Why would anyone make their own caramel when they are so easy to buy?
Hint: Read the ingredients. Wow. Caramel candy is basically just sugar, cooked until it browns plus milk or cream. There's a shot of corn syrup to prevent sugar crystals (which would make the candy grainy) and a dash of salt to amp up the flavor. And — that's all. But the ones they have in the store contain some unpronouncables and they taste like nothing much. I'm not opposed to food chemistry, but when it leaves flavor behind, I'm off to the kitchen!
The recipe (below) is pretty easy. But one warning: Cooked sugar gets much hotter than boiling water, so be careful.
Line a pan with parchment paper. Here's the easy way: Place the pan on top of the paper and snip the corners, aiming the cut toward the center:
Then tuck the paper into the pan, overlapping at the corners, where you cut:
Meanwhile, boil sugar, corn syrup, and a little water:
Do not stir once the boil begins. Instead, gently swirl every few minutes. The reason for this is that sugar crystals stuck to the sides of the pan can trigger larger crystals if the fall into the mixture. So for now, just gentle swirls.
While it's boiling, warm some cream, salt, and butter, until the butter melts, and set aside.
When the sugar is a light golden caramel in color:
Stir in the cream mixture — carefully, because it will boil up pretty wildly for a few seconds.
Boil some more until the mixture reaches 248 degrees F. You can add flavors like chocolate, cinnamon, vanilla, or cardamon if you like. Pour the hot mixture into the parchment-lined pan.
Then, the hard part: Wait two hours. Then you can cut into pieces and wrap in waxed paper (more neatly than I did, I hope:
You'll never buy caramels again!
Here's the recipe:
- Be careful when melting sugar. It is much hotter than boiling water and will cause a very serious burn.
- Watch the pot carefully. Once it begins to brown, sugar burns very quickly.
Consider this a technique rather than a recipe and have fun! Reduce butter as much as you like. Change the heavy cream to half-n-half or reduce amount. Less dairy will deliver a harder caramel. You can also raise the temperature to move from soft caramel to more of a hard candy. At about 255 degrees, it will be like a Sugar Daddy.
You can add flavors such such
- Cinnamon, cardamom
- Top with chocolate and a sprinkle of sea salt
- Make turtles by placing pecans on parchment paper and topping with a quarter-sized spoonful of caramel and another of chocolate.
- Caramel popcorn: Pour still-hot caramel over popped corn, stirring.
- Coffee: Add 2 tablespoons of espresso powder or a few ounces of espresso or 3/4 cup of strong coffee, instead of some of the cream.
1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon kosher salt or 1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 ½ cups sugar
¼ cup light corn syrup
¼ cup water
Line bottom and sides of a baking pan with parchment paper. A larger pan (e.g. 9 x 13-inch) will make thinner candies; 8 x 8 will produce thicker candies).
Put cream, butter, and fleur de sel to a boil in a microwave-safe container and heat to melt the butter. Set aside.
Boil sugar, corn syrup, and water in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil, without stirring but gently swirling pan, until mixture is a light golden caramel in color.
Carefully stir in cream mixture (mixture will bubble up pretty wildly) and simmer, stirring frequently, until caramel registers 248°F on thermometer, 10 to 15 minutes. Add flavor components at the end, if you like.
Pour into parchment-lined pan and cool 2 hours. Cut into 1-inch pieces, then wrap each piece in a 4-inch square of wax paper, twisting the two ends to close.
Pack half into a box and send them to me.