Making caramel may seem like a daunting task, but it is an exhilarating (and delicious) science project that requires a little preparation, patience, and timing. Challenge your candy-making skills by trying out this soft caramel recipe by a chef from the Culinary Institute of America.
As you cook the caramel on the stove top, you will notice the sugar, butter, and evaporated milk will slowly deepen in color and flavor. Caramel expands and bubbles as it cooks, so use a larger pot to avoid a hot, sticky mess from boiling over. As you cook, your flame should be high enough to allow the caramel to bubble yet low enough to allow the caramel to slowly develop its flavors.
When you reach the magic number, work quickly and don't delay! Even a few degrees can completely change the texture, consistency, and flavor of a caramel. But use extreme caution, because caramel burns are dangerous and painful; keep a bowl of ice water nearby just in case.
Allow the caramel to cool completely before you use a chef's knife to cut the slab into strips, then into square pieces. Use your fingers to mold the individual pieces into perfect squares.
1/2 cup water
2 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup light corn syrup
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) butter, unsalted, softened
1 teaspoon salt
Heat-resistant rubber spatula
9 x 13-inch metal baking pan
Soft caramels may be the most popular chocolate in any box; they always seem to be the first to disappear. These caramels can be flavored many different ways and can be dipped in chocolate or wrapped without dipping.
- Lightly butter a 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Combine the water, sugar, vanilla bean, condensed milk, corn syrup, and butter in a heavy-bottomed 4-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly with a heat-resistant rubber spatula. Continue stirring while cooking until the batch reaches 245ºF. This is a good estimation of the required temperature. When the thermometer reads 240ºF, begin testing the caramel using the spoon technique.
- Spoon Technique: Place a small bowl of ice water next to the saucepan of cooking sugar. As the sugar boils, spoon small samples of the syrup out of the saucepan and immerse the spoon holding the syrup in the ice water. Allow the syrup to cool for several seconds, then remove the spoon from the water. Take the cooled sample of syrup between your thumb and forefinger and squeeze it to evaluate the consistency. The cooled piece on the spoon should be firm but not hard when the caramel is properly cooked.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the salt. Pour into the prepared pan and remove the vanilla bean using a fork. Allow to cool completely to room temperature, at least 2 hours. Remove the sheet of caramels from the pan. Cut into the desired size pieces using a sharp chef's knife. The pieces may be dipped in tempered chocolate or compound coating, or may be wrapped individually in cellophane or waxed paper if they are not going to be used within a day or two.
- Desserts, Candy
- Makes about 117 caramels