My struggle to find a successful caramel recipe is finally over.
These are perfectly soft, sweet – but not achingly so – and have a creamy, subtle taste.
Some history on why this particular caramel is so wonderful:
I have had a long struggle with caramel. Like many of the obsessive phases I go through, caramels possessed me for some time. The big issue was my lack of a candy thermometer. My first batch, my only success until recently, I made without a thermometer. No clue how – it now seems an impossible accomplishment, or simply astounding luck – but this one batch triggered the some 15 failures that came after it. After three incorrect thermometers, multiple recipes, and various failures ranging from caramels that crumbled into a sandy mess, and others that were so hard they bent knives, I was asked to please stop by my boyfriend, who says he can still smell the cooking caramel if he thinks about it.
So I was beaten by caramels, and gave up for a long time. But when I was given a new, professional grade candy thermometer for my birthday, it felt like I was ready for a second (or 16th) round.
In an effort to completely separate myself from failure, I searched for a recipe guaranteed to provide me with success. And as always, Martha came to the rescue. In my previous sugar-induced caramel failures, I somehow neglected to look to Martha to save me. So this time, I came prepared. New candy thermometer and Martha, I successfully created a batch of caramels that everyone loved.
I’m not the biggest fan, though, I must say. I’m not sure why – I think it may be the light caramel flavor. I am still searching for a richer, darker caramel recipe, but for now, I feel I have successful bounced back from a painful failure. Yes, it is sad I was this affected by candy, but we all have our vices.
Golden Caramels – Martha Stewart
Makes about 150
4 cups heavy cream
1 cup sweetened condensed milk
4 cups light corn syrup
4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Vegetable-oil cooking spray
Spray an 11 3/4-by-16 1/2-inch baking pan (this is a half-sheet pan) with vegetable-oil spray. Set aside in a spot where it will not be moved. In a 2-quart saucepan, combine cream and sweetened condensed milk; set aside.
In a heavy 6- to 8-quart saucepan, combine corn syrup, 1 cup water, sugar, and salt. Clip on candy thermometer. Over high heat, cook until sugar is dissolved, stirring with a wooden spoon, 8 to 12 minutes. Brush down sides of pan with a pastry brush dipped in water to remove any sugar crystals.
Stop stirring, reduce heat to medium, and bring to a boil. Cook, without stirring, until temperature reaches 250 degrees (hard-ball stage), 45 to 60 minutes. Meanwhile, cook cream mixture over low heat until it is just warm. Do not boil. When sugar reaches 250 degrees. slowly stir in butter and warmed cream mixture, keeping mixture boiling at all times. Stirring constantly, cook over medium heat until thermometer reaches 244 degrees (firm-ball stage), 55 to 75 minutes. Stir in vanilla. Immediately pour into prepared pan without scraping pot. Let stand uncovered at room temperature for 24 hours without moving.
To cut, spray a large cutting board generously with vegetable-oil spray. Unmold caramel from pan onto sprayed surface. Cut into 1-by-1 1/4-inch pieces, or other shapes. Wrap each in cellophane or waxed paper.