In this and the next post, we’re going to make a great little treat that would be appropriate for those who have been nice: bear paws. But, making bear paws requires two steps and the first step is to make some scratched caramel.
“Oooo!”I hear you saying, “making candy is hard. You need all kinds of specialized equipment, it’s just so not worth it to make it at home. Besides, it takes forever, right?”
Nope. And nope. The specialized equipment you need is a thermometer, and you can make just great caramel without even that. Cooking the caramel takes a while, about 45 minutes start to finish, and you do need to stir it for much of that, but you will have the best caramel that you have ever tasted. Guaranteed. So let’s get started, eh? Oh, if you’re interested this recipe is actually relatively old; we found it in several books, the first one of which is The Joy of Chocolate by Judith Olney.
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup corn syrup
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 1/2 tsp unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp salt
See, nothing special here. We do buy the Karo light corn syrup as opposed to the store brand. The store brand had high-fructose corn syrup in the ingredient list, and we didn’t want to go there. Only use natural and pure vanilla extract; why go to the trouble of making caramels and using imitation?
Mix sugar, corn syrup, and 1/2 the cream. Just dump them all in a large heavy-bottomed sauce pan and stir. We use a 3-quart pan which works nicely, even when the caramel bubbles up.
Bring to a boil. Over medium heat, bring the mixture to a boil. You can put your candy thermometer in the pan at this time, or wait until later, your choice. We put it in. Also, we just got this digital thermometer that is perfect for this. It’s easy to read and seems accurate, so, if you are looking for a candy thermometer, you might want to consider a digital one. Otherwise the liquid kind works fine (we’ve used ours for years, it’s just a bit harder to read).
Boil 10 minutes.
Slowly add the rest of the cream.
Boil 5 minutes.
Add the butter. Just drop it in bit by bit while you are stirring.
Cook until the temperature reaches 244°F. Ta da! Caramel. A note about the temperature, 244°F is for sea level; if you live above sea level, you need to reduce the final temperature a bit. Basically, subtract 1°F for every ~700 feet in elevation. For example, we live at about 2500 feet above sea level, so we subtract 3°F (2500/700 ≈ 3). But don’t worry too much. For caramels, a degree or 2 won’t matter; however, more than that will.
Add vanilla and salt. Remove from heat, pour in the vanilla, and sprinkle on the salt. Gently stir it in. It will sizzle and maybe spatter a bit, so use care.
If you want caramels, pour mixture into an 8×8-inch buttered pan, cool for about 3 hours, invert and cut into cubes, then wrap the cubes in squares of waxed paper.
If you want bear paws, check back tomorrow for that post.
Near the holiday season we make several varieties of caramels, but for making bear paws, this is our old standby. High fives all around, especially if you’ve never made caramel before.