Want to make something sweet for your sweetie this Valentine’s Day? Nothing wins you undying affection like a batch of homemade candy…
It sounds a little intimidating, but really the hardest part is just keeping an eye on the temperature. If you can check a squirming, screaming, red-faced infant for a fever then you’ve got this one in the bag!
You are going to need a candy thermometer, but other than that, the chances are you’ve already got the rest of the ingredients lurking around in your kitchen.
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 tablespoons water
The first time I tried to make salted caramel, I just added the salt to the final product. I was making a sauce rather than a candy, so the consistency was thinner, and all the salt just settled to the bottom of the sauce. It was a little disappointing! So this time around, I used my noodle and dissolved the salt into the cream… ah ha! Pretty tricky!
Combine the heavy cream, butter, vanilla, and salt in a small saucepan and heat to a low simmer, just enough to dissolve the salt. Set aside.
Place the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a medium saucepan. You do not have to stir it. In fact, the less you do to it, the better. Just whack it on a medium-high heat and keep a close eye on it. Do this when your kids are at school or when your Mr. is around (that is, if he’s the kind of Mr. that’s good at keeping the kids out of your hair… does such a thing exist?).
You will notice that the granulated sugar will melt down into a bubbly liquid. Do NOT get this on your person! It is SUPER hot, like, otherwordly, and it will burn the bejesus out of you. The worst thing is, it’s also sticky, so once it grabs on it does not let go. You can just give it a VERY gentle swirl every so often, but don’t stir it.
It will just bubble away for a few minutes, and then you will see it start to get a little golden around the edges, and before you know it, it’s a beautiful liquid amber color.
Just keep on your toes, now. Don’t dilly-dally or it will burn and go from beautiful amber to black and rank. Take it off the heat and quickly pour in the cream/butter/vanilla/salt. It will boil furiously…
Insert the thermometer (eww, sorry!), put it back on the heat, and just watch the temperature. If you are making a sauce, you want to cook it to the thread stage, which is around 230 degrees (I told you that m.f.’er was hot!). If you want soft candies, get it to the soft ball stage, which is around 240. I’ve never tried it, but you could probably make hard candies too, if you cooked it to hard crack stage, which is about 310. The point is, the longer you cook it, the stiffer the end result will be.
I made soft candies, so when it reached 235 degrees, I took my caramel off the heat and poured it into a heat-safe container to cool.
Now allow me to digress for a moment, from fancy-shmancy chef mode to down-to-earth housewife mode. That is a pet peeve of mine, about chefs, they never seem to give a flying f*** about making a huge mess. If you just pour that hot caramel into your pyrex and forget about the pot you cooked it in, it will harden and burden you terribly at cleanup time. Instead, take an extra moment now to fill the pot with warm water and place it back on the stove, over high heat, and boil that mess off before it becomes a huge problem.
Ok thanks for allowing me that moment… now back to my caramel…
After a few hours, it was completely cooled and safe to handle. It had the consistency of silly putty. Flatten it out and cut it into little bars.
Give them a twist…
It’s a good thing to know how to make caramel, (not to sound like Martha), because it’s so versatile. It’s great over ice cream, in apple pie, in cakes or pastries, you name it. You’ll see me refer back to this method again in future posts, so stay tuned, caramel lovers!
Click here for a printable 4×6 recipe card: Salted Caramels Recipe Card