Who doesn’t love holiday candies?
The variety available this time of year is special and practically endless. Just the other day my mom was telling me how much she loves her old-fashioned ribbon candy and my dad drooling at the though of cherry cordials. Me, my mind wandered to homemade caramels. There’s a local candy shop that makes the best caramels I’ve ever had but it is some pricey stuff, especially for the ones dipped in milk chocolate that make my heart sing.
So why not try to make them myself?
It’s something I’ve put off because I’m not very experienced with candy making and I’m still learning my new stove right now. There was a good chance this would end up in a burned disaster.
Much to my surprise, I think I made the best caramel candy I’ve ever had in my life and it wasn’t that hard to make. My secret weapons for this candy making project were: a heavy duty Calphalon stock pot, a flat wooden spatula, a candy thermometer and the one thing that saved my dad … my Silpat mat.
Just as I had started the caramels I remember I was suppose to prep a dish lined with parchment paper for the caramels to set up in and I find my roll EMPTY. So here I was rushing around the kitchen trying to find something and remembered you could put anything sticky on one of these mats. It fit nicely in a rectangular cake pan too.
Looking up close, you can see all of the little vanilla bean seed speckles throughout the caramels. That is because I used my favorite vanilla bean paste instead of vanilla extract. It has become a staple in my pantry because of the concentrated vanilla flavor and those speckles I love so much.
Now for this recipe, I have to admit I was a bit frenzied at the point of adding the vanilla bean paste so I was in more of a dump now, measure later kind of mode. I would guess it was between 1 and 2 tablespoons.
Overall, it was a 30 minute cooking process that left my wrist a little tired from the constant stirring but was well worth it. These caramels came out better than I could have imagined. Now I just hope to get them inside some cookies before the family eats them all.
- 1 cup butter, unsalted (2 sticks)
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1 - 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- 2 -1/4 cup GOLDEN brown sugar (C&H makes a great one)
- 1 - 2 tablespoons vanilla bean paste
- Line a rectangular cake pan (or lipped baking sheet) with parchment paper or a Silpat mat.
- In a heavy duty pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat.
- Once fully melted add the corn syrup, milk and brown sugar.Increase the heat to medium - medium/high.
- Use a flat edged wooden spatula to stir the mixture, taking care to scrape the bottom and avoid the sides of the pot.
- Stir constantly until the mixture begins to boil.
- Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pot, making sure the end is inside the mixture but not touching the bottom.
- Continue stirring constantly until the thermometer reaches 244 degrees F (or soft ball line if labeled on thermometer)
- Immediately remove from heat and stir in vanilla bean paste.
- Carefully pour the caramel into the baking pan and allow to cool for several hours.
- Cut into squares and wrap in wax paper to enjoy later.
Now it’s your turn, what’s your favorite holiday candy?