I grew up with a mom who made homemade caramels often, always saying they were so easy. She even made them at my house when my kids were little, and every time they turned out perfect. When I tried them on my own a few years ago, I ended up overcooking the caramel mixture -- ending up with delicious caramel hard candy, but not the chewy homemade caramels I loved! I tried again with the same unfortunate result.
When I saw that landolakes.com was featuring a recipe for Cappuccino Caramels, I decided it was time to try again! Starting out, I realized I didn't have an 8-inch pan. My daughter did the math and we figured out a 'work-around' -- our 9.5-inch pan with a 3-inch foam yoga block covered in wax paper created a 9.5-inch x 6.5-inch space. The area, in square inches, was about the same so we decided to go for it.
First, prepare your pan, by lining it with foil.
Chop your nuts, with a knife or nut chopper. I use a chopper I bought at a kiosk in the mall several years ago that I really like. Take care not to pulverize the nuts -- the caramels are prettier when the nuts are chopped but not ground up.
Then butter your foil and sprinkle the nuts to cover the surface.
At this point, you're ready to make the caramel! Melt your cup of butter and prepare your other ingredients. Mix up the dry ingredients, and measure out the corn syrup and half and half. Have them ready to go and nearby for adding when the butter is melted.
Now, add the ingredients to the melted butter, mix everything together...
...and bring it to a boil.
As it begins to boil, it will start foaming up, so turn the heat down to medium and then -- with the exception of occasional stirring -- the mixture cooks on its own for 30-45 minutes. I believe, at least until you're familiar with making caramels, that a candy thermometer is essential to make sure you stop the cooking at the right temperature. While it's cooking, the mixture gets all thick and bubbly.
At 242°F, drop 1/4 teaspoon or so of the caramel into a small glass of ice water and it should become firm and stiff. If it does, quickly take it off the heat and stir in the vanilla. Be careful as this mixture is very, very hot!
I admit that I ended up making this recipe twice. In my first batch, my thermometer was too low so that it touched the bottom of the pan, causing it to read 242°F before the caramel mixture had reached that temperature! My droplet of caramel wasn't firm, but I worried that going past the temperature would create the dreaded hard candy. I went ahead and added the vanilla, but the mixture didn't set as it cooled.
There is a bright side to this story... When I realized the first batch of caramels wasn't going to hold together, we decided to save it for ice cream topping. Boy, was that good! I'd go so far as to say it was worth the foible.
Right away, I got back to making a second batch. I decided to buy an 8-inch pan first, so the pan prep was less complicated and no math was required.
Cooking the caramel mixture was easy the second time around, and higher placement of the thermometer led to a more accurate temperature reading.
At 242°F, I dropped a bit of caramel into the ice water for about 3 seconds and -- hooray -- it was stiff but not hard.
When you see that the caramel is firm, immediately take the pan off the heat, add the vanilla, and pour it carefully into the prepared pan. This time, the mixture seemed more like it was going to be a success!
The caramels take quite a while to cool down, so be patient and just let them sit for an hour or two. Placing the pan on a rack helps air circulate around the entire pan so they cool faster.
Be sure to follow the cleaning tip of filling the saucepan (including utensils) with hot water and bringing it to a boil. Do it right away, and the candy cleans off easily. Besides, the caramels take a while to cool so this gives you something to do while you're waiting to see if they're just the right chewiness for you.
Then, simply pull the whole slab out of the pan by lifting the foil.
Set a small plate of butter nearby for the knife, and begin your cutting. Cut the large piece in half or in strips and take it off the foil to cut into squares -- this helps prevent getting any foil bits into your caramel.
I made a pretty plate of caramels for Joe to take to the office...
...and I wrapped up the rest in waxed paper for the girls to take to their classmates at school.
We saved out some samples, of course, to make sure they were perfectly chewy and confirmed -- indeed -- there is simply nothing like homemade caramels! With spring around the corner, I am thinking this will be a great recipe to bring to showers, birthdays or graduation parties because it makes 64 pieces in one batch.
I'd love to hear your comments on my blog about your own adventure making these wonderful Cappuccino Caramels. If you make it, please rate and review the recipe, too.
Stop back in a few days to hear about Julie's fun cookies for Valentine's Day, just around the corner!
Liz is paid to write for the Land O'Lakes Recipe Buzz® Blog.