Every year I have the same conversation with myself: “Self, what are you going to give all the peeps who should get a little something but who aren’t part of the buy-a-gift-for-that-person group?”
My Self usually comes up with some DIY project that seems like a fantastic idea but ends up being fairly sad and lame. DIY projects I plan to keep always turn out way better than the gifty ones. It’s a weird sub-law of Murphy’s Law.
This year, cookies seemed like a plan, but MAN does everyone and their mother do cookies. So I trolled Pinterest for other baked goods that would be appreciated by a large swath of people (not everyone likes peppermint-chocolate-pretzel-stacked-cookie-cakes). Guess what I found?
Recipes and wrapping instructions (with pictures!) after the amazing action shots of my candy-making marathon.
Once I found a candy thermometer, this stuff was surprisingly easy to make. It also tastes AMAZING. I did two batches – one was chocolate salted caramels and the other was classic caramels. These puppies are going into little gift boxes and making the rounds at work.
If you try either of these out (why wouldn’t you?) let me know how it goes.
Chocolate Salted Caramels (adapted from overtimecook.com)
3 oz. Ghirardelli unsweetened or bittersweet baking chocolate (you can use another brand… if you MUST)
1 cup dark corn syrup
1 cup heavy whipping cream
4 tbs unsalted butter + extra for cutting
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt + extra for sprinkling on top
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
You’ll also need parchment paper, a deep sauce pan (4 qts or bigger), a candy thermometer, a heat-hearty spatula, and wax paper
Line a 9 x 13 baking sheet with parchment paper. Make sure the paper covers not only the bottom of the sheet but also the sides.
(You can use a baking dish if you want something deeper. I just like working with baking sheets.)
(The original recipe called for buttered foil rather than parchment paper but that didn’t go well for me at ALL. If you can get parchment paper, use it.)
Pour everything but the vanilla extract into a deep, heavy pot. The pot needs to be at least three times taller than the liquid because it boils up during the cooking process.
Over medium-high heat, bring mixture to firm/hard ball stage (246-247 degrees for me, but double check your elevation/temp for yourself). I drew a line on my glass thermometer before I started cooking – it gets hard to see.
Once the mixture reaches firm ball stage, shut the flame. Quickly add the vanilla extract. Immediately pour the mixture onto the baking sheet. Let cool to room temp (chilling in the fridge helps with cutting).
Cut pieces with a buttered knife. Sprinkle kosher salt on top to taste (you should taste a lot of them…) Wrap with wax paper.
Yields about 60 pieces.
Classic Caramels (adapted from allrecipes.com)
2 cups white sugar
1 1/2 cup corn syrup (I do half dark and half light)
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup unsalted butter
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
You’ll also need parchment paper, a deep stockpot (6 qts or bigger), a candy thermometer, and a heat-hearty spatula, and wax paper
Line a large (13 x 18 or two regular size) baking sheet with parchment paper. Make sure the paper covers not only the bottom of the sheet but also the sides.
In the stockpot, combine sugar, corn syrup, 1 cup cream, and butter. Bring to a boil, stirring often, then stir in remaining 1 cup cream. Heat, stirring only occassionally (to prevent burning) to “firm ball” temp (246-247 degrees for me, but double check your elevation/temp for yourself).
Immediately remove heat. Stir in vanilla. Pour into lined baking sheet. Cool to room temperature – chill in fridge if possible.
Cut with a buttered knife and wrap with wax paper.
Yields about 110 pieces.