When I was a kid Christmas was about three things.
My grandmother, who I’ve mentioned before, would make the same tray of Christmas treats every year. Most of the things on there I didn’t care for (peanut brittle?! The word ‘brittle’ is not comforting enough for me on Christmas). One thing she did make that I couldn’t get enough of was individually wrapped caramels.
I could savor these soft caramels bite after bite because they were cut pretty big. When I make them myself I can’t bring myself to cut them any smaller.
When my grandmother passed away I received her recipe box and I’ve been trying ever since to decode each gem within.
When I made these two years ago they turned out rock hard and almost completely inedible. This time I pulled them off the heat just shy of medium ball stage (242ºF) on my ancient mercury candy thermometer (also inherited from my grandmother) and I think they’re absolutely perfect. They’re pretty soft but that makes them really easy to eat in several bites, which is good because they’re huge.
This recipe is really very simple and delivers big, sweet vanilla caramels. It calls for light cream, but I actually have no idea what light cream is. I’ve never seen it in the grocery store, have you? I substituted half a cup of heavy cream and half a cup of 1% milk and I was very happy with the results.
I love the tender texture of these caramels but you could easily add 1/2 cup chopped nuts or crushed pretzels when you add the vanilla for a bit of crunch.
Do you have a favorite heirloom recipe?
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup dark corn syrup
1/2 cup butter
1 cup light cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Butter sides of a heavy 2 quart sauce pan. In it combine sugar, syrup, butter and 1/2 cup of the cream. Bring to boiling over low heat, stirring constantly.
Slowly stir in remaining 1/2 cup cream. Cook over low heat to 242ºF stirring almost constantly towards the end. Remove from heat, add nuts and vanilla.
Pour into buttered 8×8 pan. When partially cool, mark in 32 squares. Cut when cold.
To wrap, cut an 8 inch square of wax paper in fourths, enough to make 32 squares. Place each caramel in the center of a square and wrap diagonally. Twist ends in opposite directions to close. Store in an airtight container.