Caramel, sea salted or otherwise

A stormy weekend in New England means one thing: being cooped up inside. Being cooped up inside usually leads to experimenting in the kitchen. This weekend I decided to make caramel popcorn to snack on while we watched the wind and rain, and in order to make caramel popcorn, you gotta make some caramel. Usually I make candy once a year, when I make my Christmas Toffee, but on Saturday I dragged out my equipment and made my first ever batch of chewy caramel.

I wanted to use what I had in the pantry (or fridge) since I wasn't too thrilled at the idea of heading back out to the grocery store with the rest of the people stocking up for the storm, so I scoured the internet to find a recipe that would allow me to use light cream (or half and half), instead of evaporated milk. Found one!

This particular recipe yielded enough caramel for two batches of caramel corn, PLUS some leftovers that I chopped up and passed out to friends for review (I sprinkled the caramel with a little sea salt before cutting it, because what ELSE would I do?).

Making caramel is surprisingly easy, but you need to be present. Block off some time to be standing at the stove, because this stuff will go from buttery and delicious to scorched in the blink of an eye. A candy thermometer is your best friend until you start to recognize the signs of candy being done.

Here's what you'll need to line up:

  • candy thermometer (you can find this at the grocery store)

  • a 5 quart or larger pot. The original recipe calls for a 3qt heavy pot, but without doubling the recipe, my caramel boiled right over the pot and I had to quickly transfer it to a bigger pot. It can't hurt to go bigger- you'll avoid a very sticky mess.

  • parchment paper, or your silpat

  • 8×8 or 9×9 pan (or large jelly-roll cookie sheet if doubling recipe)


    •    1 cup butter, chopped into small pieces
    •    1 cup light corn syrup
    •    2 cups light cream (or half and half)
    •    2 1/4 cup brown sugar
    •    1 tsp vanilla
    •    coarse ground salt, for sprinkling (optional)

Melt the butter in the pot over low heat. Carefully add the brown sugar by pouring it into the center of the pan (if any sugar crystals stick to the side of the pan, push them down with a silicone spatula or a damp pastry brush). Stir slowly until well combined with the melted butter. Add corn syrup and mix well, add light cream (half and half).

Turn the heat up to medium and continue to stir the candy mixture. Then slowly bring the heat up to medium high until the caramel begins to lightly boil. Once the caramel is boiling, clip the candy thermometer to the pot (don't let the bottom of the thermometer touch the bottom of the pot- it will skew your temp reading). 

If you've been stirring well, your caramel should continue to look blended as it boils. If not, your butter will begin to separate. STIR!

Reduce heat to medium, maintaining a steady boil. KEEP STIRRING. You just need to park it at the stove- if you don't stir, your caramel will separate and it will make you cry. Trust me.

This next part I'm taking directly from the original recipe:

Temperature does not raise at a steady rate, so watch thermometer closely. If you have any doubts about the accuracy of your thermometer, periodically do a test by dropping a little in cold water. When thermometer reaches 244°, remove caramel from heat.

Stir in vanilla. If dipping, start immediately. If making caramels, pour the caramel into the prepared pan. Either way, take care not to burn yourself, this stuff is so so hot.

Allow to cool for several hours and use a cold, lightly buttered knife or pizza cutter to cut into small pieces

Wrap in wax paper to store. Or to save on cutting time, just leave the whole batch out on the counter with a knife next to it and watch it gradually disappear.

The original recipe includes different stages for things like making a caramel dip and dipping apples. I loved the way the caramel turned out and will be making a batch JUST to cut up into caramel squares again soon.

Source: Giver'sLog Homemade Caramel, my foolproof recipe

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