As we’re headed into the holiday season, we thought that we’d put up one of our favorite recipes for this time of year. We like this one because it’s fairly easy, it makes a good caramel (sorry, not quite as good as the Cream Caramel recipe that we posted last year), with a nice chocolate flavor. And, as far as we can tell, most people don’t even consider making candy anymore, even though many recipes, like this one, are really easy.
This recipe comes from The Joy of Cooking — our go-to cookbook — by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker. We think there’s no better cookbook to use to start cooking. Ours has instructions for everything from hard boiling eggs to butchering a squirrel. Both useful skills, but in different contexts.
We make a lot of this caramel, normally several double batches, and that’s what shown in the photos; however, we’ll give just a single batch recipe.
Makes about 1 1/2 pounds
For the chocolate, we use the widely available Baker’s chocolate, although we’re dismayed to see that they’ve reduced the size of their box from 8 ounces to 4 ounces, while retaining the 8-oz. price. Frustrating when you use a lot of chocolate, especially, since they’re just trying to fool customers used to the 8-ounce box. For corn syrup, we use Karo, because it doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup. Butter, use unsalted, definitely, and, of course, only pure vanilla extract. Yes, you probably need a candy thermometer.
Procedure in detail:
Butter pan. Find a heat-proof pan that is about 8×8 inches (we used 9 x 13, since we have a double batch going) and give it a light buttering. Set it aside for now.
Combine ingredients. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine all the ingredients except the vanilla. You’ll need a large saucepan because the caramels really bubble up while cooking, and it would be a mess if it overflowed. Bring this to a boil, stirring to dissolve everything. Once boiling and dissolved, insert a candy thermometer.
Cook. Reduce heat and cook the caramel until the temperature reaches 244°F, stirring all the while. This will take about 30 minutes. If you live above sea level, you can reduce the temperature by 1°F for every 1000 feet of elevation. For example, we live at about 3000 feet, so we reduce the final temperature by 3°F, to 241°F. Do not touch or taste the caramel, as it’s very hot — we know from experience.
Add vanilla. Remove the caramel from the heat and stir in the vanilla. It will spatter and sputter, so use care.
Cool. Pour the hot caramel into your prepared pan and let it cool completely, about 3 hours.
Cut and wrap. Well, you now have one big caramel, so turn the pan upside down over a piece of waxed paper. It may take a while for the caramel to drop out, but when it does, use a chef’s knife to cut it into squares and wrap each square in waxed paper.
As we said above, we make this caramel pretty much every year during the holidays because it’s so easy and tasty. Since it’s so easy, it makes for a great stocking stuffer, too! After all, who doesn’t like chocolate? Especially, hand-crafted chocolates from your kitchen! Even with all that going for it, this caramel isn’t quite creamy enough to rate five stars, but it’s definitely four stars. And, of course, it beats those commercial “caramels” all hollow.