This is my signature recipe. I make at least eight batches of caramels every year during the holidays. I always make some for Valentine’s Day and Easter. Then throughout the year for birthdays and special occasions. Everyone loves these. The downside to this is that nobody wants to make them for themselves. Every time I give the recipe to someone after they have been given a gift of caramels they say: “This is too much work. You can make them for me.” Like biscotti, these seem to take forever to make. But they are easy. Allow 30 minutes for the cooking time. Two to four hours for the candy to cool. (I prefer making this the night before.) And one hour to cut and wrap them. This version is a brown sugar caramel with toasted pecans. Dry roasted almonds work well too. I have tried many caramel recipes over the years and this is the easiest and best tasting.
Make sure your pan, spoons and cutting board are completely free of any odors. I keep spoons that are only used for baking to ensure that what I’m making doesn’t end up tasting like garlic or onions.
Equipment you’ll need :
- 3-quart heavyweight saucepan (mine is nonstick)
- Candy thermometer
- 13 x 9 x 2 nonstick pan – lightly greased
- Cutting board
- Good quality waxed paper- see note below
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees
- Spread out 2 cups of pecans on a cookie sheet
- Cook for 8 minutes, stirring after 4 minutes
- Cool slightly
- Coarsely chop nuts and set aside
Put in saucepan and turn heat to medium :
- 1- 14oz can sweeten condensed milk (NOT evaporated milk) (I like Borden Eagle Brand)
- 2 -1/4 cups packed brown sugar
- 1 cup corn syrup (light Karo)
- 2 sticks unsalted butter (8 oz)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Stir continuously until mixture starts to boil.
- Then clip on the candy thermometer
Continue to stir until the caramel reaches the desired level of chewiness/hardness:
- 240 for med-soft caramels (my favorite – when using roasted pecans)
- 245 for medium hard (for when I make them with dry roasted almonds)
- 248 for hard caramels (best in the summer when they will be a bit softer anyway because of the warmer weather)
Note: It will take about 15 minutes to reach 230 degrees. Never leave the caramel mixture once you start stirring. You have to continuously stir or the butter will separate and it will burn on the bottom of the pan.
- Then another 10-15 minutes (or more) to reach your desired temperature.
- Once the caramel has reached the desired temperature take it off the heat and stir in the nuts.
- Be careful! This will be extremely hot.
- I place my saucepan on a wooden cutting board.
- Stir in the chopped pecans and pour into your pan.
Note: It’s best not to let this get completely cold as once it sets up it’s hard to remove from the pan and difficult to slice. (If your kitchen doesn’t get cold make them the night before) Too soft is actually worse. It can be too sticky to slice. Oh well. Practice makes perfect!
Suggestion: The first time you make these heat the candy to 245 degrees so you won’t undercook and risk making caramels that are way too soft. All is not lost even if this happens. Be creative and use it for something anyway.
Release the caramel from the pan. If you are lucky you can invert the pan over a cutting board and whack it causing the caramel to fall out. If this doesn’t work run a thin knife blade all around the pan and invert the pan over a cutting board and carefully pry the caramel out. Don’t worry if it loses it’s shaped a little. You can press it back into shape. For me, this is the worst part about making caramels. I am always afraid they will be wrecked trying to get them out of the pan. So far this has never happened.
Now that you have your caramels out of the pan you are ready to slice and wrap.
- Use a Chef’s knife to slice caramels. (A large knife with a straight blade, as in not serrated)
- Slice: 1-½” x 3/4″ for large size caramels
- wrap in a piece of waxed paper 7″ x 4-1/2″
- Slice: 1″ x 1″ for medium size caramels
- wrap in a piece of waxed paper 5- 1/2″ x 4-1/2″.
Wrapping technique:Put candy on a piece of waxed paper, roll up then twist each end. This takes a little practice to not tear the paper. Hold the candy with your fingertips extending out just a bit then twist the waxed paper.
Note: WAXED PAPER The caramels in the picture below were cut 1″ x 1″ and wrapped with a 5-1/2″ x 4-1/2 inch piece of heavy weight waxed paper. Smart and Final here in Fresno, CA sells a huge roll of heavy weight wax paper.(It won’t specifically say heavy weight waxed paper but it is.) Which you might want to invest in because from now on you will be making millions of these for every occasion. I also use this type of waxed paper to put between layers of cookies when I store them in a cookie tin. Works great between layers of English Toffee as well when putting into a tin for storage or as a gift.
Stored in an airtight container they will keep for up to 2 weeks.
Caramels make a great gift. In the picture below I put them in a glass candle holder. I love putting caramels in clear glass containers.
Warning! Once you start giving these away as gifts you’ll be stuck. People will want more!!!!
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