You know what happens when you make caramel candies without a candy thermometer?
You get caramel SAUCE.
Not bad, but really not what I had intended. I was really hankering for some hard candy caramels and this was my first attempt at making them. They seemed easy enough. (This was my first mistake.) I got the recipe out of Alice Medrich’s Pure Desserts cookbook. Let me state loud and clear that this disappointment had nothing whatsoever to do with Medrich’s recipe. The left turn was all me. I did two things that I think affected the outcome of the recipe: 1) I ran out of regular sugar and substituted 25% powdered sugar and 2) I didn’t use a candy thermometer to track the cooking temperature.
It’s the latter that I think did the damage. I didn’t cook it long enough. AUGH! I could kick myself for being too lazy to walk down the block and borrowing a thermometer from Jeannie. Lazy, lazy, lazy. I thought about it, but couldn’t bring myself to leave the house for the two-minute jaunt down the street. Dumb!
But on the bright side, I got a terrific caramel sauce that will taste gorgeous drizzled on ice cream, brownies and the carrot cake that I’m going to make tonight for Jeannie’s birthday tomorrow. I even have enough to jar up and give to Jeannie as a gift for her and Willie to enjoy later.
How’s that for a glass is half full attitude?
Here’s the original recipe. If you want a candy, follow the directions. If you want sauce, don’t cook it as long to keep it from stiffening.
Honey Caramels from Pure Desserts by Alice Medrich.
Cast of characters:
2 cups walnuts, coarsely chopped (optional)
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup honey
2 cups sugar
3/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into chunks and softened
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Line a 9-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil and grease. Spread walnuts in pan. Set aside.
Combine corn syrup, honey, sugar and salt in 3-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until it simmers around the edges. Wash sugar from sides of pan with watered pastry brush. Cover and cook 3 minutes. Uncover the pan and wash sides down one more time.
Attach the candy thermometer (ALL IMPORTANT STEP) to the side of the pan without it touching the bottom and continue to cook, without stirring, until it reaches 305F degrees.
In a small saucepan, heat the cream until tiny bubbles form around the edges. Turn off heat and cover to keep hot.
When sugar mixture reaches 305F, turn off heat and stir in butter chunks. Gradually stir in hot cream, which will bubble dramatically (wow, it really does!).
Turn the burner back on and adjust heat so it boils, but not violently. Stir until smooth. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until 245F. (If you want sauce, cook to a lower temperature—I’m not sure what temp since I did it by eye and smell, but let’s say about 8-10 minutes.) Then cook, stirring constantly, to 248F for chewy caramels or 250F for firmer chewy caramels.
Turn off heat and stir in vanilla. Pour caramel into lined pan. Let set for 4-5 hours or overnight until firm. (Mine never got firm, even after 24 hours. A sure sign it was never going to harden up.)
Lift pan liner out and invert the sheet of caramel onto a sheet of parchment paper. Peel off the liner and turn the caramel right side up. Cut with an oiled knife. Wrap each caramel individually with wax paper or cellophane.