Homemade Caramel

by Rivers on October 23, 2012

in Eating

It’s almost Halloween, which means it won’t be long before I’m forced into a week long sugar coma. While I’m not a huge proponent of keeping candy in my home (as I will inhale every bit of it in a record .2 seconds), it’s almost impossible to not get sucked in by the Halloween candy craze at every store you visit this month.

I decided instead of buying bags of assorted sweets, I would make my own candy (except for candy corn – this girl could live off of candy corn year round). The thought of making caramel has always made me nervous, but a few years ago my equally kitchen illiterate friend and I decided to give caramels a try. Luckily, it is a much simpler process than we imagined.

I used the same recipe and even added some cute wrappers out of wax paper this time. These are perfect to serve at a party or just to snack on while you’re sitting around watching fun Halloween movies (Hocus Pocus, hopefully).

The ingredients for these sweets are pretty simple, including salt, granulated sugar, vanilla extract, light corn syrup, unsalted butter, half & half and wax paper, if you want to wrap them (not pictured).

First, you need to combine all ingredients except vanilla in a broad saucepan or deep skillet and turn heat to medium-low. You will need to use a candy thermometer (as seen attached to the saucepan), as the end temperature is very important.

While the ingredients are cooking, you need to stir the mixture occasionally, until sugar dissolves. The mixture will bubble and darken; when it is nearly brown, and measures 245 degrees on your candy thermometer, you need to add the vanilla extract. (side note: if you don’t have a candy thermometer, you can judge whether or not the caramel is ready by dropping a bit of the mixture into a glass of cold water – if it forms a firm ball when it hits the water, then it’s ready).

After adding the vanilla extract, pour into lightly greased, baking pan. Let the mixture cool and refrigerate, but not for too long – what you want is a mixture cool enough so that it’s not too sticky, but not so cold that it’s solid; this is the easiest state in which to cut and wrap.

Here comes the hardest part: getting the caramels out of the pan. The actual recipe tells you to take them out of the pan before putting them in the refrigerator and I conveniently forgot that step – I highly suggest it. Use a sharp knife to cut caramel into pieces. then wrap each square in waxed paper.

The bulk of this recipe requires stirring and waiting around, so this can be done by practically any person. These candies keep for weeks, especially if refrigerated, but are best eaten fresh and at room temperature. Enjoy!

Caramels
Adapted from the New York Times

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, more for greasing pan
  • 1½ cups half & half
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  • Pinch salt
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract, optional (but highly encouraged)

Lightly grease a 9-inch-square baking pan. Combine all ingredients except vanilla in a broad saucepan or deep skillet and turn heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves.

Mixture will bubble and darken; when color is dark beige and mixture measures 235 degrees on a candy thermometer, it is butterscotch sauce. (Use immediately or refrigerate for up to several weeks; warm in a microwave oven or over hot water to soften.) To make caramels, keep cooking and stirring until mixture is even darker, nearly brown, and measures 245 degrees (or until a piece of it forms a firm ball when dropped into a glass of cold water).

Stir in the vanilla and pour into prepared pan. Cool, then remove from pan in a block and refrigerate, but not for too long – what you want is a mixture cool enough so that it’s not too sticky, but not so cold that it’s solid; this is the easiest state in which to cut and wrap.

Use a sharp knife to cut caramel into pieces, then wrap each square in waxed paper or plastic wrap.

Yield: At least 50 caramels.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Mary October 23, 2012 at 10:14 am

These look delicious! Where on earth does one purchase a candy thermometer?

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Rivers October 23, 2012 at 10:18 am

They really were delicious. The vanilla at the end is a really nice touch in terms of taste. I’m pretty sure I got my candy thermometer at Target – it’s pretty basic, so you can probably find them anywhere that sells cooking tools.

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Rebecca Alexander October 23, 2012 at 11:28 am

So proud of you for facing your kitchen illiteracy head-on, Rivers! These look fantastic. Kudos!

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Rivers October 23, 2012 at 11:39 am

Thank you! I’m just trying to keep up with you!

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Katherine October 23, 2012 at 12:01 pm

I’ve attempted (and failed more than once) to make caramels, and it can be a tricky process. You did so well, and these look delicious! That’s an accomplishment for any home cook.

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Rivers October 23, 2012 at 12:10 pm

If I can do it, I know you can do it, Katherine. That is a fact.

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Raysha October 23, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Do you need my address for mailing me some?

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