Saturday, December 19, 2015

Two-Hour Caramels: Worth Every Minute

Slow-cooked caramels with almonds. 
Some got a little dip in Dove milk chocolate.
Caramels wrapped simply in wax paper

When I was growing up in Southern California, Christmastime involved a box or two of Sees Candy--Nuts and Chews to be precise. And my favorite grew to be the cube of caramel with almonds, dipped halfway in milk or dark chocolate. The caramel was rich and sweet, just firm enough to be chewy as opposed to gooey. The nuts were always crunchy and the chocolate just rounded off the whole experience.
Sees' almond caramels had many more almonds than these, I think, but the main point of this project was the caramel. I was determined to devote two hours on a weeknight to making these things because the picture I saw on King Arthur Flour's Instagram had me hooked.
They were this deep brown caramel color--definitely not the same as the light colored caramels I was used to making.
So far I've made these twice. I've made this caramel many times now (some might say too many times). The first time I somehow omitted the brown sugar and only used the four cups of white sugar. They still turned out fabulous. When I've made the caramels with brown sugar, it obviously produced a larger volume of caramel.
I think that I might prefer the first caramel made with only four cups of white sugar. I also used heavy cream and 1% milk, since I had those on hand, rather than the half and half. For some reason, I think the flavor if that first batch is a bit deeper and more complex, I think because it has a higher percentage of salt due to the omission of some sugar.
Either way, this is a winning recipe, totally worth the time it takes to make them. 
One of these batches makes a LOT of caramels, so be prepared to give some away.
Give it a go. You will love them.

Two-Hour Caramels
     --Adapted from

  • 3 tablespoons vanilla extract (measured and set aside for the end)
  • 2 cups butter, cut into one-inch chunks
  • 4 cups half and half
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 cups light brown sugar*
  • 2 cups light corn syrup
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 cups roasted unsalted almonds
  • Line a half-sheet pan (or two 9x13 inch pans) with parchment and spread almonds evenly over the bottom. Place parchment in another small dish, like an 8x8 inch pan or a pie plate--this is where you will pour the caramel you scrape from the pan. Place on a heat proof surface, like stove burners set to "off" or on a cooling rack. Also make sure you've measured your vanilla and set it aside where you can grab it once the caramel reaches temperature. 
  • Gather things you need to entertain you for the next two hours and/or make sure someone is home to spell you in case you need to use the restroom or just take a little break. You've been told.
  • Into a large heavy-bottomed stock pot (like an eight-quart stock pot), put the sugars, butter, half and half, corn syrup and salt. Place the pot on a burner set to medium-low heat. Stir with a silicone spatula taking care not to splash it around. When butter is melted clip a candy thermometer on the side and pull up a tall chair or stool.
  • Keep stirring gently for the next hour and a half to two hours until the caramel reaches exactly 246 degrees** Fahrenheit on the candy thermometer. Remove the thermometer, and then remove the pot from the heat and stir in vanilla extract. Carefully pour the screaming hot caramel over the almonds, which I need to tell you will shift at this time. Once most of the caramel has been poured from the pan, pour the last bit and scrape out the pan into the smaller parchment-lined pan you have ready.
  • Use your silicone spatula to make sure caramel gets to all corners of the pan. With oven-mitted hands, carefully lift and tap the pan of hot caramel to force air bubbles up and out. 
  • Allow caramel to cool for 30 to 60 minutes and then place in the refrigerator to cool completely if you want to cut it the same day. If you can let it cool/set overnight, then allow it to cool enough to loosely place some foil or a plastic sheet pan cover on the top--not completely sealed up, so any condensation will escape.
  • When caramel has completely set up and is firm, cut it up and wrap caramels individually in small pieces of wax paper.
  • I cut my caramels into 2 x 1/2 inch sticks, which is a nice sized piece, and I got 132 pieces. 
  • Makes about 10 dozen caramels
*The first time I made these I accidentally omitted the brown sugar completely and only added the 4 cups of white sugar with the other ingredients. I liked the caramel better because to me it had a more complex flavor, which I think was caused by the relative higher amount of salt. So this is the way I make the caramel now. I just leave out the brown sugar. Either way it's the best caramel you'll ever make.
**The original recipe calls for the caramel to be cooked to exactly 248 degrees Fahrenheit, but I've found with carryover cooking, if I bring it to 246, by the time I add the vanilla, stir it in, and pour the caramel into the pan, it gets to exactly the right temperature. When I cooked it to 248, I ended up with caramel that was just a tad too hard and would crack slightly upon cutting and biting. The 246 temp produces caramel that is firm, but still allows your teeth to sink in gently with absolutely no crunch.

1 comment:

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