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Soft Caramels

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Something has come over me.  For the past two days, I haven’t been able to sleep until two in the morning and during the day, I’ve been so tired that it literally feels like my eyes are going to fall out of their sockets.

The reason?  Caramels.  Cararmels have turned me into a zombie woman.  They’ve completely taken over my life and I can get no rest!

Two days ago I got the brilliant idea to finally give homemade caramels a go.  I was pleasantly surprised at how simple they were to prepare.  They weren’t, however, easy to remove from the pan, and so I stayed up until two in the morning scraping each square from the pan and wrapping them in waxed paper.  And eating every other one.

I have to say, store-bought caramels can’t hold a candle to homemade.  Homemade is soft, gooey, buttery, caramelly deliciousness.  They are so delicious that I couldn’t resist making another batch the following day.  After all, I made the first batch for gifts and now I needed more for an upcoming Christmas party.  (Not for myself…of course not.)  And besides, I needed to figure out a way to keep the caramels from sticking to the pan and what better way than trial and error?

So I made a second batch, lining the pan with waxed paper and spraying it with oil.  And I stayed up until two in the morning the second day in a row, scraping each piece off the waxed paper, then dipping them in chocolate (because party caramels should be pretty and irresistable).

And they were.  Irresistable.  I ate every other one.  Again.

Obviously I also encountered a problem with photography as well.  I absolutely could not stop shooting photos of these beautiful things.  After shooting picture after picture, I eventually ran to the garage and got out Christmas decorations (I’ve been too busy making caramels to decorate with them yet) to use for props.  All told, I took well over 100 pictures of them.   I’m not even kidding. Then it took me almost an hour to narrow down the ones I wanted to keep to the myriad I’m posting here.

And now it’s nearly one in the morning, and what am I doing?  Staying up so I can tell everyone about these fabulous things.  Like I said, they’ve taken over my life.  And I suppose I’ve happily relinquished control!

As for the problem with the caramel sticking to the pan, I now know you have to very generous with the butter.  I should have consulted my friend, Teri, before I made the caramels, since I knew she makes them every year at this time.  Ah well, now I have an excuse to make another batch.  You know, just to see if it works.

Soft Caramels

Printable recipe
Printable recipe with picture

1 pound brown sugar
1 cup corn syrup
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1 (14-oz) can sweetened condensed milk

Put all the ingredients in a large saucepan (my 3-quart was the perfect size–don’t go any smaller) and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and continue to boil, stirring constantly, for ten minutes. Set the timer as soon as it begins to bubble and take the pan off as soon as it goes off. Pour caramel into a buttered 9×13 pan and let cool completely before cutting & wrapping in squares of waxed paper.

Tips for success

*If you have a candy thermometer, it wouldn’t hurt to attach it to the pan to make sure the caramel is at 245 degrees F when you remove it from the heat. My first batch was actually at 240 when I removed it and it still turned out fine, but my second batch reached 245 in nine minutes so I removed it early and it was the same texture as the first batch.

*You can stir in a teaspoon of vanilla after you remove the pan from the heat. I did this the second time but didn’t notice an improvement in flavor. It seemed just as good without the vanilla, so I didn’t include it in the ingredient list.

*When you pour the caramel into the buttered pan, there will be some that clings to the bottom and sides. Don’t scrape this out on top of the pan of caramel like I did on my first batch. Have a small buttered bowl on hand and scrape it into that. This caramel will be harder than the other caramel, because it remained in contact with the heat longer. If you scrape it out, you will have a hard piece among the soft and when you try to cut it, the softer caramel will squish out and it won’t be pretty and perfect. This caramel is totally edible, just a little more chewy, so you can snack on it while rolling your evenly-textured caramels into waxed paper.

*On both batches, I put salted, roasted peanuts on half of the pan.  The salty/sweet combo is yummy and kind of reminds me of a PayDay. And when you dip the pieces in chocolate, it’s kind of like a Snickers. Except it’s way better than either because it’s homemade! If you want to add nuts to the whole batch, you can stir them in after removing the pan from the heat. If you only want half the batch with nuts or want two or more types of nuts, dump the caramel into the pan and then sprinkle the nuts over the top. The first batch I tried putting the nuts on half of the bottom and pouring the caramel over, but the nuts got all pushed around and then tons of air bubbles kept rising up and I had to keep popping them so that the surface didn’t look all funkalicious.

*If you’d like to dip the caramels in chocolate, you can either melt chocolate almond bark, an equal amount of chocolate chips with almond bark (this makes the color darker & it tastes better while still setting up nicely) or you can melt chocolate with some shaved paraffin wax. (This makes the chocolate shiny & makes it set up really nicely. You can find it on the baking aisle.) I melted 2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips (I think milk chocolate would be even better!) with 1/8 of a block of finely shaved paraffin in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until everything was melted and smooth and shiny. Dip the caramels with a fork, tap off the excess and slide them onto a sheet of waxed paper to set. I ground a bit of sea salt over the plain caramels while the chocolate was still wet because I like salted caramels and it did have a nice flavor. For a prettier presentation, I would use flaky sea salt (also on the baking aisle).

*I encourage you to dip at least half the caramels in chocolate. I didn’t think caramel could get any better after I made it from scratch. And then I dipped it. And dipped some more!

 

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About Veronica

I have a kitchen addiction and love to collect & share recipes. My passion is baking but I love to cook as well. The only thing I don't like to do in the kitchen is wash dishes, but my husband generally does them for me in exchange for his dinner.

43 responses »

  1. You have inspired me to try the nuts and dipping in chocolate!!! WOW!!! That has GOT to be GOOD! Let me know how they come out (of the pan) next batch!!

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  2. Erin from Long Island

    Ohhhhh mama these look good! have you tried parchment paper or a siplat mat? maybe even a layer of plastic wrap could work. I bet if you turn the block out of the pan and peel the wax/plastic/whatever paper off it would be easier.

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  3. It’s been a long time since I have made caramels. Yours look scrumptious!!! Thank-you for sharing. I have been up too long getting fudge, cookies & cake ready for a bake sale. When I regain my strength I will have to give these a try!

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  4. I kid you not, I am making this and I am following your directions to the T!!! My hubby would be so tickled if I did this for him… he loves caramels!

    Blessings-
    Amanda

    P.S. Your pictures look wonderful… you do really beautiful work!

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    • Amanda, thank you–that is very sweet of you to say, especially considering your stellar photography. I hope your hubby loves them as much as we do!

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  5. Veronica!!!! These are so cool!!!! I have to make these asapasapasapASAP!!!!

    And I saw your title below so I promise not to read.

    Laura

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  6. Oh! I love thee too. These look so good I could almost lick the photos. Looks like I’ve found something to do today instead of lazing around. Just great. Thank you.

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  7. What gorgeous pictures, I feel fatter just looking at them.
    I had no idea that making caramel was not as hard as all that. I may have to indulge…
    Thank you for the lovely post.

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  8. Another thing you can do with soft caramel. Try taking a square, stretching it out and wrapping it around a marshmallow. Wrap the result in waxed paper. You’ve now got a good approximation of a sweet famous in Louisville, Kentucky as a Modjeska. You can also dip your marshmallow in the hot caramel, but do it quickly, so the marshmallow doesn’t dissolve.

    The Bauer candy company which makes these also makes their own marshmallows. However I’ve had acceptable results with the kind you get at the grocery.

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  9. Jesus! Pictures do say a thousand words. I think I can smell them through the photos. Looks really good.

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  10. These caramels look delicious! Thanks for the recipes.

    K.C.D

    http://thewritingsofkcd.wordpress.com/

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  11. I AM DEFINITELY MAKING THIS FOR XMAS GIFTS! =] they look amazing!

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  12. I have to make these too for xmas, what a great idea and the photos made my mouth water. Thank you!

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  13. *swoons* I have just found my soul-mate and it is you!

    Really though, I grew up with a real life housewife for a mom, who stayed at home and cleaned and cooked glorious meals! I have many lovely memories of my mother dropping haystack candies on waxed paper with a spoon, and recently, in commemoration of her, I have taken up teaching myself to cook (desserts have become my specialty!). Your food looks absolutely gorgeous; I am very happy to have come across your blog. Thanks for the recipes!

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  14. OMG…these look AWESOME!!

    I just found these, showed dear hubby, and am going to start a batch as soon as I post this.

    I have The Demy (stores recipes…a must have toy) and it’s already uploaded, with pictures. THANKS for sharing this.

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  15. Hi, V!!! I said it before and say it again..i love your Christmas shot=;) My daughter will love this! Do you have silpats? they are really good. If you don’t have it yet, i suggest you invest on a couple. They are my “best friends” esp. when i bake my empanadas, cookies and a lot more w/c reminds me to buy new sets coz mine are over used.

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  16. So do i used butter and wax paper on the cookie sheet/pan?

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  17. Jesse and I are going to make these tonight. Thanks V!

    Laura

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  18. Wow this looks absolutely amazing. Thanks for this post.

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  19. How bizzare! I just went on the exact same “gotta learn to make caramels” craze over the past 8 days. I could have written the exact same words that you did about my experience, right down to the peanuts and needing extra batches. My 13 year old daughter can’t eat enough of them. My cookie exchange friends loved them. So, like you, now I have to make 6 dozen for the teachers at school this week. I am SOOOO all over that dip in chocolate idea. I’ve got 3 large pans sitting on my counter top right now waiting to be wrapped! I’d like to add 2 tips and I have 1 question:

    Question: I’m struggling last night and this morning with finding a way to keep the caramel from sticking to the wax paper that I roll them in (kind of like a tootsie roll.) I have little 5″ x 2″ wax paper that I cut for them. When I tried to wrap them as a square shape, I can’t figure out how to keep the ends of the wax paper folded under and the caramel sticks to those too. Do I really have to butter the inside of every little single wax paper sheet?

    Tip #1: I used Reynold’s nonstick foil to line my pans and then spread butter liberally all over that surface. Works like a charm whether you turn them out onto a cutting board or just lift the foil out EASILY and place on the cutting board.

    Tip#2: You obviously did this, but for any of your readers looking for how to replicate what you did, it is a MUST, absolutely imperative, to stand at the stove and stir constantly to reach the right temperature. I am always scraping the sides and bottom as it heats and I have not gotten the crystallization or difference in temperature on the edges of the pan. I do not scrape once pouring into the pan, but you have less left in the pan after pouring. I notice that the commitment to constant stirring yields the shiny smooth texture in the caramel. You need a temperature of 240 degrees to yield the soft, creamy kind and 245 degrees to yield the soft, chewy kind. 250 degrees will give you a firmer chewy style caramel and I wouldn’t venture 1 degree higher than that.

    Fun post!!

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    • Thank you for leaving those helpful tips! I have not had any trouble with my caramels sticking to the waxed paper. Are you using this same recipe?

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  20. Yes – the very same. My caramels match every picture you have. Maybe there’s a side of wax paper that is waxier than the other? Maybe I’m using the wrong side????

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    • I don’t believe there is, but it wouldn’t hurt to try one side versus the other to find out! I have no idea what could be causing it, except my first two batches had very little fat greasing the pan. On my third, I had to remove the sides of the caramel b/c the copious margerine made it extremely gooey. Did this happen to you too?

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  21. I am always on the look for new recipes and ideas to try in my kitchen, and your article is a great starting point for me. Very useful, Thanks.

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  24. 3 years ago, I finally decided to try and make caramels. I looked thru countless recipes and finally picked one called “Twelve Dozen Caramels”. It is a great recipe as it makes a sheet pan full and I like it when I can make a lot of something in one recipe. The first year I was so frustrated trying to get them out of the pan I wanted to threw it all out and give up, but no! I finally stuck the pan in the freezer and left it for about 1/2 an hour and success was mine. The other thing I like about this recipe is that it doesn’t have to babysat. You put all the ingredients in, find the right level of a soft boil and walk away, come back every once in a while and stir, then walk away again. Your photos are beautiful!

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  25. How do I know when my caramels have set all the way? And do I tip the pan upside down to get them out and then cut them? Or do I cut them and then try and get them out individually and wrap them?

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  28. I have been using this recipe for 39 years & have every problem you’ve described, including eating more than I wrap!! Last year I lined my cookie sheet with parchment paper & then lifted out the entire batch & cut them with scissors- saved me a lot of time. One question I have- I always cook mine to 249. How do you get them so “square” at the lower temperature? Mine get gooey.

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    • So the parchment worked perfect and they peeled right off? I so am doing it that way next time! I actually haven’t made them since I wrote this blog, though I think about it every year. Mine actually were very soft and if I hadn’t dipped them or rolled them up in waxed paper, they eventually would have lost their square shape b/c they were pretty soft. I might cook them to a higher temp next time but I did love how soft they were. I love that this recipe is so old! Thank you for telling me that.

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  29. I have all the ingredients in the house!!! Guess what I am making this week :)
    I have looked and looked and tried and tried so many caramel recipes to find one that actually works and tastes good, but to no avail. I cannot wait to try this one!
    Thanks Veronica!

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  30. Pingback: Soft Caramels Recipe | World class cooking recipes

  31. These look amazing. I want to make some and plop a pretty pecan half on top of a chocolate dipped one. I make my own caramels, but I’ve never dipped them in chocolate. I have rolled them in a mixture of chopped pecans and mini chocolate chips – also yum.

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