stick.
2) Get out a large microwave safe bowl (I have a huge stoneware mixing bowl which was perfect for the job & just barely fit in the nuker) and melt your butter in 30 second increments in the microwave. It was about a minute and a half with my butter.
3) Add in everything except the vanilla and stir until well mixed.
4) Microwave for 3 and a half minutes (3:30).
5) Remove from the microwave using your oven mitts (hint: the bottom of the bowl will be the hottest part) and scrape down the sides completely with a rubber spatula. You want to be absolutely sure that you don't leave sugar crystals sitting up unmixed. Stir it well with your spatula or wooden spoon or magic wand of wonder, whatever your preferred mixing implement may be.
6) Return to the microwave for another 3 and a half minutes (3:30). Warning: will get very bubbly & boiley; this is why you're using a large bowl.
7) Carefully remove from the microwave & set it down on your trivet. Or wooden cutting board. You know, whatever you use so you don't wreck your countertops. Slowly & carefully add in the vanilla. This will make the mixture bubble & froth like the swamps of Dagobah so really guys, be careful not to get any of this stuff on you, it will burn you at this stage.
8) Make sure the vanilla's mixed in, and then pour it into your prepared 8x8 pan and put it in the fridge for a few hours.
9) Proceed to lick the stirring spoon/spatula/magic wand of wonder.
10) Allow the mixing bowl to cool. Lick the mixing bowl too. Man, I love caramel.

Now, the peanut butter fudge.

1/2 can of sweetened condensed milk (15oz can)
1 1/2 cup of chocolate chips, or 6 blocks of semi-sweet baking chocolate (chopped)
1/4 cup of peanut butter
1/2 tablespoon of water
1/2 tablespoon of vanilla

1) Line a small baking dish with aluminum foil.  I ended up using a 6x2 glass Snapware container and it was perfect. An 8x8 is too large.
2) Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized microwave-safe bowl. You can use the same one from the caramels if you like. That's what I did.
3) Microwave for 30 seconds, then remove and stir. Continue doing this in 30 second, remove-and-stir increments until the mix is completely smooth with no lumps. (Took 2 minutes total for me.)
4) Pour into your wee little dish/container and put it in the fridge for at least a half hour before cutting into it.
5) Lick the mixing bowl & spoon again. A good friend once told me that mixing bowl calories don't count, and life tastes good when the mixing bowl calories don't count.

A few tips:
Handy Dandy Cake Lifter
  • Lay out a sheet of waxed paper on your counter, pick up the candy "bar" by the aluminum foil and flip it down into the waxed paper. You can then peel off the foil at your leisure. Hope you sprayed the caramel's foil well!
  • The best way by far to cut these is with a bench scraper, cake lifter, metal spatula, or some other wide straight edge that you can get a good grip on. You don't need an actual knife, and in my opinion, something that can make one straight line across is just easier than trying to draw straight lines yourself.
  • You might want to cut the caramel first, and then the fudge. 'Cause, you know, your cutter & your wax paper will get all chocolatey and then the chocolatey will get onto the caramels. Do the caramels first, and then you can just reuse the same stuff for the fudge.
  • Don't leave the caramels sitting out on the counter. They get a bit melty & soft and will start to stick to everything. Leave them in the fridge. You can also wrap up and freeze leftovers. Both candies 'keep' very well in the freezer for months.
So, honestly, I'm not quite sure which is my favorite here. I mean, I'm all about caramel anything, so I eat that and oh yeah, that's my favorite, definitely. Then I pop a fudge bite in my mouth and no, wait, that's my favorite, mm hmmm. I can't decide. What do you think?

*I always capitalize "PAM" because that's how it's written on the spray can. BAM! PAM!

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