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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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