You can make these anytime, but they are a great handmade gift for the holiday season. Just don't be surprised if people hound you to make more! They are chewy, buttery heaven!
Step 1: Ingredients and Utensils
A heavy bottomed sauce pan. I recommend something 4 quarts or larger since the liquid boils very high during cooking. 3 quarts is cutting it really close and you risk having hot caramel boil over, which is a pain to clean up. You want to use a better quality pan that will stand up to the required high heat and one that will distribute the heat properly.
Wax paper or candy wrappers. I use wax paper since it is cheap and easy, but you can find pre cut candy wrappers online or in specialty stores.
A candy thermometer. Be sure to test the accuracy with boiling water beforehand, as even higher end ones can be off slightly. It should register at 212 F when placed in boiling water. If your thermometer registers higher or lower you will want to adjust the difference when testing your caramel.
A cake pan or cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Depending on how thick you want your caramels. I use a 13 x 9 cake pan.
A jar or treat bag. If you are giving the caramels away.
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup evaporated milk
2 cups refined white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
Step 2: First Steps
1.Cube both sticks of butter and begin to melt them over medium heat.
2.Whisk in the heavy cream and evaporated milk when the butter has melted.
3.Pour the corn syrup into the cream mixture and stir lightly.
4.Sprinkle in the white and brown sugar and stir gently until the sugar is incorporated.
Do not stir the mixture anytime after this. You can lightly swirl the pan around, but you do not want to agitate the sugar too much or the crystal will reform and ruin the caramel. If you see any visible granules sticking to the sides of the pan, you can brush them away with a wet pastry brush.
Step 3: Waiting and Waiting
It can take 30 minutes to an hour to reach the required temperature of 250 F (hard ball stage). You will start out with a light brown color that will foam up quite high. Stick with medium or medium high heat, but don't get tempted to turn it up anymore or you risk burning the sugar.
If you are using wax paper to wrap your caramels, this is a great time to cut them up. Take a foot or so of wax paper and fold it up to around a wrapper size and then cut all the fold lines so you have a handful of similar sized sheets. You will probably need about 50-75 wrappers depending on how large you cut the caramels.
After the caramel has boiled up and reduced back down and is slightly darker, stick in your thermometer and monitor it frequently. Make sure the thermometer is not touching the bottom of the pan or you may get a false reading.
Step 4: Ready to Pour
The hard ball stage of caramel is 250 F to 265 F. You can rely on your thermometer or drop some of the caramel into water and see if it forms a solid ball that is still pliable.
When it reaches that stage carefully pour the caramel into your prepared pan. The bubbles on the surface will dissipate as the caramels cool. I wait at least 4 hours to cut my caramels, so they aren't too firm or soft.
If for some reason you overcooked the caramel and it turns out hard, don't be discouraged. It can be difficult to nail the first time around. There is a very small window in temperature, even minutes can be the difference between chewy caramel and hard candy. The hard caramel candy is just as tasty, so don't throw it away if this happens!
Step 5: Wrapping and Gifting
I used a not-so sturdy pizza cutter to divide my caramels, but any sharp knife will do. You may have to wash the knife under hot water periodically if it gets too much residue on it.
Wrap the wax paper around the individual pieces and twist or fold the ends around it to keep the caramel fresh. It can be laborious cutting and wrapping dozens of caramels, so you can always just wrap up larger slabs in large sheets of wax paper as well.
If you are gifting them, you can find festive bags, jars, or tins to transport them in.
They will keep in sealed bags or jars for probably a week, but I have never had any friends or family whose caramels lasted that long!