Friday, September 09, 2011

Homemade Caramels Recipe.

Yummy Yummy Caramels
(For those of you who are looking for a recipe for Homemade Carmels, this is for you too.
I pronounce it Carmel as well, but apparently, there's another A in there. Who knew?)

Backstory- I went to the Apple Orchard recently and remembered how unbelievably delicious homemade caramels are, and how much I love them.  So, I decided to find a good and easy recipe for making them myself, because the successful accomplishment of somewhat difficult recipes makes me eel powerful.  Anything that requires me to keep track of temperature qualifies as somewhat difficult to me, even though it's actually quite easy, you just have to pay attention.

In my search I found a lot of recipes that seemed to fit the bill, and ultimately decided on the one over at Giverslog.  However, my dyslexia kicked in and I misread it, so ultimately, I ended up doing something different, and it turned out delightful, so I'm going to share that with you.

Yield: about 60, depending on how you slice them.
Time:  about 90 minutes prep and cook time. 4 hours to cool, extra time to cut and wrap.
1 cup unsalted butter cut into one oz chunks
1 cup light corn syrup
1 14-oz. can evaporated milk
2 1/2 cups packed brown sugar 
1 tsp. vanilla

Equipment:Working candy thermometer
Small Sauce Pan

heavy, 3-qt. sauce pan
heat resistant spatula or good mixing spoon

parchment paper
 9×9 pan (or 9x 13" pan if you want them thinner/easier to cut/ to have more) 
wax paper (optional)

Small bowl of cold water (optional)
pastry brush (you might not need this, but have it out anyway)

Steps from here to Yummo

1. Put about two inches of water into the small sauce pan and clip your candy thermometer to the side, being sure to not let it touch the bottom of the pan.  Boil the water.  Take note of what the thermometer reads when your water boils. If you're at/near sea level, it should read 212 F (100 C). If it doesn't, adjust your goal temperature by the same amount. As a matter of fact, write this down so you're not second guessing yourself later. DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP

2. You're done with the small pan of water. Empty it and let it cool to be put away again. Remove your thermometer, dry it off, and clip it to the side of your 3-qt sauce pan, being sure not to let it touch the bottom of the pan.  

3. Line your 9x9 pan with parchment paper, being sure to fold it in the corners so it comes up the sides of the pan.

4. Melt butter over medium low heat in 3 qt sauce pan.

5. In the center of the melted butter, and taking care not to get any on the sides, pour brown sugar into center of melted butter, taking care not to get any on the sides of the pan as apparently sugar left clinging to the edge of the pan can make the whole batch crystalize. If there is some on the side, push it down with a damp pastry brush.  Stir  slowly  until butter and sugar are well combined, by which I mean, stir a lot.

6. Add evaporated milk and corn syrup. Mix, mix, mix.

7. Raise temperature to medium for a minute, then raise temperature slowly while mixing frequently, until mixture is boiling. Did I mention mixing? Do that, a lot. Do not raise temperature too quickly. By the time it's boiling, it should be pretty homogeneous, rather than a greasy separated mess. If it's a mess, you needed to be stirring more prior to this point. 

8. Reduce heat to medium again, maintaining a good steady boiling action.  Stir. Seriously, keep stirring this puppy. Stop stirring and it might get greasy and distasteful. Seriously, keep it moving, keep it homogeneous.

9. Watch the thermometer. I find that it gains heat slowly at first, then very rapidly at the end, so pay attention.  To make caramels, you're aiming for about 244 F- which is early in the firm ball stage.   If you don't trust your thermometer (like I don't trust mine) grab that bowl of cold water and drop a little of the hot mixture into it.  The water will rapidly cool it and if you pull it out of the water and it squishes into a somewhat firm ball, that's what you're aiming for.

10. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Stir in thoroughly.

11. Pour into prepared/lined pan.
(I was lazy about the whole folding bit. Seriously, cleaner edges are your friend)

12. Allow to cool. All the way. This takes painfully long.  Maybe go to the gym or something, it takes hours.

13. Remove from pan by lifting it out via the parchment paper.  Slice into candies of your preferred size. I like to use good sharp pizza cutter for this.

14. Wrap those candies in wax paper.  You know, except the ones you gobble up while slicing and wrapping.

Note- you can take the mixture off at earlier stages for different purposes.  If you take it off during the thread stage, it'd make a nice dip. It'd be good for dipping apples and other treats in during the soft ball stage.

Handy Candy Temperature Chart
(according to my Pyrex candy thermometer)
Syrup:.....................230 - 235
Fudge/Soft Ball:....... 236-240
Firm Ball:................. 240-250
Hard Ball: ................250-266
Soft Crack:.............. 270-290
Hard Crack:............ 300 - 310

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