Sunday, October 9, 2011

Brown Sugar Caramels

Hello everyone! I hope you are all enjoying this holiday weekend! Here outside of Chicago, the weather has been absolutely beautiful!

So, I'm catching up with my blog posts here. I've made several treats in the past few weeks that haven't been made into posts yet. Here is the first one.

Check out these beauties!

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to try my hand at making caramels. I love, love, love, love caramels. Actually, I think I understated that. I really love them! But I haven't actually made them before. I've made caramel sauce, but not chewy squares of caramel-y goodness. This requires a candy thermometer. And good instruction. But, in the end, they weren't all that complicated to put together.

First, melt some butter. Easy enough. Add brown sugar, a little salt, and some corn syrup and mix. Again, not so bad. Add sweetened condensed milk and stir, stir, stir until the temperature reaches 248 degrees F. It gets bubbly, golden, and delicious-looking.

Don't you just want to dive right in? I'd been warned not to look away from the thermometer for too long as it can rise quickly and, before you know it, it will be beyond the temp you want. So, I watched that temperature like a hawk! The higher the temperature, the more firm your finished caramels will be.

You don't want them to be hard enough to break a tooth.

Well, maybe you do.

But I didn't.

248 degrees should give you a medium-firm chewy caramel. After the mixture reaches 248, remove the pan from the heat and stir in some vanilla, the pour the mixture into a buttered, parchment-lined baking dish or pan.

The recipe I followed (the link is below!) calls for an 8-inch square pan, but I thought that size made the caramels too thick, so I would use a 9X13 pan next time for this. The parchment paper lining makes it easier to remove the caramels from the pan and cut them after they have cooled. You can just lift the parchment, with the big block of caramel on it, out in the end. Here are my caramels resting in the pan. You can see mine aren't perfect - they have lots of bubbles - but I think that's part of their charm!

I sprinkled some fleur de sel on the top to make them fancy sea salt caramels. I also used sea salt in the recipe itself instead of regular table salt. Salted caramel. Delicious!

When they are completely set (allow at least 6 hours for this), lift the whole block out using the ends of the parchment paper. Place on a cutting board and cut them into squares using a large sharp knife. If the knife starts to stick, run it under some hot water, dry it off and continue cutting. You may need to do this several times.

Wrap each square in waxed paper and store in a container for a couple of weeks. But I doubt they will last that long!

Later on, I took a large portion of my caramels, melted them down and added some heavy cream to make them softer. Now they are not quite a sauce, but very soft. Perfect to use as a filling for chocolates. Salted caramel chocolates. Does it get any better?? That is, if I don't eat it all before then! The softer stuff is really good off of a spoon. And dolloped onto the scraps of chocolate cake that I made the other day. Ooh la la. I may have to go get some right now....

Click here for the recipe for these caramels. If you haven't tried making them yet, give it a go and let me know how they turn out! If you don't have a candy thermometer, you can find a good one for $3.99 at well-stocked grocery stores or Walmart. I found mine at Meijer. No super-fancy equipment required. So now you have no excuse!

If you are a caramel-making veteran or expert, share your own favorite recipe or tricks of the trade! I'd love to hear from you!

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