I have been wanting to try making homemade salted soft caramels for-evvv-er. (Name that movie?) Don’t they seem like they would make a wonderful homemade Christmas gift? Perfect for teachers, friends at church, or the UPS guys who has delivered all 1,253 of your Amazon Christmas packages on time this year! (Seriously, show your poor UPS guys some appreciation, all those packages, in all that snow!?)
So, most fortunately it turns out that caramel making is actually super duper easy if you know one simple secret. What is that secret you might ask? Temperature. You absolutely must get accurate temperature readings as you make your caramels. If you cook things to the right temp at the right stage you will end up with lovely, chewy, buttery, salted soft caramels when you’re done. Seriously, it’s that easy. However, if you don’t get accurate temperature readings you’ll end up with all manner of caramel troubles: caramels that don’t set, caramels that don’t really taste like caramel, or caramels that burn, or just whatever. I am fully convinced that 99% of caramel problems come down to temperature.
Anyhow, the best way to get an accurate temperature reading is by making sure the thermometer heat sensor is fully submerged in what your cooking, but not touching the bottom of the pan! If the thermometer is touching the bottom pan you are actually taking the temperature of the bottom of the pan, not of the caramel itself. Ok I suppose that could be a duh kind of thing if you really think about it. But, if you didn’t know this, I say don’t feel bad… your in good company. It only took me two funky caramel batches to figure it out… lol. (Long time candy makers don’t mock me!) But, I will say once I figured it out, every batch of caramel, every variation, perfect!
So, go, make perfect caramel. Feed the UPS guy. And have a very Merry Christmas!
Homemade Salted Soft Caramels– Yields about 60-100 caramels (depending on how thick/wide you cut them). Adapted from the kitchn.
- 2 and 1/4 cups heavy cream
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt, depending on preference
- 3 cups white granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup corn syrup
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Special Equipment: Candy Thermometer
1. Line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment paper, spray the parchment paper well with nonstick spray. Set aside. In a large sauce pan over medium heat, melt together the butter, cream, and salt, mixing occasionally. When melted, remove the pan from the heat. However, keep it close by, you will need it shortly.
2. In a second large sauce pan, combine sugar, corn syrup, and water. Stir so that the sugar gets wet and thick paste is formed. If sugar gets on the sides of the pan Wipe down the sides of the pan with a damp pastry brush to remove any sugar crystals. Place the candy thermometer on the side of the pan so that the heat sensor is immersed in the sugar (but not touching the bottom of the pan). Do not stir the sugar anymore from this point, even while cooking. Turn the heat on to medium/medium-high heat. Let the sugar mixture come to a boil without stirring. At about 250*F, the sugar syrup will begin to turn transparent and boil rapidly. Continue boiling up to to 300*F.
3. Once the sugar mixture (now a sugar syrup) has reached 300*F turn off the heat. Slowly pour the warm cream/ butter/salt mixture into the sugar whisking as you pour. The sugar syrup will bubble and grown in volume as you add the cream. This is ok.
4. Once all the cream/butter/salt mixture is incorporated return the pan to medium heat. Allow the caramel to come to a boil without storing and continue to heat to 250*F. The caramel will be yellow to begin and yellow and eventually darken to a deeper brown caramel. Remove from heat when the caramel 250*F. Quickly whisk the vanilla into the caramel. this will cause the caramel to bubble.
5. Pour the caramels into the prepared 8X8 baking dish. If anything sticks to the bottom of the pan do not scrape it out. Gently tap the prepared pan agains the counter to help any air bubbles come out. Let the caramels set for at least two hours up to overnight. Once the caramels have cooled fully, you can cover the pan.
6. When the caramels are fully set they can be cut. Use a sharp knife sprayed lightly with cooking spray to cut the caramels into desire shapes/sizes. I found that I liked my caramels cut into fairly large thick rectangles best. I ended up with maybe 75 caramels with them cut this way. Feel free to cut the caramels larger or smaller and thinner as desired. Cut caramels can be wrapped individually in small pieces of wax paper. However, I do recommend storing the wrapped caramels in a ziplock bag or air tight container for maximum freshness.
Notes: Caramels will keep at room temperature for about two weeks. They also taste amazing frozen and last quite a bit longer in the freezer!