Homemade candy tends to scare off a lot of people. You need a candy thermometer. It’s more exacting than baking. It really hurts if you get burned by molten caramel. A lot. And it did take me a few trials and errors before I got the technique down.
But I urge you to put all that aside and consider it. Because homemade caramels are a true pleasure. You can add just about any kind of spice or flavoring to them. You can sprinkle them with sea salt. You can dip them in chocolate. They would be an adorable gift packed in a mason jar. And they fall into the category of homemade things that seem really impressive and labor intensive but are actually quick and easy. I did base my first attempts from tutorials I read here and here. After a few batches of caramels, I altered a few things. I found a medium saucepan worked better than a large one (so ignore that big pot in my photos, please). Also, by heating them to 300° instead of 320° in the first boil, I got softer caramels that were kinder to my mouth full of expensive dental work (seriously, you could buy a good, used car for the amount of money I’ve spent at the dentist).
Another tip, melt your butter and cream ahead of time and let cool a little. Otherwise when you whisk your cream into your sugar, it will already be at 250°. If you want a caramel sauce that doesn’t firm up, this is how to do it. And it’s delicious. But if you want firmer caramels, let the mixture cool down a bit and then bring back up to 250°.
If this had scared you off, let me say this. My husband devoured every test batch I made within a day. And it took serious threats of marital withholdings to get him to not eat the last batch before I took photos of them. And I could tell he pondered it for a while. That’s how good homemade caramels are.
- 1 c. heavy cream
- 4 tbl. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 c. sugar
- 1/2 c. brown sugar
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/4 c. corn syrup
- 1/4 c. water
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
Spray a loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray and line with parchment paper, making sure it reaches up all sides at least 1″. Spray the parchment paper with cooking spray. Set aside.
Combine butter, heavy cream and salt in a small saucepan. Heat over medium flame until butter has melted. Set aside and let cool a bit.
In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup and water. Stir to thoroughly combine. If there is any sugar clinging to the side of the pan, brush down into the mixture with a pastry brush. Attach candy thermometer to the side of pan, making sure tip is immersed in the liquid but not touching the bottom of the pan. Heat over medium heat until mixture reaches 300°. Do not stir the mixture. It will bubble and turn brown.
Once you have reached 300°, turn off the heat. Very slowly pour the cream and butter mixture into the sugar mixture, about an ounce at a time. Whisk thoroughly each time. Once all the cream has been added, give it a final stir, then turn the flame back on.
Heat over medium heat until mixture reached 250°. Again, don’t stir! It will bubble and turn a golden brown.
Once you’ve reached 250°, turn off heat. Quickly whisk in the vanilla extract and pumpkin pie spice. Make sure your spice has thoroughly dissolved. Pour into your pan.
Let set at least 2 hours. If you can stand to wait, let them sit overnight. But you can cut them anytime they have firmed up. Lift out of the pan by the parchment paper and place on the counter. Using a sharp knife sprayed with kitchen spray cut the caramels and wrap in wax paper.