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Caramels

Ingredients
  • 8 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 cup sugar
Directions
  1. Combine the butter, cut into pieces, and cream in a small glass bowl, and microwave for about 1 1/2 minutes, until hot. Set aside.
  2. In a small stainless steel saucepan, combine the water, light corn syrup, and sugar. Stir just enough to moisten the sugar. The goal is to avoid having the mixture collect on the sides of the pan, which happens when you vigoriusly mix with a spoon or shake the pan; the sugar will tend to crystallize where it touches the sides. Pouring the water and syrup in first and then adding the sugar allows it to dissolve in the liquid without splattering the sides.
  3. Heat over medium-high heat until the mixture comes to a boil, and then cover with a lid for a minute or so to create moisture in the pan and melt any sugar that may be clinging to the pan sides.
  4. Place the candy thermometer in the pan and cook for about 6 minutes, or until the sugar reaches a temperature of 320°F (160°C), at which point it will begin to take on a light golden color around the edge. At that point, pour the butter and cream mixture gradually into the pan, adding about a third of it at a time, and stir, using the base of your thermometer to incorporate it.
  5. Continue cooking for another 5 or 6 minutes, until the mixture reaches a temperature of 240°F (115°C) on the thermometer, the soft-ball stage. (This will create a relatively soft caramel; if you bring the temperature to about 245°F (118°C), the caramels will be hard; so make adjustments based on your own taste.)
  6. As soon as the caramel reaches the desired temperature, pour into an oiled loaf pan, with a base that measures about 7 1/2 inches long by about 3 1/2 inches wide, lined with a strip of oiled parchment paper that is long enough to extend up and slightly over either end of the pan.
  7. Cool, uncovered, at room temperature for about 4 hours. Invert and unmold onto a sheet of parchment paper or waxed paper (pulling gently on the paper strips, if necessary). If the caramel is still too soft to work with, refrigerate for an hour or so to firm it up. Cut into strips about 1 1/2 inches wide, and then cut the strips into 3/4-inch lengths to have about 20 caramels. Wrap in squares of plastic wrap or waxed paper and enjoy immediately, or refrigerate or freeze for eating later.
  8. To make chocolate-dipped caramels, let the cut caramels firm up overnight, uncovered, in the refrigerator. Drop the squares of chocolate into a glass measuring cup and microwave for 1 minute. Wait a few minutes, and then microwave the chocolate for another minute. It should be thoroughly melted at this point.
  9. Dip one end of each caramel into the melted chocolate, so that it covers about half the caramel, and place the caramels on a piece of parchment paper to harden. When cool and hard, wrap the caramels and store them in the refrigerator.
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