Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Chocolate-Dipped Caramels

Who needs store-bought candy when you can make your own?

Just kidding.  I'll take a box of See's chocolate any day.

Rum raisin please. 

But sometimes it is fun to make your own- especially for Valentine's day or Christmas.  For this recipe you will need a strong stirring arm (be ready to stir for half an hour or so) and an uninterrupted period of time.  Caramels need lots of attention, so send your kids hunting for snipes or something. You will also need a candy thermometer and access to google to check the elevation of where you live.  (More details on that are in the recipe below.)

Full disclosure- I have made these several times without using a thermometer.  I am totally not recommending this, but it can be done if you're in a bind.  This is the trick: Watch for when you run a spatula through the middle of the pan and the caramel stays separated for just a second before running back together.  You should be able to see the bottom of the pan.  If you've never done caramels before you may want to follow this up with a cold water test just to double check that your caramel is ready. If you take it off the heat now you'll get a fairly soft moldable caramel that can be wrapped around pretzels or pressed into the insides of chocolate.  If you continue to cook for another few minutes or so you will get a slightly firmer caramel that is better for eating by itself.

Good Luck!

*Note- All candy recipes are written for sea-level, so if you live significantly above or below sea level you really need to adjust the temperature called for.  For this recipe, subtract 1 degree from 242 degrees for each increase of 500 feet above sea level of where you live.  I live at 4500 ft above sea level so I had to subtract 9 degrees.  I cook my caramels to 233 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.  If you're going to take the time to make your own caramels please please do this!! I'd hate for you to go to all this work only to be disappointed.

Chocolate-dipped Caramels
Recipe from Allrecipes

-1 cup butter
-2 1/4 cups brown sugar
-1 cup light corn syrup
-1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
-1 tsp vanilla

-Chocolate, for dipping (I use several Lindt 70% cocoa bars)
-Granulated Sea Salt, if desired, for sprinkling

Line a 13x9 pan with parchment paper and spray it with Pam.

In a large heavy pan (I use my stockpot), melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the brown sugar, corn syrup, and sweetened condensed milk.  Stir constantly with a spatula until temperature reaches 242-248 degrees* (See above. 233 degrees for me.) This is the Firm Ball stage- a small amount of the syrup dropped into cold water should form a firm but pliable ball. You will know you're almost there when you run a spatula through the middle of your pan and you can see the bottom of the pan for just a second before the caramel runs back together. 

Remove caramel from heat and stir in vanilla.  Very carefully pour hot caramel into prepared pan.  Allow to cool completely.  Overnight, or 6+ hours is good.

Remove caramel from pan using the parchment paper.  Use a well- greased pizza cutter, or large greased knife to cut into 1 inch squares. 

To Dip: Break your chocolate into small/medium-sized pieces and place in a microwave safe bowl.  Microwave at 50% power for 30 seconds at a time, stirring after each interval, until just melted. Do not overheat!  (I typically melt until just a few lumps remain, then I remove the bowl from the microwave and stir for a minute or two allowing the warm chocolate to melt the last few lumps.  This will give you a chocolate that sets at room temperature instead of melting all over the place.)

Dip each caramel in the chocolate and place on a parchment-lined tray.  Allow to cool slightly and then you can sprinkle with some granulated sea salt if desired. (You want to let the chocolate set just slightly so the salt doesn't dissolve into the hot chocolate.)   

Allow to cool completely, and then you can wrap individually in wax paper or store in airtight container.  If you run out of chocolate or get tired of dipping, you can just wrap the plain caramel square individually in wax paper as well.  They are delicious!

Tip- I have also used leftover caramel to "wrap" around the ends of rod pretzels.  My caramel was very soft so I was able to form it around the pretzel like putty, and then dip in chocolate. This is so much easier than dipping in hot chocolate and you don't get that "spreading" formed by hot caramel.

Tip- Instead of dipping the caramels you can paint a candy mold with chocolate, press a small piece of caramel inside, then paint the bottoms.  This will give you a professional look.  Just be sure to chill the painted mold before pressing the caramel in.

Note- This recipe can be halved.  Use a 9x9 pan instead.
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Karen @ Sugartown Sweets said...

Yum! One of my favorite candies..homemade is always better!

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