I have only made caramels on the stovetop once, and while they tasted good, they were sticky and difficult to wrap and eat. A long while ago, I saw a video on Facebook for microwave caramels and I was floored. I didn't think you could just make them in the microwave. I tried it out and they were great, but then I looked around to see what other people have done and made a few changes to the recipe I originally found to make the perfect easy microwave caramel recipe.
You can also take these a step further and coat them in chocolate! Check out my Easy Chocolate Covered Caramels to see how I did it.
Note: This Instructable is for caramel candies. If you are interested in making microwave caramel sauce, you can find a recipe for that here by jessyratfink.
Step 1: Supplies
It is crazy how easy these are to make and you don't need very many ingredients which is fantastic.
I meant to count how many caramels this makes, but I forgot before they were consumed. Though, the main photo for this Instructable shows every single caramel I got out of this batch (the bowl hasn't been padded to look fuller). But, at the same time, the amount you get will depend on how big or small you make your caramels.
MICROWAVE: The microwave I used to make my caramels is 1100 watts. So, if your microwave is different you'll have to change the time accordingly (it should take more time if your wattage is lower or less time if your wattage is higher). You can also try doing the same amount of time, but just change your microwaves Power.
- 1/4 cup (or 4 tbsp) Butter + extra for baking dish*
- 1c cup Light Brown Sugar
- 1/2 cup Light Corn Syrup
- 1/2 cup Sweetened Condensed Milk**
- 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla (can be optional, but I recommend it)
- 8" by 8" baking dish - having a cover is nice (but not necessary) for storing your caramel while it hardens up
- Microwave-safe bowl that is fairly big, the mixture is going to really bubble up in the microwave and you don't want it to spill over. Safer to go bigger than smaller.
- Wooden spoon - or something to stir your caramel
- Measuring utensils
- Utensils for getting the caramel out of the pan*
Optional Supplies (for wrapping candies):
- Wax paper
- Decorative wax paper - if you trust the decorative wax paper, you can just use that, I didn't trust mine to touch the food (it said on the package only one side should touch food and I couldn't figure out which side that was), so I used wax paper on the candy and then wrapped those in the decorative paper
- Sharp knife
- Gloves - this are nice because you'll be handling the caramels a lot; I got mine from Daiso, but you can use anything that is food safe
*The first time I made this, I used a canola oil cooking spray (why this? it's just what I found in my cupboard) on the pan and the caramel slid right out when it was done, but it left some oil on the caramel, which was fine because it had not taste, but not great since it made it very slick. The next two times I made this I coated the pan in butter and this didn't really do anything; it was very hard to pry out of the pan. So, in summation, use what you want to coat the pan, but be prepared to pry it out (it may not look nice, but that shouldn't really matter as you are going to cut them up at the least and then probably wrap them as well). I used a combination of a butter knife, fork, and a skinny spatula/flipper as you'll see in a later step.
**As you will notice, 1/2 cup of sweetened condensed milk only uses up less than half of a 14oz can which is kind of annoying. As it turns out, you can actually get 1 1/4c from one of these cans. So, if you aren't sure what to do with the rest, be sure to check out my Easy Chocolate Covered Caramels which is where I used the remainder of my can. No waste!
Step 2: Make Caramel
Okay, at some point before your caramel is done, prepare your baking dish by coating it some how. I used butter, as you can see, but it doesn't really work. Canola oil cooking spray worked, so you could try some type of non-stick spray instead. Another good alternative to try is to use wax paper as suggested in the comments.
When you are ready, you can start by mixing your butter, sweetened condensed milk, and corn syrup. I figured, since it is going in the microwave anyway, I started by melting the butter in my container and then mixed it once it was melted. Then, get your brown sugar all mixed in.
- Stick your mixture in the microwave for about 2 minutes.
- Take it out and stir; it should look like photo 5 above.
- Stick it back in the microwave for 2 minutes.
- Take it back out and stir.
- Stick it back in for 2 minutes. This will be the last time and the time it will most likely spill over if the container isn't big enough, so I suggest keeping an eye on it.
Once it has melted for a total of 6 minutes*, it should be good to go. Stir it up and when it stops bubbling like crazy, mix in your vanilla.
Pour it in your pan and let it harden. I usually end up covering it and either putting it aside for a while, or you can stick it in the fridge if you are impatient or want to store it for longer.
*If you want to be sure your caramel is done, you can carefully scoop out a small amount and drop it in a cup of water. If you can fish it out and roll it into a ball (not a solid ball, but a soft one) it is good to go. I've made this three times now and each time it has always been enough time.
Step 3: Cut It
Once it is hardened, you can cut it up. Before removing it from the container, make sure you can still cut it. Test it with the knife and as long as you can cut through it, you are good to go. If it is really hard (the first time I made this, I let it harden in my very cold house and it was too hard to cut), throw it in the microwave for 10 seconds or so, but I don't recommend going over 20 seconds. You don't want it too melted, just softer.
Pry that chunk of caramel out of the pan to the best of your abilities. In the second picture, you can see the utensils I used and how it looked once I got it out. Again, a non-stick spray may work better than actual butter.
You can work where you want, but I liked working on a cutting board with a piece of wax paper on it. Made it safer to cut and the wax paper prevented it from sticking.
Cut off strips of your caramel in the width you want. Then cut those strips into smaller pieces. These are going to be individual servings, so you can make them as big or small as you want (I would say mine were about 1 inch by slightly smaller than 1/2 inch).
I cut stripes as I wrappWred them so I would have space, but you can start by just cutting the whole thing up if you want.
Step 4: Wrap Caramel Candies
Time to wrap them! You can do this how you want, but I went with what I always saw at bake sales when I was younger.
Cut off a strip of paper that is longer and wider than your candy. Once you find a size that works (and assuming you cut all the candies the same size), I recommend cutting up a bunch of little pieces partially so you know they are the right size, and partially because it is easier to work if you can just keep wrapping rather than stop to cut off more pieces.
In the pictures above, I show how I wrapped mine. It is pretty simple. Stick it in the middle of the piece of paper and wrap it around the caramel kind of like a hot dog. You want the ends to meet to protect the candy. Then, just twist the ends once or twice (be careful when you twist as you can tear the wax paper). If you want to make it easy for people to unwrap them, make sure you twist them the same direction and the same amount of times on each end.
If you have too much paper after you wrap it, just trim the ends a bit with your scissors.
If you want to double wrap (just because or so that the candy doesn't touch decorative wax paper), first cut out a small piece of normal wax paper. You want it to be enough to cover the candy and that is it (you can probably use less than me). Wrap it around the candy like you did before, but instead of twisting, tuck down whatever paper you have sticking out on both ends. As you do this, you can see that less is better so they don't get too bulky.
Now, just wrap your decorative wax paper around it like you did with the normal was paper before.
Do this over and over and over again. It gets tedious, but that bowl of candy will look cute when you are done!
- The last image, from here, shows how you can double wrap with just a small piece of wax paper on the inside with the candy.
Step 5: Give Them Out to Your Friends!
Share them with your friends or even contribute them to a bake sale. I would see them when I was younger all the time and always wanted them (now I can make them myself).
I don't know how you should store them, but I actually just left mine out in the bowl shown in the images and haven't had any trouble. You can store them in the fridge if you want or even in an air-tight container if you are concerned.
The only ingredients that you would need to worry about are butter and sweetened condensed milk, but you should have at least a week before you can start to worry (I've had mine wrapped sitting in the bowl for over a week now and am not worried still).