Monday, May 1, 2006

Per Request: How to make Caramel

Thanks for asking Wendy! I feel like I could make caramel in my sleep right now. :-) This recipe I got from The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook- the red and white checkered one. I have tried a couple of other recipes, and they all turned out tasty, but this one has the right texture for caramel apples if it's cooked right. There are really, in my opinion, two keys to making great caramel. One is to start with quality ingredients- especially butter. Make sure your butter is Grade AA quality. Also, make sure your half & half is real. I've seen many a carton of half & half with corn syrup in the ingredients. And only use Karo corn syrup. Quality all the way. The second key is to keep your mixture moving pretty much at all times. If you need to step away for a second to answer the phone, or check on something else, that's okay, but don't stray very far from your pot.

Caramels:

2 sticks Grade AA butter
2 cups half & half
2 1/4 cups light brown sugar, packed
1 cup light Karo corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla (extract or real work interchangeably here)

In a 3 quart nonstick saucepan, slowly melt your butter over low heat. Stir occasionally to keep your butter from separating. Add the half & half, brown sugar, and corn syrup. Raise your heat to medium and stir constantly to blend your ingredients. Stir constantly until the sugars have dissolved completely. At that point it is safe to walk away for just a second- but not for long. Stirring constantly is preferred from here on out. Raise the heat to medium high. Once your mixture starts boiling, carefully clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Boil and stir constantly until your mixture reaches 244º. (This could take as long as 45 minutes- and not particularily recommended for humid days). At 244º your mixture will be at soft ball stage, and is perfect for dipping caramel apples. However, if you let your mixture go to 248º, it will make perfect caramels for eating.

For dipping apples, remove your pan from the heat at 244º and add the vanilla. Stir like crazy until it is incorporated, and continue stirring until it stops boiling and bubbling away. Turn your burner as low as it will go, and place your pot back on the burner. Working quickly, dip your apples in caramel- shaking off the excess. You will need to move quickly, and stir between each apple to keep the caramel from over-cooking and separating. If you wish to add candies, etc. to your apples, place the hot apples into the desired toppings and pat them onto the apple, taking care not to burn yourself.

For caramels, have a 9" square baking pan lined with foil and buttered (or use Reynold's Release for perfect results everytime). At 248º remove the caramel from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Stir until completely incorprated and pour into the foil lined pan to firm up. Once cooled and set, cut into individual pieces and wrap with wax paper.

Remember- hot sugar is dangerous. Boiling sugar even more so- but the flavor is so much better than you could ever get from unwrapping a store-bought caramel. It's well worth the effort. One batch of caramel will dip about 15 apples give or take a few, depending on the size of the apples.

3 comments:

the rachel said...

my my, weren't we post-happy today? =P

Anonymous said...

wow! thanks so much! I really appreciate that you shared this! Wendy

Erika said...

Well, Rachel, at least I post!

Wendy, I hope that my directions were clear enough. :-)