The Creation of Caramel

Though I’m given full run of the house and the kitchen, being a live-in nanny means that there’s a level of awkwardness that remains when it comes to baking for pleasure in my employer’s house. I keep my own supply of dry ingredients, but eventually I have to use one of their eggs or some milk and that just feels wrong, despite it being emphatically allowed.

So I don’t do a lot of cooking or baking these days, unless the house is quiet and empty and I have everything prepared. Fortunately, I have creative friends.

On Sunday night my friend Oliver invited me over for dinner and the creation of caramels, and I agreed to go if he would pronounce “caramel” correctly the whole night, which he most certainly did not.

Oliver is dangerously domestic. We had a lovely homemade dinner, which Oliver creates on the fly with no effort and with the earned superiority that comes from being competent in the kitchen.

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And it was delicious, damn him.

We did up some Bailey’s Irish Cream next, pending the creation of our own chocolate syrup, and I don’t think I ever fully understood how much heavy cream goes into it. It’s a lot.

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I, of course, had none of this because I won’t be 21 for seven days and it’s illegal and I’m a good citizen, don’t arrest me.

Next we went on to craft the caramel, and as it turns out, I never truly wanted to know what goes into caramel, and I even find it fortunate that I haven’t consumed much of it in my life, because after making it I feel like any I ate is probably still lining my intestines.

The ingredients are really quite simple. First, you dump several cups of white sugar in a pot. Then you add the corn syrup.

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And you just… just mix up this sugar and corn syrup. I know this is difficult to follow.

After that you heat it to 310 degrees, which is, as we discovered, hot enough to melt a rubber spatula. Note to future self: Do not use rubber spatulas when creating caramel.

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Nothing makes you feel more like a witch than watching this stuff boil. Bubble, bubble…

After it’s reached 310 degrees, you throw in a lot of heavy cream, which results in an interesting reaction and which causes everything to instantly congeal. When this has become a horrible oobleck-resembling mess, you throw in the healthiest ingredient (butter!) and you’re done. And somehow, these four terrible ingredients have produced the smooth and chewy substance we all know and will probably die from.

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Now you just stare at it for several hours until it hardens under your harsh gaze.

We did this twice more just to really experience it, and because Oliver, who may not actually be a real human being, is planning on distributing homemade caramel and homemade Bailey’s to his co-workers, who are probably very glad that they know someone who will provide them with 50% of their Christmas treats.

If you have a friend that creates, go spend time with them, because there’s really nothing like the feeling of scraping congealed brown junk off the bottom of the pot and knowing deep down that you ate far too much of this as a child and that it may never have left your body.

Feliz Navidad!

A Somewhat Restrained Halloween

The problem with being a live-in nanny is that you live with your employers and you take care of their very impressionable young children, so being a weirdo is frowned upon.

My employers already think I’m strange enough to begin with because of innocuous things such as when I left the house dressed as Colonel Mustard (complete with large bushy mustache and khaki short-shorts), so I’ve been keeping my weird side on the down-low for a while. And it’s a pity, because Halloween is approaching.

“I don’t really need to decorate for Halloween,” I thought to myself. “Halloween’s not that big a deal, and I’m an adult, more or less.”

And then I had an hour to kill yesterday, and I popped into the nearest Spirit Halloween store.

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There’s something so magical about Spirit Halloween stores. They appear suddenly, with little warning. They feature seizure-inducing light sequences, never-ending mechanical screams, ridiculously over-priced, low quality products, and they smell like plastic and the death of employee sanity.

I love them to bits, presumably because I’ve never worked there.

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Where else can I buy my knee highs featuring brains?

Walking around a Spirit Halloween store has the same effect on me as walking down a quiet, snowy road lit with Christmas lights. The spirit of Halloween was upon me. Who cared if everything there was hugely obnoxious?! Halloween!!

img_20161010_132822701One of these days I will find reason to wear a fabulous witch hat 100% of the time.

¬†Giddy, I left the store and crossed the street to Michael’s, where you can get slightly classier Halloween items for the same expensive price.

img_20161010_134714625And a larger variety of bones.

I purchased some necessities. Some black candles. Some decorative jars. A skeletal cat. And then I went home, pulled out the black paper, and created some silhouette art.

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Items needed: Black paper, pencil, scissors, tape, overly-milky tea.

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img_20161011_145024883There’s no way this is going to backfire on me in the middle of the night.

img_20161011_135704312Replacing my cute flower fairy lights with cute little ravens in cages… lights.

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Wait for it… wait for it…

img_20161011_140836512Bam! Slightly more Gothic!

I tried my best to make the changes to my room subtle. I like the tasteful Halloweens better anyway; some elegantly witchy things over, you know, dead babies and what have you. And though my employers rarely if ever stray into my room, I didn’t need my charges spitting out a darling “Mommy, Miss Jean has a fully functional guillotine in her room, come see!”

img_20161011_143531751I did, however, put some cashews in my “raven claws” bottle, for when said charges do slip into my room in search of a treat.

I’m hanging the spider webs on my bookcase now, and I feel a little better. One of these I’ll have my own place that I can destroy all on my own, but for the present, I can merely torture myself by trying to take down the spider webs again in 21 days.

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