I can’t believe I’m a week behind in everything I hoped to accomplish on the blog AND at home. I’m about to have the potential (Sadly, potential is not always reality. 🙂 Though, my intentions truly are to finish as soon as I have floors.) to finally be completely unpacked in our new house. We had all the new carpeting installed about a week and a half ago and hopefully, by the weekend or at the latest, by the first of next week, all the new hardwood flooring will be complete. My beautiful new range (4 weeks old) has freaked out though, and refuses to cook, as it should. I did receive a call this morning, that help is on the way and a repairman (from Illinois !!!????!!!) will be here in the morning and get things back on track. So, in theory, I should be able to get caught up and back on schedule, very soon.
In the meantime, I want to share some of the great recipes I have been working on without having time to get them written up. The first is for the October Taste and Create Challenge. I was fortunate, this month, to be paired with The Indecisive Baker. Rebecca only has about TWO DOZEN recipes I want to try. – lol – Actually, there may even be more than that, but I had to choose just one for now; and so with fall in the air I was inspired to try her Salted Caramels. Homemade candy is one of the few times where I try to follow the recipe to the letter, so I didn’t make any changes. My finished product had a strong vanilla flavor which was yummy, but I think for a more carmelly, carmel taste, I will leave out the vanilla, next time around. And folks, there will definitely be a next time! I have already planned some variations to make you the favorite Christmas gift giver on the planet. Add them to your homemade holiday gift baskets and trays and you will be the awe of everyone you share them with! 🙂 Yes, you really should share!
These Homemade Caramels are not gooey, drippy soft, but they ARE smooth, buttery, deliciously soft. They won’t be as hard as the square caramels you are used to buying at the store, though you could achieve that by cooking them to a slightly higher temperature. These will hold together and can be shaped, but at room temperature will remain very soft and “moldable”, even flattening out and spreading somewhat if not contained in a wrapper. They are delicious!
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 5 Tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Cover a 9×9 square with lightly buttered parchment paper. (Of course, I was totally out of parchment paper, so I used waxed paper, instead. It worked so-so. I will get some new parchment paper before making my next batch.)
- Combine sugar, syrup, salt and 1c of cream. Stir continuously and bring to a boil (over med-med high heat). Once it’s boiling add the remaining cream slowly.
- Reduce to a low boil for 5-6 minutes without stirring. (As the candy boils, it will “rise” up the sides of your pan. That’s exactly what it should do. Don’t worry, just use a pan that is tall enough to accommodate it.)
- Add butter chunks. Boil to 242° (soft ball stage). This will take 30-45minutes. (The temperature started coming up fairly quickly at first and I remember thinking, that it wouldn’t come near to 35 or 40 minutes, but the temp plateaued just above boiling and it really did take that length of time.)
- Once your caramel reaches 242°, it will be a beautiful golden brown color. Remove from the heat and add your vanilla.
- Pour the hot caramel into your prepared pan. There will be a little crystallized candy on the sides of your pan. Just leave it there. Don’t scrape it into your beautifully smooth caramels. Let the candy set until it firms up and remember, “firm” is a relative term, here. These caramels will never be hard. They will set up and you will be able to turn them out of the pan, cut them into squares or mold them into shapes, but each time you touch them, you will be able to change that shape with even the slightest pressure. They are SOFT. Delicious! Wonderful!
- Salted caramel or chocolate is a really big trend, right right now. I had actually never tried it, but as salt is a flavor enhancer, it made sense. Once your caramels are set, and cut, you can use about 1 tsp of sea salt and sprinkle it over the surface of the candies. In my opinion, it did add an interesting “crunch” texture that wasn’t expected, but honestly did not alter the flavor of the candy much. Add or omit this step according to your own preference.
- At this point, I cut squares of waxed paper, put one square of caramel in each and then twisted the ends to seal them. The caramel is soft, so the shape will mold to fit its container. I threw the wrapped caramels in the fridge overnight and pulled them out about 15 minutes before serving them. They were perfect!
Ideas for Variations:
Once I discovered how delicious these wonderful caramels are, my mind started thinking of ways to use them for gifts at the holidays. Whether you wrap them as a Christmas gift or include them in a basket or bring them as a special thank you to a party hostess, these gift ideas will be well received and be easy on your budget, too!
Variation 1: Roll caramel into balls and dip in chocolate. Place on parchment or waxed paper to cool. Arrange on a platter or in a gift box or basket.
Variation 2: Stir chopped pecans into the hot caramel. Drop by spoonfuls onto parchment paper. Once set, dip in chocolate and cool for yummy “turtle” candy. Arrange on a platter or in a gift box or basket.
Variation 3: Instead of cooking candy to the soft ball stage (242°), only boil it until it hits about 220°. Remove from the heat and allow to cool in the pan on a cooling rack. The caramel will still be rich and thick, but should stay pourable. Once its cool, pour the caramel sauce into a jar and decorate the jar with ribbon or a fabric bow and a notecard with the recipe.