For the Love of Junk

December 14, 2011

Homemade Caramel... Mmmmmm!

Naively I decided to make my first batch of caramel. I say naively because I assumed it would be a simple task and didn't spend time reading about the process first.  I started by combining sugar, light corn syrup, and water in a large boiler over high heat.  As directed in the recipe I was using, I cooked without stirring until the mixture was boiling and had turned amber. 

Next I removed the bubbling concoction, cooled it slightly, and added cream to the mixture.  The recipe indicated there would be a little splattering which was an understatement!  Instead of a little spattering, the mixture suddenly turned into a boiling, angry creature lunging toward my hand.  Fortunately my reaction time, fueled by caffeine, was lightening fast and I was able to pull away with only a bit of a singe.  I researched later and found more accurate descriptions of the addition of cream to the mixture including "molten lava" and " will bubble up violently." Despite the challenge, fresh caramel tastes amazing and is worth the effort (just be extremely careful).  The recipe follows.

Caramel (based on a Martha Stewart cake recipe)
4 c. granulated sugar
1/4 c. light corn syrup
2 c. half and half or heavy cream
Pinch of salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, cold, cut into tablespoons
1/4 c. water

Combine sugar, corn syrup and water in a large boiler over high heat. Cook, without stirring, until mixture is amber (about 14 minutes).  Remove from heat, let cool slightly and very slowly and carefully begin pouring the cream into the sugar mixture - the mixture will pop, splatter, and boil out violently if the cream is poured too quickly (be very, very careful).  Stir until smooth.  Return to heat and cook until a candy thermometer reaches 238 degrees (soft ball stage). 

Remove from heat.  Let cool 15 minutes.  Begin adding the cold butter 1 tablespoon at a time.  

Stir until the butter is all melted and the caramel is very smooth. 

Makes a little over 2 quarts.  The caramel didn't last long in our house!  It is especially good over ice cream or nuts!

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