So this is generally what happens when I make caramels…people hoard them. Like little old ladies at a buffet. They put them in pockets and in handbags and take them home to save for later. I know this because when I see them “later” they say, “I have one left” and hold up one of my cellophane wrapped treats, a grin on their faces like they have won the candy lottery.
I have to admit this makes me feel pretty good. I really enjoy cooking and baking for others – friends, family, neighborhood gatherings. To me their are few things in life like gathering with good people and eating good food.
I am actually lucky enough to do this at least once or twice every month with girlfriends. The gatherings have become fewer as our kids have grown but we still make the time to sit at a table, on a porch, or at the beach because we enjoy each others company, because we have common interests, because we are moms and parenting, when done well, is hard (but rewarding) work.
Recently we gathered on my friend Jill’s beautiful screened-in back porch. It was stormy – thunder, lightening, even hail – but her porch, as always, was welcoming and warm. We each bring a little something, whether an appetizer, dessert or wine. I wanted to bring something for dessert and, as usual, the hard decision for me is what to make. Since a couple other girls were thinking of bringing dessert I thought I’d make just a bite and these caramels were perfect.
Easy to make, chewy and buttery, with a hint of orange and the bite of salt…the caramels that survived my family to go to our gathering were enjoyed. And at least a couple were pocketed for later.
You’ll need a candy thermometer for this recipe. Don’t be afraid. Take a deep breath, follow the recipe and I promise you will be happy with the results. Caramel is not a bad word.
1 cup dark corn syrup
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup heavy cream
3 tbs unsalted butter, cubed
1/4 tsp orange oil (found in the health/natural section of my grocery store)
1/2 tsp Maldon sea salt, divided
Line an 8 inch square baking pan with foil and lightly oil bottom and sides. Be sure the foil overlaps all sides so you can easily grab the caramel out of the pan after it has cooled.
In a heavy bottomed pot, combine the corn syrup, both sugars, and the cream. Simmer on medium high and stir occasionally until your candy thermometer reaches 240 degrees, or the soft ball stage. This should take about 20-30 minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, orange oil, and half of the Maldon sea salt, or 1/4 tsp.
Pour the caramel into the prepared pan. Let cool about 30 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining 1/4 tsp of sea salt.
Give it about an hour or so to cool completely. Lift the caramel out of the pan onto a cutting board. Remove the foil. Using a sharp chef’s knife, cut the caramel into bite sized pieces and wrap each piece in clear cellophane candy wrappers. These can be ordered online. boxandwrap.com sells them in 4 inch x 4 inch squares, 1000 count for $13.60.