Caramels

The holiday season seems to give us permission to indulge in decadent treats we ordinarily would resist the rest of the year, meaning anything made with lots of cream, butter and sugar — caramels!

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A year ago, I made a bittersweet decision to leave my Berkshire roots and make the move to the Finger Lakes region of New York state, as many parents do at this stage of life, to be closer to my children and grandchildren.

I was born and raised, and lived, in the Berkshires for 65 years; thus, the bittersweet decision to make the move. I miss the Berkshires and I’m a New Englander through and through, but my new home is starting to feel like home because, after all, home is where the heart is.

As often as possible, I’d write about foods local to the Berkshires and Southern Vermont, but you have to live locally to be on top of what is going on locally … right? So, now, I’ve made the bittersweet decision to make this my last column. Here goes!

The holiday season seems to give us permission to indulge in decadent treats we ordinarily would resist the rest of the year, meaning anything made with lots of cream, butter and sugar!

My decadent splurge for the holidays is made with lots of cream, but you can’t make the best piece of caramel you will ever eat without lots of cream. It will take time and patience to make this recipe, and you will need to buy a candy thermometer, but the pay off is a creamy caramel that’s better than any you can buy.

CARAMELS

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups whipping cream

2/3 cups sweetened condensed milk

2 cups sugar

2 cups light corn syrup

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

Line an 8-by-8-by-2-inch baking pan with foil, extending foil over edges of pan. Butter the foil.

In a saucepan, combine whipping cream and sweetened condensed milk. Heat over medium heat, stirring until warm. Keep warm over lowest setting.

In a 3-quart saucepan, mix sugar, corn syrup and salt. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring slowly and constantly with a wooden spoon to dissolve sugar. Avoid splashing the mixture on the sides of the pan. Cook 1 minute more. Reduce heat to medium.

Very slowly add the warm cream mixture to the syrup, 1/4 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. For a creamier caramel, stir for 3 minutes after adding each 1/4 cup of cream.

Continue to cook mixture, stirring frequently, till a candy thermometer registers 242 F. The mixture should boil at a moderate, steady rate until it reaches temp.

Remove pan from heat. Immediately stir in vanilla and optional nuts. Quickly pour caramel, without scraping sides of saucepan, into prepped pan. Let stand for several hours until firm.

Use foil to lift candy out of the pan onto a cutting board. Peel away foil. Use a buttered, sharp knife to cut caramel into 1-inch squares as soon as removing foil. Wrap each piece in wax paper and store in a covered container.

Chocolate variation: Stir in 3 squares unsweetened chocolate after all the cream is added.


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