Soft chewy caramels are a delightful candy that I learned years ago but come back to many times every year. This is one recipe I plan to use for the rest of my life and pass on as much as I can. They are delicious and the texture is perfect to me and most people that eat them. I have a container of fleur de sel that I specifically use in this recipe only. I made them once early on with a fancy salt and just loved the bursts of saltiness that are found when eating the bittersweet caramel. You can use any salt but I suggest playing with the flavors and definitely use a bigger crystal salt for that nice crunch.
I also want to talk about temperature. Sugar can be tricky. A moment too long and the caramel gets hotter than needed and is harder in texture. Or if you have a crappy thermometer and it doesn't read right you may not heat it enough and make a mess trying to cut these and wrap them. Get a decent thermometer and always check it before making candy. I'll dive more into this and how to test a thermometer after this recipes. For now let's talk about how to make it.
460g Granulated Sugar
300g Light Corn Syrup
60g Unsalted Butter
450g Heavy Whipping Cream
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Vanilla
1. In a medium pot, heat the cream to a simmer then turn off and hold on the side until needed.
2. Using a large sauce pot (bigger than what you expect to need, think at least 1 gallon capacity) cook sugar, corn syrup, and water on high heat. At first use a spoon or spatula to mix and get the sugar hydrated with the water fully then leave to cook undisturbed. Any unhydrated sugar may burn. Also avoid getting sugar on the sides of the pot. Any little sugar crystals will need to be brushed down with a heat resistant brush and warm water. Cook this mixture until it begins to caramelize. Once the bubbling is slow you will know it is close, don't walk away at this point and watch closely. Caramelization will get dark fast and can burn easily.
3. Depending on how dark you want the caramel will determine when you continue. The darker it is the less sweet and more bitter it will become. I like a medium amber color but it could be darker or lighter. Once you are happy with the color, add butter and mix until fully melted with a CLEAN rubber spatula.
4. Next, begin slowly adding the cream. The reaction will be large and bubbly, just don’t add too much cream at a time or else it can easily boil over. Take the time and be careful of the steam. It can burn your arm. I use oven gloves that prevent the steam and heat from burning my hand or arm while making the caramel.
5. Cook until mixture reaches 247-248℉ while stirring constantly. Make sure not to just stir but scrape the bottom and sides of the pot the entire time. Any spot where caramel sits is a spot it can burn. Do not stop stirring the entire time.
6. Once caramel reaches temp, remove from heat and add the vanilla and salt. Mix in and again be careful of steam from vanilla. At this point you can pour it into a foil lined, greased 8 inch by 8 inch square pan or into a silicone mold. I use two that have small 1 inch by 1 inch cavities.
7. Allow caramel to rest until completely cooled, it's best to leave it over night to get a little firmer and easier to wrap. Cut the caramel into desired sizes then wrap in candy wrappers.
So let's talk about some things that can go wrong and how to prevent them.
First off the thermometer. Test it. I do a hot and a cold test. I make a glass full of ice then fill with water. Leave to sit for 5 minutes then submerge the thermometer. Make sure it is on 32℉, adjust if possible or note the difference. Then boil a small pot of water and check that temp. Should be 212℉, take note of the difference and change if your thermometer allows.
Next, let's talk about sugar crystallization. When you cook the sugar in step 2 you may get some on the edges of the pot. Use a small dish of water and a heat resistant brush to brush the sugar away. The water will help dissolve them and bring them into the bottom of the pot. If you are using a gas stove, there is a lower chance of something going wrong since they heat the outside of the pot very well, but always be safe rather than sorry.
Now what about other flavors? Cream is a great place to start some infusions. I have done a lavender caramel by simmering the cream with lavender buds before straining into the caramel. This can be done with any herb, spice, or floral flavor. You can also add extracts and oils to add flavors when you add the vanilla and the salt used can change things up in some interesting ways. Play around with various options and share some results in the comments!