I've come to realize that my learning curve looks more like a roller coaster, or a parking lot exit ramp. Round and round and round with no hope of escape.
Case in point. I've been testing new thermometers for over 3 months now. One worked once. Yes, once. Steamed up. I dug out the receipt and promptly exchanged it for another one, with similar, but not quite as immediate results. That one worked twice.
So I didn't try that brand again. I learned quickly that time.
However, within my sphere of accessibility, only a certain number of brands of thermometers exist. Every shop seems to carry ones that appear to be blood relatives. Twin thermometers by different manufacturers. I find one. The clip breaks. I find another. The plastic lid comes off. Yes, there is the internet. But returns and speed of availability become an issue when I need caramels tomorrow and my tool doesn't work. Again.
This leaves me wondering how long this is going to continue.
Because I could keep doing this and never really own a thermometer.
Then I tried my mother-in-law's version of my now broken one. This is great. It's almost exactly like my grandmother's. Hers must have been handed down in her family, too. After one millisecond of joy, two treacherous thoughts race by. One - I can't keep it. It has another home. And two - what if I break it?? Maybe I should hope it doesn't work.
More like my eyes can't find the mercury, if it is working.
Rats. Still riding that curve.
But while on a trip in Wisconsin with my hubby, we stumbled on an antique store. Stumbled on really isn't the right word, since we hunted for it in the local paper. And right next door was a thrift store. Score.
After combing the store twice, due to its state of organized disorganization, and thinking of all the many possibilities for staging photo shoots and table dressings for tastings, I spotted it. A long, narrow box in a basket of misc. kitchen tools. How did I not see this before? A retro design and an unimaginably reasonable price. And that was just the outside. So I had to open it to see. Will this be my new, permanent replacement for my beloved and well-used gauge? Am I done looking? Is this it?
I held my breath and opened the box.
Inside its original box from the 50s was not just any thermometer, but a metal casing all around it to protect the mercury from the heat of the pan. Amazing. It was completely sealed. No leaking. It would be harder to break because of that lovely metal casing. And the clip to anchor it on to the pan was solid, not jointed. Oh, yes! This was going to be my new best friend!
Next step, testing. You know what's coming.
Being away from home, not having my tried and true caramel-making pot, I decided to do my first trial run on a recipe I'd been desperately wanting to try.
What was I thinking? Curve. Really big curve.
I must have been hoping for beginner's luck because new recipes bring a myriad of problems. Untested pots with new recipes bring even more. But much to my surprise the candy turned out well. Now begs the question, could I repeat this at home with a different pot, on a different day with different humidity?
Careful, nearly perfect attention to detail resulted in disaster. Rocks. I made rocks.
I am not currently a geologist. I cannot eat or sell rocks. Well, I could look in to selling rocks to the Science Museum store, but since that's not my desired goal, I'll set that option aside.
The third time is the charm, my Dad always said. Dad was a bevy of that kind of information. Knowing that I was going to present this candy at the Tasting Party on Saturday I was hoping he was right.
Admittedly, Dad was close. The candy turned out less hard than rocks, but it wasn't as charming as I'd hoped. And I dropped the temperature 15 degrees. So I'm thinking more experiments are in order.
Still curving. Anyone want to join me? I'll have Pistachio Nougat Candy for you to taste as we ride. Arms up and here we go.