I had a great time making this icing today. On the one hand there was the caramel, which I get all worked up about. Something about turning simple, one-dimensional ingredients like water, sugar and milk into a deep, dark, aromatic brew…it excites me. On the other there was the browning which the geek in me loved, created as it is by both caramelization and Maillard reactions. Put it all together and my little brain was lighting up like a Christmas tree.
Caramel icing takes a little bit of time. Not so much in the cooking but in the cooling and stirring. It took me a very worthwhile hour. I started by combining the sugar and water:
I swirled that over high heat until it was dark amber, then I added the butter.
I whisked it in — carefully — then added the corn syrup.
A little more whisking brought it all together.
Next I turned to the milk mixture. I combined the sugar, milk and baking soda in large stockpot (trust me you need one for this) and set it over medium heat.
I whisked that.
Then I added the caramel.
More whisking, then I left it it to boil up.
And boil up it did…it increased in volume about 300%. This is why you need a big pot!
After about 15 minutes it was close to temperature. I just stuck a digital thermometer right into the foam. Got a good reading.
When it reached 238 degrees Fahrenheit I took the pot off the heat. It settled down almost immediately, and I added the vanilla.
I whisked again and set it aside to cool.
After about 10 minutes I gave it a little whisk. It was quite thin.
Every 10 minutes for about 40 minutes or so I returned to the pot to whisk it some more. It kept getting thicker…
…and thicker, until it achieved a paste-like consistency that still flowed. Ready to pour on.
Oh yes, you can wait until it’s frosting-like if you want. Some people do, I prefer to pour it on like a medium-thick ganache. But, to each their own, no? The nice thing is that if it gets too thick you can always add a little heat to thin it back out a bit.