Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Caramels (and some of them might be chocolate-dipped)

I have so many posts for you it's ridiculous.  Also I have lots of stories for you about how mean people can be at Christmastime, but in the spirit of a Grinch-less Christmas, I will refrain... for today.

I have been making these caramels for years  (read: like 4 years).  I took some to my good friend the other day and this is the message she sent me- "HANDS DOWN THE BEST HOMEMADE CARAMELS I have ever had!" 

Take her word for it.  Her name is Katie.  You can trust her.

If you have never made caramels before I will just tell you, it's going to take you 30-45 minutes of non-stop stirring to make these.  Don't do this when you have little kids underfoot, phone calls coming in, or cat sweaters to knitOh, you don't knit your cat sweaters for Christmas? Mmm, yeah, me neither...

I like to do it at night when the kids are in bed and my husband is home in case my arm needs a break. Also, you are going to need a candy thermometer.  Be sure to calibrate it before beginning or it's pretty much pointless to use in the first place. (I usually do the ice point and boiling method, just for kicks, but either one is fine.)

The only time this recipe has failed for me, is when I decided not to use a thermometer.  Duhhhhh. My candy thermometer is WAYYY off, so I usually stick it in to give me a ballpark, but poke in my digital "insta-read" meat thermometer every 5 minutes or so near the end until I reach the exact required degree.  Don't be intimidated by the use of the thermometer, this recipe is really not difficult, and also you can count the non-stop stirring as a bicep workout for the day.  BONUS!

Be sure to read through the recipe completely before you start because you won't have any hands free once you begin (and you might needa do a little math... but I am Math Ditz of the world, so if I can do it, you can do it!)

Also people will think you are Supreme Caramel Maker of the World when you feed them these, so feel free to embrace the title.

Christmas Caramels
Recipe from Allrecipes
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup corn syrup
  • 1 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 pint heavy whipping cream
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Line a cookie sheet or 13x9 inch pan with parchment paper.  (I prefer the cookie sheet, but it will yield slightly thinner caramels.)

2. In the largest pot you have (I like to use a coated pot because I think they are less likely to scorch the candy), combine sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, evaporated milk, whipping cream, and butter. Cook over medium heat (RESIST the temptation to turn the heat up or you will burn your caramel). Monitor the heat of the mixture with a candy thermometer while stirring constantly. First your mixture will bubble up, then settle back down, and thicken up. 


3. When the thermometer reaches 245-250 degrees F remove the pot from the heat.   (*IMPORTANT*- Subtract 1 degree for each increase of 500 feet above sea level of where you live. I live at 4500 ft above sea level, so I cook mine to 236-241 degrees. If you want the perfect chewy/soft caramel you really need to do this.  Otherwise you may end up with rock hard "sucker" caramel or ice cream topping caramel.  Just trust me on this.)  

When your caramel reaches the appropriate temperature you may want to use the cold water test to double check it.  Just drop a teaspoon of it into a glass of very cold water to see how it sets. You are looking for Hard Ball stage- so when you remove it from the water it should hold its shape, but still be pliable.  (You should be able to form it into a ball. You are basically plummeting the caramel to room temperature to see how it will set, so keep that in mind.)
4. Stir in vanilla. Pour mixture onto the prepared pan and let the mixture cool completely. (This is important too- if they are even slightly warm they will stick to your wax paper once wrapped!)  When cooled cut the caramel into small squares (I use a pizza cutter) and wrap them in squares of wax paper for storage.*

And, if you feel like it, dip a few in chocolate, just for the heck of it.
Pssst... if you have any large granules of sea salt those would be super cute and tasty on top!

*If you do this at night like I usually do, and you are too freaking tired to wrap twelve million caramels before you go to bed, just place a piece of plastic wrap over the pan of cooled caramels and cut/wrap them in the morning while watching soap operas.
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