Have you ever made candy before? It’s actually shockingly easy, even though it can sound intimidating.
Like baking, candy making is extremely precise. You’ll want to have a candy thermometer (I have some random one I picked up at Giant, but it’s basically this one.) and make sure to keep a careful eye on the temperature. Too high, and you’ll have hard, brittle candy (which is great if you want peanut brittle, bad if you want gooey caramel). Too low and you’ll have a caramel sauce. Luckily, most candy thermometers have markings telling you which temperature equals which stage of candy making. A quick rundown of the stages:
- 230 F – “Thread.” Sauce.
- 235-240°F – “Soft Ball.” Soft caramel, fudge, pralines, and fondant.
- 242-250°F – “Firm Ball.” Caramel, marshmallows, gummies.
- 250- 265°F – “Hard Ball.” Nougat, rock candy.
- 270-290°F – “Soft Crack.” Saltwater Taffy, Butterscotch.
- 300-310°F – “Hard Crack.” Toffee, PEANUT BRITTLE, and lollipops.
The other thing I recommend having for candy success is a three-quart saucepan. Candy has a tendency to bubble sharply, and what is a sticky disaster in a two quart pan is merely bubbles with a three quart saucepan.
“This sounds very messy,” you may be thinking to yourself. Here’s the best part of candy making – if you soak your pot, candy thermometer, and any utensils used for about an hour, the sugar just melts away.
SO, gather your candy thermometer and let’s blow our minds with these caramels.
The basic recipe for these is from Bon Appétit. Let me tell you, I’ve made vanilla caramel before. These are way better. Partly because of the direction to cook the caramel to a dark amber, partly the sweetened condensed milk, and partly the Honey Bourbon, these have a luxurious undertone that makes all other caramels seem bland in comparison.
One last thing to keep in mind about candymaking is you can spend a lot of time waiting for the sugar to melt, but the final stages usually move VERY quickly, with a lot of stirring. I recommend prepping all your ingredients ahead of time and keeping them handy.
So gather your candy thermometers, think very hard about the shades of amber, and make these caramels. The most difficult part of this candy recipe will be waiting for it to cool.
Honey Bourbon Sea Salt Caramels
(Only a little bit adapted from this Bon Appétit recipe)
- Nonstick vegetable oil spray, such as Pam
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
- 3 tablespoons honey bourbon (I used Wild Turkey Honey Bourbon)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Flaky sea salt (optional. Christopher HATES sea salt crunching on things so I skipped it.)
- Spray an 8″x8″ or equivalent baking pan with the nonstick spray. Line the pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang of about 2″ on 2 sides. Spray the parchment paper with nonstick spray.
- Bring sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water to boil in a 3-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture turns a deep amber color, approximately 8 to 10 minutes. You don’t need a candy thermometer for this step.
- Remove pan from heat and whisk in sweetened condensed milk and butter. Everything will bubble aggressively, DO NOT BE ALARMED. Instead be thankful you used a 3-quart pan.
- Attach the candy thermometer and return to a medium-low heat. Continue to whisk constantly while watching the thermometer, until the thermometer registers 240 degrees.
- Remove from heat and whisk in bourbon and kosher salt.
- Pour into prepared pan; wait impatiently to cool.