Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Sublime Homemade Caramels

by Ann

Sublime is a somewhat new word to me.  Certainly I had heard the word before, but never thought about it much, because quite honestly, I would not describe much in my life as sublime.  I guess it all comes down to interpretation, so perhaps I’m wrong about that.  According to sublime can refer to anything ranging from impressing the mind with a sense of grandeur to describing something that is supreme or outstanding.
Sheila, Heather, and I have been talking about what is and isn’t sublime lately.  We feel like we need a new tag line under our Friendship, Life, and Style blog title, and went back to some of the original blog name ideas we came up with when we first started this adventure, one of which included the word in question.  We initially decided not to use it because we weren’t certain that enough of what we would be writing about would fit that description but, but the recipe I’m sharing today truly is!  These caramels are SUBLIME!
This recipe is my great aunt’s, so it has been in our family for a long time.  My mom and I have made it a few times, and then several years ago I had a disastrous experience when Sheila, Heather and I had a baking day years ago for which I brought the supplies needed to make caramels, but bought quarts instead of pints of cream by mistake, with disasterous results.  (Really?? I was a home ec teacher!  How many times did we go over measurements and equivalents?)
Fast forward to this month -- the peer pressure was on when one of Heather's blog posts commented on hoping that caramels would be appearing this holiday season.  I enlisted my mom to do the recipe with me, because I was gun-shy to try it again after the last fiasco. 
I didn’t have an electronic copy of the recipe, so retyped it prior to heading off to my mother’s house.  The version of the recipe that I had said that it would take 2 ½ - 3 hours to cook start to finish.  Reality was that the cooking process took over four hours, so it is not something to do when you’re in a hurry! Perplexed by why it took the mixture so long to reach the soft ball stage I asked the STEM specialist (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) in my office if the added cooking time could be related to the “ultra-pasteurization” of today’s cream as opposed to what was available in the past. She agreed that was probably the case, as well as something about the coagulation of the protein in the milk that I didn’t understand.  I just know that they are worth the effort.

Sugar, light corn syrup, and one pint of cream getting ready to start the long process....
After  about an hour and a half of cooking the syrup becomes a beautiful golden brown. Add the second pint of cream and stir to mix.   Constant stirring is not required, so maybe you could be writing your Christmas cards....  watching a movie .......  Just be sure to check in every now and then to see if the temperature is approaching 230 degrees....  (Once it does, add the final pint of cream and small piece of parafin.)
Getting closer -- the syrup is browner and bubblier -- but it's still taking a l-o-n-g time.  Resist temptation!  Do not increase the heat beyond medium low!  Once the soft ball stage is reached, take off the heat and add vanilla and nuts.


Once nuts and vanilla are added, pour into greased pan.  Unlike some candy recipes, there is no frantic rush to get this step accomplished within 30 seconds!
The candy must set in the greased pan for at least overnight before cutting and wrapping.

Pictured here is half of the wrapping battle won -- The container with wrapped pieces is only a portion of what I'd wrapped.  The pottery dishes are what I bought at Sur la Table to fill for small gifts for friends. 
Caution -- The wrapping process takes another 2 + hours to complete!
Ready for gift-giving!  Yum!  (There were several more -- why all the red bowls in a row?!)
Soft Homemade Caramels

4 c sugar
1 16 oz bottle of light Karo syrup
3 pints whipping cream
paraffin wax, ¼ of one layer in a box of 4 (about the size of an egg)
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1 lb. walnuts or pecans (3 cups) chopped
(Note:  the cooking process from beginning to end will take about 4 hours.)
1.       In large kettle, slowly cook sugar, syrup, and 1 pint of cream.  Once the mixture has started to cook, the heat should be on the “medium-low” setting on the stove.  (230° on candy thermometer)  Cook until small amount dropped in iced water forms a soft ball.
2.       Add second pint of cream, stirring with wooden spoon; cook until a slightly harder softball forms. (Do not stir throughout the cooking process – only to incorporate the added cream)
3.       Add the third pint of cream and paraffin wax; cook to soft ball where the ball can be shaped and it holds the shape in iced water. (232° is what the recipe said, but ours never got quite that high, yet the ball kept its shape in the water.)
4.       Remove from stove.  Add vanilla and nuts.
5.       Pour into greased 10 x 15” pan (with sides of at least 1”).
6.       Cool completely, at least overnight in a cool place, but not the refrigerator.
Once cool: (Note:  the wrapping process will take at least an hour to complete.)
1.       Cut many squares of waxed paper or clear wrap about 3 ½ x 3 ½”.
2.       Cut caramels into squares, and wrap each one.
Store in cool place.
Enjoy!  These are amazing treats and make wonderful holiday gifts.


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