My mother has been making Christmas caramels every year since as long as I can remember. It’s by far and away my favorite Christmas tradition and favorite holiday treat. She used to make pan after pan and we would all help cut them out and bag them for gifts. I know you’ll find this hard to believe, but I now find myself doing the same thing. Each year I’m a little more confident about my Christmas caramel making skills and find myself making a few more batches for friends, teachers, and neighbors.
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There are plenty of caramel recipes out there, and each one is a little different. My mom has always made hers with Mexican vanilla for a little extra cinnamon and spice. Even with regular vanilla these are soooo good and my friends and coworkers look forward to these candies each year.
We also prefer ours with a little bit of chew. If you like yours really soft, don’t cook them as long. That’s the joy of making them yourself, you’ll learn to make them how you like. Like I mentioned above, I get more confident about making caramels each year. I’ve failed several times in years past and got frustrated on many occasions. Be patient with yourself and know it will take some practice.
What you’ll need to make them:
A large heavy bottom-sauce pan– You can use any pan, I just linked this one as an example. I like how it has the side spout.
Candy Thermometer– You can grab one at Walmart when you get your candy making supplies or order one on Amazon right now. These are really cheap and there isn’t any need for a fancy one.
9X13 Casserole Dish– This is what you’ll pour the hot caramel into to cool. If you don’t have a casserole dish just use a cookie sheet.
Parchment Paper– This is a MUST. Line your casserole dish with a giant piece of parchment paper (secure with clothes line clips on each side of the dish) so you can lift your cooled caramels right out for cutting.
Candy Cutter– If you’re serious about making caramels this Christmas, and every Christmas to come, you need this. This cutter makes cutting caramels SO much easier.
Polyethylene Gold Embossed Floral Foil– We use this floral wrap to wrap our caramels. It comes in all different colors. Make sure to get one that is lined with polyethylene so the candy doesn’t stick. If you’re on a strict budget and want to save a few bucks, wrap them in wax paper.
Cute Christmas tins or bags- I usually stock up each year after Christmas for the next year. You can find cute tins at Walmart, Target, or the dollar stores.
- 1 cup unsalted butter (16 tablespoons)
- 2 cups corn syrup
- 2 pounds dark brown sugar
- 2, 14oz. cans condensed sweetened milk
- pinch of salt
- 2 teaspoons Mexican vanilla (any vanilla will work)
- Line a 9X13 pan or dish with parchment paper. Use clothes pins to hold it in place.
- In a large, heavy bottom pan (not teflon) over medium heat, place all ingredients except for the vanilla.
- Stir continually with a wooden spoon, making sure to get the bottom of the pan. When it starts to boil, insert the candy thermometer (it clips to the side of the pan).
- When the candy reaches a temp. of 245 degrees, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.
- Return to medium heat and keep stirring until it reaches 255 degrees. Test candy by drizzling a bit into a cup of ice water to see if you like the firmness.
- Dump all the caramel into your parchment lined pan and let cool completely before cutting and wrapping.
A few times I've let my caramels cool and found them to be too soft. If this happens you can simply put it back in the pan and reheat it again. On the contrary, if you over cooked the caramel and they're too hard, well, consider them hard candies!
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