Dear Delicious Chocolate-Covered Caramels,
I blame you for the decay-ridden second maxillary premolar currently rotting in the right side of my face. To be fair, I also blame these. And definitely these. But you most of all. Because you’re made of scrumptious sugar glue.
I’m no stranger to dental issues (thanks for the genes, Dad). More cavities than I could count when I was younger. One cavity-turned-infected-tooth that hurt so much it required an emergency root canal. Four impacted wisdom teeth that could only be removed by breaking away my jaw in several places. My face was so swollen I had to write on a chalkboard instead of speaking. I later upchucked into a giant bowl of green jello I’d been trying to eat when my tummy decided it did not like codeine. After two weeks I felt nothing but contempt for oatmeal and applesauce, and was consumed by thoughts of popcorn and well-toasted bagels.
Now that I’ve really whetted your appetite with my dental horrors, let’s talk caramel! I was seriously surprised by how easy it is to make this stuff. Put it all together, heat, watch, pour, wait, cut, done. Dipping them in chocolate makes this recipe a bit more time consuming, but the end results are über delicious. If you don’t want to bother with tempering chocolate, the caramels by themselves are still quite yummy.
A few notes before we begin: To avoid a sugary disaster, you will absolutely need a large, heavy saucepan. The mixture will almost triple in size as it boils, so you want to make sure you keep that hot, sticky mess where it belongs (not on you or your stove). Unless you are a relatively proficient confectioner who understands that cold water soft/firm/hard ball stuff, you will need a candy thermometer. For more helpful tips on caramel, see this post by David Lebovitz.
(adapted from Allrecipes)
yield: 1 lb.
- 1 cup (2 sticks) of butter
- 1 lb. of light brown sugar
- 1 14 oz. can of sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup of golden syrup or corn syrup
- 1½ tsp. vanilla extract
- a pinch of salt
In a large, heavy saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar, condensed milk, syrup and salt over medium heat. Bring to a boil while stirring constantly. Continue to stir and heat until mixture is somewhere between 234°–240° (or soft-ball stage). Continue to cook for 2 more minutes at that temperature, then remove from heat and stir in vanilla.
Let your mixture cool for a few minutes. While you wait, line a 9×13 metal baking pan (with sides at least 1.5 inches high) with parchment paper. When your caramel looks a little more calm, pour into the pan and let it rest until room temperature, or until it feels safe to handle. (If you like salty caramel, sprinkle some coarse sea salt over the top of the caramel before it has finished cooling.) Once they’re cool, remove them from the pan and cut them into whatever size you like.
(I really need to write a separate post about just this so I can simply say, “see instructions for tempering chocolate here.” But I’m still learning the best way to do this, so my instructions improve a bit each time. For a comprehensive explanation of chocolate properties and tempering, see another post by DL.)
I am going to sheepishly admit that I made these things a while ago, and can’t recall how much chocolate I used. I am going to guess around 24 oz. If you do find yourself short, at least the plain caramels are still tasty!
Before you begin dealing with the chocolate, make sure your caramels are cut and ready to go, and ready several sheets of wax paper and a dipping fork. (You don’t want to waste time setting these things up once your chocolate has reached the perfect temperature.)
Coarsely chop chocolate with a knife or in a food processor. Set up your double boiler. When water in the bottom pan reaches a simmer, place ⅔ of the chocolate in the top pan. When chocolate begins to melt, add in shortening and stir with a rubber spatula. As soon as chocolate reaches 115°, remove from heat, add in remaining ⅓ of chocolate, and stir continuously until dissolved.
At this point, you need to get the chocolate down to somewhere between 88–91°. This is going to involve a lot of patience and stirring. In the past, I’ve gotten bored around 95° and decided that was cool enough. It worked ok-ish, but the chocolate was still rather runny and ended up forming puddles around the candy. This time, I held out for around 90° and it worked so much better. (Keep an eye on the temperature of your mixture as you dip your caramels. If it seems like the chocolate is getting a little thick after a while, it’s probably fallen below 88°, which means you should reheat it and then stir it until it’s between 88–91° again.)
Place one caramel on the end of your fork and fully submerge it in the chocolate. Lift it out, let the excess drip off, then slide it off onto the wax paper. Repeat until you’ve run out of caramels or chocolate.
There’s a lot of different things you can do to these candies. I dipped some in chocolate and sprinkled sea salt on top. I just drizzled chocolate over some instead of fully coating them. I even stuck some little bits of bacon on top of the caramel before dipping them in chocolate . . .
Point is, there are infinite ways to make these things cute and delicious. Next time, I’d definitely sprinkle coarse sea salt on top of the caramel before it has finished cooling. Wrap them in wax paper or stuff them in candy bags and give them away to very appreciative friends! You’re going to wind up with a lot of them, so you’ll definitely want to turn most of them into gifts. If you don’t, you might end up like me, with a painful cavity and impending dentist appointment!