I wanted to give Piyush something special for Christmas this year. We decided not to exchange gifts because we had just returned from India—where we bought so many incredible things! We also splurged on a pool table for our family room earlier in the month, so there really wasn’t anything either one of us needed, or wanted.
Piyush does so much for me though, so I decided to surprise him with something I know he loves…homemade soft caramels! We sometimes buy them from Knudsen’s Caramels in Redwing, MN…but seriously?! $12 a pound is a lot of money to spend on caramels. They’re delicious and definitely worth it, but it’s a splurge.
I’ve never made caramels before but I figured it couldn’t be that hard, and it’d definitely be a lot more cost effective. I did a little research online and found a recipe I thought would work. Long story short, I overcooked them (I blame my candy thermometer!) and they turned out to be hard candies instead. Failure!
Luckily, my sister stopped by with my niece and her sister-in-law, Rachel. My sister told me that Rachel makes the best caramels…and graciously she offered to teach me to make them too! I made a few changes to her original recipe…less sugar, less corn syrup and the addition of salt. I think the salt adds another dimension to the caramel and really takes it up a notch! And…they tasted a LOT like Knudsen’s caramels! Mine were a little lighter in color, but I’m pretty sure that could be fixed easily. I used white sugar. Their ingredients list includes brown sugar. Next time I’ll have to make the swap and see what happens.
I think any recipe would work to make caramels, the real secret is the timing. Knowing when to take them off the stove is important and if your candy thermometer is off—you’ll end up with caramels that are either too soft or too hard. What I found worked the best was throwing a bit of the boiling caramel in a cup of cold water. I could then reach in and grab the piece without burning myself, and see if I could roll it into a ball. If you test it this way, I guarantee you’ll have no problems and you’ll be eating delicious caramels in no time!
These caramels were a definite success! Piyush loved them so much, he convinced me to make an additional batch for our family to enjoy on Christmas Eve. They only take around an hour to come together…but they take another hour or so to wrap them all!
It was worth it. I wrapped up a few half pound packages to throw into the gift baskets I made my family and still had tons left! I’d guess one batch makes about 6 lbs (I didn’t actually measure this time). I put the leftover caramels into a pretty bowl and set them out with all the other goodies I made.
The caramels were definitely the biggest hit—well, maybe tied with the “Dorthy Cookies”—but that’s another post.
I was excited that my family loved them so much. My cousins and grandpa even went home with handfuls stuffed in their pockets! By the time everyone had cleared out there were only 4 caramels left in the bowl!
I have a feeling these will be requested at every family function!
I really enjoyed this Christmas. I didn’t take many photos, but we had an amazing dinner, lots of good conversation, pool tournaments, and even a little Christmas caroling—courtesy of my sister. I’m really tempted to put the video of her jamming out on Piyush’s guitar here on my blog, but instead I’ll leave you with a few photos instead.