I have been making caramel as gifts for at least 15 years. The tattered and faded recipe doesn't have the original source, but I have been tweaking it over the years so at this point I can legitimately claim it to be my own. This most recent tweak is of the salted variety. Silly as it sounds, the addition of a mere teaspoon of kosher salt, not to mention the extra pinch for garnish, offsets yet enhances the candy's sweetness. Speaking of garnish, if you have one of those expensive flaked type of salt lying around, use it for a real fancy-schmancy flourish.
|Demi-tasse saucer. Makes candy look HUGE!|
Unlike those store-bought plastic-wrapped cloying squares that cement your teeth together then yanks out your fillings as you pry your jaws open, these caramels lusciously melt in your mouth, leaving a smile along with a longing for more.
As you stir the bubbling mixture, don't be fooled by what seems like a stingy amount in the saucepan. After the lava cools and hardens, you will be in shock and awe as you realized you have approximately a bazillion pieces of rectangular heaven. Two bazillion if you cut the portions into squares.
Although pretty, foil and paper candy wrappers tend to permanently bond to caramel (haven't yet tried food-grade cellophane yet). Unless you like extra fiber in your diet, buy a large economy-size roll of supermarket wax paper and cut it into 3" by 2" or so rectangles. You're welcome.
Yield: 60-80 candies
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut up, plus an additional tablespoon or so for greasing
2-1/3 cups firmly packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup Karo corn syrup (light, dark or a combination)
1 tsp. kosher salt, plus additional for garnish
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Line a 10 by 13 inch rimmed baking pan with aluminum foil. Heavily grease foil with butter, then set aside.
Combine sugar, corn syrup, salt, sweetened condensed milk and butter in a 2 or 3 quart saucepan. Stir constantly over medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved and the butter has melted. When mixture comes to a boil, insert a candy thermometer, then carefully stir occasionally.
For most of the cooking it will look as if the butter is trying to escape, separating and floating on the top.
|Ugly, but keep going.|
Just continue to stir occasionally until the temperature reaches 250F, approximately 15 minutes. Immediately remove from heat and carefully stir in vanilla extract.
Quickly pour into prepared baking pan. Place on heatproof surface and allow to cool down to room temperature before refrigerating. While you are waiting for the candy to cool, cut wax paper into 3" by 2" rectangles.
|Caramel as part of a boxed set of assorted confections.|
Wait until completely chilled (no cheating!). With a sharp knife, cut into 1/2" squares or 1/2" by 1-1/2" rectangles. Wrap in wax paper squares, twisting ends to close.