I love to bake, but candy-making is something I've seldom attempted--until now. A recent visit to Good Karmal, a thriving caramel business in Bozeman, Montana, inspired me to take up the challenge of making these luscious, chewy confections in my own kitchen. After all, Halloween is just around the corner. What could be more appropriate than caramels to tame the cravings of neighborhood trick or treaters--or your own little live-in monsters?
A Google search turned up a promising recipe for "How to Make Soft, Chewy Caramel Candies," with clear directions and pictures from a website called The Kitchn. My only beef was the use of corn syrup, which I usually avoid--particularly the high-fructose variety. However, the other components--butter, cream, sugar, salt and vanilla--seemed perfect. Using 1/4 cup of organic corn syrup didn't sound like a major ethical lapse, especially as organic foods aren't permitted to contain GMOs--the genetically modified organisms that have become such a focus of controversy lately. If the recipe didn't turn out as expected, I figured the worst that could happen would be that I'd end up with caramel soup--and then I'd just make a batch of caramel apples!
|Caramel ingredients include cream, butter, sugar, salt, corn syrup, water and vanilla.|
The ingredients and directions for making the caramel are clearly spelled out at the site, so I won't go into as much detail as you'll find there. Instead, here's the recipe and a few pictures from my first caramel-making experience, with basic steps and captions to tell you what I did and how it turned out. The pictures are not a step-by-step guide, so be sure to check out the original recipe for more specifics and suggestions.
1 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Prepare a caramel mold by lining an 8x8 baking dish with parchment sprayed with nonstick spray. Make sure some of the paper is hanging over the edges.
|Butter melting, melting... What a world!|
Over medium heat, melt the butter in the cream in a 2-quart saucepan and remove from the heat.
|Volcanic action in the saucepan!|
Combine the sugar, corn syrup and water in a 4-quart saucepan, with an instant-read thermometer attached to the side. Without stirring, cook the syrup over a medium to medium-high heat until the mixture begins to bubble around the edges, then turns into a whitish-brown frothing mass.
|At about 250 F the sugar syrup will begin to boil rapidly.|
|Magic effect of heat turns the buttery mix to liquid caramel.|
|Cool caramel in parchment-lined 8x8 pan for at least 2 hours.|
|Cut caramels with a sharp knife. Spray with oil if it sticks.|
|The caramels taste the same, whether you cut straight or not!|
|Cut crosswise to make rectangles.|
|Wrap in wax paper, cut a bit longer than your candies.|
Observations and Notes
Temp reading: An accurate candy thermometer that hooks onto the side of the pan is essential. Mine kept sliding to one side out of the mix, so I had to adjust it and tilt the pan to make sure the tip was immersed in the liquid, allowing a temperature reading.
Potential eruptions: Walking away from the bubbling mass isn't a good idea as it is likely to burn or boil over. Also, make sure the larger pan you use is the appropriate size. The recipe calls for a 4-quart saucepan, but the only one I have is 3 1/2 quarts, which proved adequate.When you whisk the butter-cream mixture into the boiling sugar syrup, it will churn up like a volcanic eruption, so high sides are a plus!
|Chocolate-dipped caramels + one lonely pecan|
Taste test: The caramels were chewy and sweet. I might try increasing the vanilla and salt next time to add more character. It would also be fun to experiment with flavors, such as espresso, mocha, ginger, chai or green tea.
P.S.: As my caramel-making experiment went so well, perhaps I'll tackle fudge next! If so, you'll read about it here.
|Gift idea: Caramels in a Hersheypark Carousel tin replica|