‘Tis the season to make all things sweet – cookies, cakes, and candies. Yes, even candies – those “sometimes tricky” treats that make the holiday so special.
Aunt Emily’s Caramels is one of our most searched, saved and pinned recipes. It has a 5-star rating for a good reason; it makes, classic, buttery caramels you will want year after year. Caramel recipes are -relatively straightforward. They typically have a short set of ingredients and directions. That said, attention to detail makes the difference between soft, chewy caramels that almost melt in your mouth and something that will require an emergency trip to the dentist.
Temperature is the key in candy making. The most reliable way to know the temperature of the sugar syrup in the pan is with a candy thermometer. A candy thermometer can be purchased at most big box stores, groceries stores or kitchen supply shops. It is important to check your thermometer occasionally to make sure it is accurate. The easiest way to do this is to place the thermometer in boiling water. If it registers 212°F or 100°C, you are good to go. If not, it is time to replace it.
If caramels are too hard, you can try placing them back in a saucepan, adding a couple tablespoons of water and stirring until the thermometer reads 242°F. Pour back into a prepared buttered pan.
If caramels are too soft, that means the temperature didn’t get high enough. Again place the caramel back into a sauce pan with a couple of tablespoons of water and heat to 244°F.
If you don’t have a candy thermometer, you can test with a cold water test. Details on how to use this method can be found here.
Occasionally, caramels might end up with a grainy texture. This is usually caused by sugar crystals stuck to the side of the pan that didn’t get fully dissolved. It only takes one to set off a chain reaction, and before you know it you have crunchy caramel - The easiest way to prevent this from happening is to brush down the sides of the pan with a little water once the mixture comes to a boil. This will wash any stray sugar crystals back down into the hot mixture and prevent them from interfering with cooling later.
If you have additional candy making questions, you can check out this link for more information. Armed with a little extra know-how, you can confidently make homemade caramels a new family holiday tradition.