I made my two favorites for our close friends- toffee and caramels. The toffee is a BHG recipe that I love because it's easy and never fails. I leave out the nuts, but it is wonderful with the almonds on top!
Next up is my absolute FAVORITE caramel recipe. I know this is so old school, but who out there likes See's Candy? My parents are old school, so I blame them. Actually, it dates back to my grandma, who was a huge See's fan. Anyway, they have the best caramels- soft, light, buttery and sweet. This Martha Stewart recipe is the closest I've had to See's. Yes, it does take a lot of corn syrup. And yes, it does take an hour of standing at the stove stirring. And yes, it does make 150 pieces that take 2 hours to cut and individually wrap. But it's SO worth it!
Makes about 150.
- 4 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup sweetened condensed milk (note: that is one CUP, NOT can)
- 4 cups light corn syrup
- 4 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- Vegetable-oil cooking spray
- Spray an 11 3/4-by-16 1/2-inch baking pan (this is a half-sheet pan) with vegetable-oil spray. Set aside in a spot where it will not be moved. In a 2-quart saucepan, combine cream and sweetened condensed milk; set aside.
- In a heavy 6- to 8-quart saucepan, combine corn syrup, 1 cup water, sugar, and salt. Clip on candy thermometer. Over high heat, cook until sugar is dissolved, stirring with a wooden spoon, 8 to 12 minutes. Brush down sides of pan with a pastry brush dipped in water to remove any sugar crystals.
- Stop stirring, reduce heat to medium, and bring to a boil. Cook, without stirring, until temperature reaches 250 degrees (hard-ball stage), 45 to 60 minutes. Meanwhile, cook cream mixture over low heat until it is just warm. Do not boil. When sugar reaches 250 degrees. slowly stir in butter and warmed cream mixture, keeping mixture boiling at all times. Stirring constantly, cook over medium heat until thermometer reaches 244 degrees (firm-ball stage), 55 to 75 minutes. Stir in vanilla. Immediately pour into prepared pan without scraping pot. Let stand uncovered at room temperature for 24 hours without moving.
- To cut, spray a large cutting board generously with vegetable-oil spray. Unmold caramel from pan onto sprayed surface. Cut into 1-by-1 1/4-inch pieces, or other shapes. Wrap each in cellophane or waxed paper.
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped almonds or pecans, toasted
- 1 cup butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons water
- 1 tablespoon light-colored corn syrup
- 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate pieces
- 1/2 cup finely chopped almonds or pecans, toasted
Line a 13x9x2-inch baking pan with foil, extending foil over edges of pan. Sprinkle the 1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts in pan. Set pan aside.
Butter sides of a heavy 2-quart saucepan. In saucepan melt butter. Add sugar, water, and corn syrup. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until mixture boils. Clip a candy thermometer to side of pan. Reduce heat to medium; continue boiling at a moderate, steady rate, stirring frequently, till thermometer registers 290 degree F, soft-crack stage (about 15 minutes). Watch care-fully after 280 degree F to prevent scorching. Remove saucepan from heat; remove thermometer. Pour candy into the prepared pan.
Let candy stand about 5 minutes or till firm; sprinkle with chocolate. Let stand 1 to 2 minutes. When chocolate has softened, spread over candy. Sprinkle with the 1/2 cup finely chopped nuts. Chill until firm. When candy is firm, use foil to lift it out of pan; break into pieces. Store tightly covered. Makes about 1-1/2 pounds (48 servings).