sticky, chewy caramels

March 26, 2011 § 17 Comments


Some of you guys might have forgotten (or not even know) that this blog is part of a project. The reason I bring it up now is because today’s post is inspired by one of my friends’ own senior inquiry: Can I learn how to make candy? As it turns out, a fair share of kids in my grade don’t know how to cook and have taken on the project of learning. I especially liked Leon’s proposal because he’s a very with-it kind of a guy and is always bringing delicious confections into school for us to taste test.ย That said, he’s also the one who inspired me to get over my apprehension towards making candies at home and the first confection I chose to tackle was the first one he brought into school: caramels.

lined up and chopped

The thing about me, in case you guys don’t know this already, is that I love to make things infinitely more difficult for myself by not purchasing all sorts of equipment that I sort of need. I like to justify my lethargy life choices by reasoning that people have been baking, cooking, and making candy for hundreds of years, way before all these newfangled gadgets were even ideas. And I think, if they could do it with their hands, then so can I. So I trudge onward, usually unarmed, plowing my way through recipes.

yes, it's a christmas tin

I’m pretty sure you guys can predict that I made these caramels without a thermometer, and you guys would be absolutely correct! I know, I know, I should really use a candy thermometer when working with molten sugar, but can I be honest? I should also wear a helmet at all times when I ride my bike and read my math book before attempting homework, but I typically don’t do either of these things. Oh ho, I really live on the edge.

rich and caramelized

As it turns out, you can make caramels just fine without a candy thermometer if you’re familiar with the stages of sugar as it cooks. This handy dandy guide throws quite a few words at you about which stages correspond to which temperature ranges and which candy you’re making, but trust me, read it all because it’s really helpful. To paraphrase, you cook your caramel and test it occasionally by dropping it into a bowl of cold water and checking the hardness. When it forms a solid lump that’s the texture that you like (or just slightly softer), stop cooking it and pour it into your lined pan and let it sit.

close up!

So now that we’ve got that kitchen chemistry that I actually find really interesting because I’m a dork out of the way, we can get onto the yummy stuff: actually making these! When Leon brought homemade caramels into school for the first time, people wept. They converted caramel-haters into caramel-lovers and caramel-lovers into willing servants of the Caramel God. There must be one. Well, maybe not exactly, but these things are really good. Seriously, go! Scoot to your kitchen, be a little careful not to burn yourself, and make yourself some of these!

they're so cute

Sticky, Chewy Caramels
an amalgamated adaptation of many recipes

1 cup heavy cream
5 tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water

Line an 8 inch-by-8 inch baking pan with parchment that has been lightly buttered and set on a cooling rack.

Heat the cream, butter, and vanilla extract in a small saucepan until boiling. Doing this with a bowl in a microwave also works just fine. Remove from heat/microwave and set to the side.

In a medium/large saucepan with tall sides combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until all the sugar is dissolved. Keep cooking this syrup and swirl it occasionally, but don’t mix it! You run the risk of the crystals coming out of solution if you stir too much, or even at all. Do this until the syrup has taken on a light golden color. I describe it as ‘blonde’ for some reason.

Now stir in the cream mixture carefully. It’ll bubble up and splatter quite a bit, so use a long-handled spoon or wear oven mitts and long sleeves. That sugar is really hot and could actually burn you pretty badly. Keep stirring it and testing it with the cold water method mentioned above. When the caramel you drop into the bowl forms a chewy lump that yields to pressure, take the saucepan off the heat and pour everything into the lined baking pan. (Note: Resist the urge to scrap everything out of the saucepan. For some long-winded chemistry-related reasons, this does not bode well for your caramels, so don’t do it!)

Let the pan sit until the caramel has cooled completely and then cut them into pieces with a buttered knife and wrap in wax paper. Enjoy!

§ 17 Responses to sticky, chewy caramels

  • overthespoon says:

    Can’t wait to try these this weekend!

  • Hi, Joyce! I make a similar caramel every year for Christmas. Here’s another great guide to sugar stages, this one with video clips, for sussing out when you’ve reached the right point without a candy thermometer. Happy cooking, baking, and candymaking to your classmates! Here’s the site:

    • bitemythumb says:

      Oh wow, thanks Laura, that’s such a handy site!
      Some of our friends have already been asking how to make caramels, since Leon & I have started bringing it in pretty regularly. This’ll be a helpful site to direct them towards!

  • overthespoon says:

    Hi Joyce,

    I made these, but they came out like fudge! Where did I go wrong?

    • bitemythumb says:

      Hey Molly,
      I’m sorry they turn out quite right. I think the problem might’ve been undercooking, since fudges are cooked to soft ball stage and caramel is cooked to firm ball stage.
      Laura just gave me this wonderful visual aid that you might want to check out for testing the caramel’s stage.

  • Jessie Anna says:

    I just made these, and they turned out awesome! I’ve never done any sort of candy before, and as I’m also lacking a candy thermometer, I was pretty apprehensive about winging this.
    But the water test came through, and these little guys are sticky little bundles of joy.

    I blogged about them too, over at my Tumblr. Linked back here first thing!
    Thanks so much for the recipe. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Sidney says:

    Hey,is there a way to make caramel without syrup?Thanks!

  • Kate says:

    This is AMAZING!!! I’ve never been able to conquer caramel (you don’t even want to know how many pints of cream have died in vain!) Today I used this recipe and made delicious caramel apples… A million times over, THANKS!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Amanda says:

    love this … was always a bit scared of having no thermometer but this is awesome … caramel apples … halloween … need i say more all the children will love you today … hope it works for me

  • Snowfire says:

    I tried and failed. I’m really indesisive so by the time I took them off the heat they became rock hard. They taste okay though. Great recipe, but I just can’t bake well. I’ll try again someday though.

  • Jessica says:

    These were really good, except for the fact that I over cooked them! Every thing was going fine, and I was checking the heat by using the cold water. I dropped some of it in and it was perfect! Nice, Soft ,and chewy! But the color was very light so I thought I had to cook it more, long story short when I tested them a minute later the consistency in the cold water was hard, very hard. Barley malleable. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ I was very nervous that they were ruined! It turned out that I had made delicious hard caramel candy! I poped it right out of its wax paper lining and broke it to make little pieces, everyone loved it! Can you post a picture of when you call the sugar and water “blond” I think I put the creme too early and that was why mine was so light! Thanks so much for this recipie!

  • Annika Moeller says:

    I have a batch of these on the stove right now and they’ve been cooking for around 20 minutes and they are still extremely watery, not burning, and I have the stove on the highest setting… what am I doing wrong?

  • Aurora says:

    Can’t wait!!!

  • Anna says:

    I made caramels for the first time today and I overcooked the first batch so it came out rock solid, but the second was great! Thanks for the recipe.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

What’s this?

You are currently reading sticky, chewy caramels at bitemythumb.


%d bloggers like this: