It’s getting close to candy-making time for us. And perhaps, you, too. This year we decided that we might try a couple of variations on some of the candies that we normally make for the holiday season, and we’ll start right off with these little caramels. If you’ve never made caramels before, you should know that they are pretty easy, especially if you have a candy thermometer (you can make caramels without one, but we wouldn’t recommend it), so jump right in and scratch up some holiday treats!
This recipe is really a riff on our chocolate caramel recipe that comes from The Joy of Cooking, by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker. It makes a good caramel — not the best, but better than anything you’ll find in a bag. And, it’s easy: put most ingredients in a pan, bring to a boil, cook until the temperature reaches 244°F. Add vanilla. Done.
For the corn syrup, we go with the national brand Karo, because it doesn’t contain high-fructose corn syrup. You don’t have to use Guinness. You can use another stout (or even another beverage you think would be good); we just think Guinness and chocolate are a great pairing. Vanilla extract is only real, 100% pure. Finally, if you’re above sea level, lower the final temperature by 1°F for every 100 feet. For example, we live at about 3000 feet in elevation, so we lower our final temperature by 3° to 241°F.
Procedure in detail:
There’s not too much here, but we’ll go through the steps, anyway.
Prep pan. Line a baking sheet with parchment, or, if you don’t have baking parchment, lightly butter a small rimmed baking sheet.
Combine ingredients. In a medium saucepan combine sugar, corn syrup, milk, Guinness, chocolate, and butter. Place over medium heat.
Dissolve sugar. Stir the mixture until the sugar dissolves and everything is boiling, about 5 minutes. Insert a candy thermometer.
Cook to 244°F. Let the mixture boil, stirring often, and adjusting the heat if it threatens to boil over (what a mess that would be; don’t even think it) until the temperature is 244°F. Remove from heat.
Add vanilla. Add the teaspoon of vanilla extract and stir to combine. It will spatter a bit, so be careful.
Pour out and salt. Pour the hot caramel directly onto your prepared sheet, then sprinkle with a bit of kosher salt. Let cool completely.
Cut and wrap. Take the caramel from the baking sheet, set it on waxed paper (or the piece of parchment), and cut into 1-inch squares. Wrap with pieces of waxed paper to prevent the caramels from sticking back together.
Based on an easy recipe, this is a nice caramel to use as your first foray into candy-making. We’ve never had it fail. You can vary the ingredients — different kind of beer, use cream instead of milk, add a bit more chocolate, stir in nuts — to make a whole variety of candies. And, they taste really good, too. Nice and chocolatey with a slight bitterness from the Guinness. The next time we might even consider adding a bit more Guinness, but, as is, five stars.