You know, I probaby shouldn’t add a recipes into the already confused mix that is my blog, but shouldn’t a good Mid-Century Housewife be able to whip up any number of homemade candies on short notice? Of course!
I have a ton of vintage cookbooks. I mean a ton, and I have tried a lot of different versions of caramels out of these books. Most recipes I used in the past had about the same directions: Boil sugar, butter and water until browned. Pour in cream while boiled sugar foams and writhes and tries to jump out of the pan. Pray to whatever gods are listening so you do NOT get burned and NOT drop the pan. Pour into pan and hope they set up correctly and don’t taste burned.
You can probably tell how well those recipes turned out.
So, I had a lot of cream on hand that I had to use up before it went bad, and I decided I was going to try to make caramels. Again. My husband rolled his eyes and I rolled up my sleeves and dug into my modern cookbooks rather than their older brethren, looking for….anything. A lifeline. I found it in How To Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman.
I mostly rely on Mark’s book when confronted with something I have never, ever cooked before. While not being the be-all-end-all guide for cooking, Mark’s book is a good jumping off place if you really have no idea what to do with something. And it has a bunch of odd stuff, like the microwaving or steaming times for tons of veggies, which comes in really handy.
Mark’s recipe for caramels was a little different, in that you just dump everything together at first and then cook it to the proper temp. No pouring of cold liquids into molten sugar. This I could handle. I dumped everything together and cooked, and I was surprised to find it made really good homemade caramels that set up really well and were easy to cut and wrap. They store well too, and Hubs has been toting them to work in his lunch and enjoying them very much. And most importantly, I didn’t waste the cream.
From How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
- 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, plus some for greasing the pan
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- Pinch salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Grease a 9-inch square pan
2. Combine all ingredients except vanilla in a small saucepan and turn the heat to low. Cook, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves, then cook, stirring only occasionally, until the mixture measures 245 degrees F, firm ball stage.
3. Stir in the vanilla and pour into prepared pan. When mixture has cooled to room temp, remove block of caramel from pan and use a sharp knife to cut into small squares. Wrap each square in waxed paper or plastic wrap. These keep for weeks, but are best eaten fresh.
*Note: Mark says to use a small saucepan, but I had to switch to a medium sized one about halfway through the cooking. When the cream started boiling it foamed up, and it was hard to keep it from boiling over without stirring it constantly. It was easier when in was in a larger pan and had room to move around.
**Note: Yes, you do have to wrap them individually. I tried to keep them in a container without wrapping them individually, and came back to a brick of caramel rather than a bunch of neat little squares!