Every summer a little voice inside my head whispers (with sing-song inflection) "It's time to make caramel" ...to which I reply "It's 100 degrees outside". My idea of fun does not include standing over a pot of boiling caramel in the dog days of summer; however, I begrudgingly heed the call... and obey.
That's sort of how these came about.
For those not familiar, Cow Tales® (not Cow Tails) are a nostalgic treat; an 8" length of soft caramel and creme filling. As a kid, I loved them and was inclined to choose one over a lollipop. I recently found them again and when I re-tasted for the first time in many years, my first thought was "this could be improved upon". I said it aloud. My husband accused me of food snobbery - which is simply not the case. You see, I have a special love for caramel. I love it more than chocolate (gasp!) and I'd like to think I know a little bit about what good caramel tastes like and how to make it.
To beat the heat, I began my caramel endeavor in the a.m. By that afternoon, perfect 8" lengths of caramel and cream were piled on my table. Upon my first taste-test, I literally jumped for joy. They were one-million-times (actual number) better, but were still reminiscent of the original.
I cannot wait to make these at Christmastime (1. for gift-giving, (2. in much cooler weather, (3. while enlisting some help from the ladies in my family. This makes a lot of candy, and the process will go quicker with an assembly line of people... plus, holiday treats always taste better over good conversation with loved ones. Right?....right.
Edit 9/15/2012: A letter is received from Mitchell T. Goetze, president of Goetze Candy Company, Inc. requesting the placement of the registered symbol ® beside the candy's name. Cow Tales® are manufactured by, and is a Registered Trademark of Goetze's Candy Company , Inc.
Homemade Cow Tales®
Zip-top bag or disposable pastry bag
Parchment paper or wax paper
1 cup clear corn syrup
2 cups heavy cream, divided
2 cups white granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
4 1/2 tbsp butter, unsalted - cubed into 8 pieces
Extra butter for buttering pans
1. Generously butter two 10x15 jelly-roll pans. If you don't have this size pan you may use sizes larger than 10x15. I would not suggest using sizes smaller than 10x15. Place both the pans on two cooling racks.
2. Turn stove-eye or burner to medium heat.
3. In a large saucepan combine the corn syrup, 1 cup of the heavy cream, sugar and pinch of salt. Stir well.
4. Set pan over heat and stir constantly until the mixture comes to a bubble. This will take about 10-12 minutes. Mixture will appear milky at first, then as it heats it will slightly lose its opaqueness.
5. When mixture boils, very slowly add the remaining heavy cream stirring constantly- be careful not to disrupt the boil. Lower the heat to medium-low. Set a timer for 6 minutes and allow mixture to bubble. It will rise high and bubble quite a bit during this 6 minute stage.
6. When time is up, add butter 2-3 cubes at a time and mix until butter has melted. Repeat with remaining butter cubes.
7. Insert candy thermometer and let mixture bubble until it reaches 250 degrees. When you first insert the thermometer, the temperature will be around 200-217 degrees. It will take a good 30-40 minutes for the mixture to reach 250. Do not rush this phase by turning up the heat. It is within this time frame that the caramel takes on its amber color.
8. When 250 is reached, remove pan from heat-source and pour half of the caramel in one pan and half in the other. Allow caramel to cool to room temperature. While you're waiting for the caramel to cool, make the creme filling.
5 cups confectioners' sugar
1 cup vegetable shortening
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 oz. packet of unflavored gelatin
1/4 cup water
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together sugar,shortening and vanilla. The mixture will be dry and crumbly and you'll probably wonder if you've done something wrong. Nope! You're on the right track. Stop the mixer and scrape down the edges several times.
2. Place 1/4 cup water in a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin over. Let stand until absorbed.
3. Microwave gelatin for 10 seconds or until clear and liquid. Add to the bowl of the running mixer.
4. The mixture will soften and become thick and doughy. Mix the heck out of it until it starts climbing the sides of the bowl. Scrape down the sides (and bottom, especially if using a Kitchen Aid) and mix again.
5. Place a portion of the dough in a disposable pastry bag or zip-top bag with the corner snipped. Make sure the hole is big enough to pipe a nice thick line of creme filling - at least 1/4". Set aside.
Note: Cover remaining creme filling with a damp towel so it doesn't dry out.
Sprinkles or jimmies if desired
1. Lay out several sheets of parchment or wax paper on a work surface - preferably a large cutting board or a surface you don't mind cutting on.
2. Remove caramel from one of the pans. It should remove easily if you lift one corner and peel the entire slab of caramel away from the buttered pan. Place it on the paper-covered work surface.
3. Cover caramel with additional wax paper and roll it a little thinner with a rolling pin. Try to achieve an even thickness.
4. Remove paper and cut caramel into long strips, about 2-2 1/2-inches wide. Pipe a line of creme filling down one side of the length of the caramel.
5. Repeat with remaining caramel and creme. This will take some time, as there is a lot of candy to work with.
6. Roll the candy in powdered sugar and dust off excess. Wrap each candy in a layer of plastic wrap, then in a wax paper length with the ends twisted. This helps the candies keep thier shape.
*Alternatively, you may choose to lightly brush one end of the candy with water until tacky, then dip in chocolate jimmies or sprinkles. (I much prefer the powdered sugar.)