ok. let me tell you. these caramels are downright amazing. they are super soft, chewy, buttery with the amazing taste of deep brown sugar and vanilla. then they are topped with pink himalayan sea salt which literally makes them taste like crack. it makes them very...very...very.........addicting. plus, if you give them out as gifts (which will be hard to do since they're so good and you'll want to hog them to yourself like a squirrel hoards nuts) people will love you. and ask you to make them again and again and again.
for the last three years i have made these caramels for christmas. for the last 2 out of 3 years i have ruined batches of these too. they were supposed to be so simple!! yet, i could not get them right! i found myself frustrated and annoyed i was at the store (AGAIN) buying more ingredients. but they really are simple!! i finally mastered them this year and i'll tell you my secrets. my first mistake was that i had the whole mixture on too low of heat. even though they came to temp (the magic number is 244 F) they took over an hour to get there, ruining the texture. my second mistake was that i didn't stir them nearly enough! this caused bits of browned pieces all throughout my caramel. they still tasted great, they just weren't as pretty. my other mistake was that i didn't melt the butter first before adding the other ingredients. so that's...one, two, three screwed up pots of caramel. so if you take advice from anyone you can trust me because i've been there. done that. haha. so here are the 4 secrets:
1) melt the butter first! (use salted)
2) stir CONSTANTLY over med-high heat (not low heat)
3) use a temp probe and bring mixture to 244 F
4) use a dutch oven
that is it! even though i messed it up several times. it really isn't hard to do. i believe in you!! i got this recipe from a dear coworker of mine who got it from her friend. they are infamously known as "Debbie's caramels". the other great thing about these is the recipe uses a whole container each of all the ingredients so there is literally no measuring.
1 sheet tray lined with parchment paper
1 heat proof spatula or wooden spoon
1 dutch oven
1 temp probe that goes to 450 F
1 cutting board + 1 knife
easy salted vanilla caramels
makes ~9 dozen large or 18 dozen small caramels
1 lb. salted butter
2 lbs. dark brown sugar
1 bottle corn syrup (16 oz)
2 cans sweetened condensed milk (14 oz each)
1 T vanilla paste
pink himalayan sea salt
wax paper cut into 4" x 4" squares
1) ready a sheet tray lined with parchment and sprayed with cooking spray. melt butter in a dutch oven until completely melted on low heat.
2) add the brown sugar, corn syrup and sweetened condensed milk stir to combine with wooden spoon or heat proof spatula. turn mixture to medium high heat.
3) stir CONSTANTLY until the mixture reaches 244 F. when the caramel is getting close to done, the mixture will slightly start to turn darker and thicken. as soon as it hits 244 F, turn off the heat and add vanilla paste. if you use extract, stand back as mixture will bubble.
4) pour caramel onto prepared sheet tray. let caramels cool completely about 4 hours. sprinkle with sea salt to your liking. (i like a lot). cut into 1" x 2" rectangles and wrap in wax paper cut into squares, twisting the ends shut.