What’s the one thing you wish to the Almighty you could do but just can’t? No matter how hard you try? The thing you see and immediately think, oh, if only I could do that? For some it is stick-shift driving. Others it’s speaking with a French accent. Still more wish they could dance without looking like a duck having a seizure (or is that just me?).
Seriously though, cooked sugar is my Everest.
I have tried repeatedly over the years to make caramel properly. First it wasn’t hot enough, and it sloshed around the pan like a little tan wading pool. Then I burned it. Thank goodness for the slabs of chocolate cake surrounding it that masked the slightly acrid notes of the frosting. I began to despair I was never going to get it. And I do love me some caramel.
So imagine my delight while browsing Pinterest and finding a pin for microwaveable caramels. It even had a cute little graphic to go with it, assuring me that it would be a piece of cake (and I wouldn’t ruin ANOTHER pot). I pinned it about two months ago and then kinda forgot about it. I think I really have a mental block when it comes to failing at cooking sugar.
For whatever reason, I decided to give it a go on Sunday. While I still have miles to go in this department, at least it seems I have finally at least found a sherpa.
It didn’t suck.
I realize that is not a ringing endorsement of this recipe. I feel, however, that any shortcomings are more due to my error than the recipe. When I make this again (because I am nothing if not a glutton for punishment…and it is really good), I will make the following adjustments:
1) Adjust the ratio of granulated sugar to brown sugar (favoring the white stuff).
2) Test the final product with a candy thermometer to make sure it reaches 248F/120C before I pour it into the pan. Mine didn’t set up QUITE the way I wanted it to.
3) Use WAY more salt at the end.
7-Minute Caramels (lightly adapted from Make It & Love It)
Makes one 8-inch square pan of caramels
1/4 cup butter, softened and cut into cubes
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup agave nectar (corn syrup or honey works too)
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
Coarse sea salt (not optional, so yummy)
Melted semi-sweet chocolate (optional)
1) Generously grease an 8×8-inch pan with butter or spray.
2) Combine all ingredients into a medium, microwave-safe bowl.
3) Microwave in 2-minute bursts, stirring well each time. When you reach 7 minutes (it’ll be all bubbly so look out), stir well and then test with a thermometer to make sure the mixture is at 248F/120C.
4) If it has reached the magical temperature, pour the caramel into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with the sea salt to your taste and then let set. You can use the fridge here if you are inpatient.
5) Once it’s hardened, remove it from the pan, cutting around the outside edge with a sharp knife and lift it out of the pan with a spatula.
6) Place it on a piece of waxed paper, and with a buttered knife, cut into squares as large or as small as you like. Here is where you can dip pieces into the melted chocolate for chocolate sea salt caramels. Let set on the waxed paper (if you can wait that long).
What is your Everest? Did you try the caramels? Tell me in the comments.
Click below for a printable recipe card.