On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me
Two turtledoves and a partridge in a pear tree.
These are by far the easiest caramels I’ve ever made. Instead of anxiously keeping tabs on every grain of sugar on the side of your pot because you know it’s a cardinal pastry sin to stir caramel, go to town with your wooden spoon. Instead of watching the browning sugar like a hawk because thirty seconds can mean disaster, this all-in approach gives you a buffer and extends that window. So what’s the secret?
I tried a new approach that I found in Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything: throw everything in the pot at once and just let it hang out over medium heat. Once the sugar dissolves in the cream, you just need to give it a stir every few minutes and wait for the magic to happen. Because cream contains a bunch of water and water requires a lot of energy to heat up, the process takes longer than caramelizing the sugar on its own. Have patience, grasshopper, this also means it takes concerted effort to let the caramel go too far. Less babying and a whole lot less stress? Worth it for me.
These candies play on traditional turtles (caramels with whole pecan “feet”) with a little twist. Turtledoves have the pecans inside the caramel instead of on the bottom, and I also threw in some dried cranberries. A final dip in melted chocolate takes them over the top. I can’t stop eating them! The sweet, chewy caramel with toasty pecans, tart cranberries, and the snap of chocolate gets me every time. It makes a boatload (yes, that’s a technical term), so take them to a holiday or New Year’s party and blow your friends away!
Science tidbit: a bit of baking soda adds some fizz to the caramel, but it’s not just for fun. The basic baking soda reacts with acidic corn syrup to create little air pockets that make the final candy light and chewy.
- ½ c. butter
- 1½ c. heavy cream
- 2 c. sugar
- ½ c. light corn syrup
- ¼ t. salt
- ½ t. baking soda
- 1½ t. vanilla
- 1½ c. pecans
- 1 c. dried cranberries
- 2 c. chocolate chips
- Prepare your dish(es) by lining with foil or waxed paper and greasing it. You can pour all of the caramel into a 9-inch square pan, spoon all of it in rounds onto two sheet trays, or spoon half onto one sheet tray and pour the rest into a loaf pan.
- Combine the butter, cream, sugar, corn syrup, salt, and baking soda in a large saucepan, making sure the mixture has plenty of room to bubble up. Stir constantly over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.
- Continue to cook over medium heat until the caramel reaches a deep golden brown and measures 245 degrees F.
- While the caramel cooks, toast and roughly chop the pecans. Soak the cranberries for 10 minutes in hot tap water and drain.
- Remove the caramel from the heat and add the vanilla, chopped pecans, and cranberries. Stir until evenly distributed.
- Pour the caramel into your prepared dish or let it cool almost to room temperature and use two greased spoons to drop it in blobs on a sheet tray. If the caramel runs too much, let it cool longer. Refrigerate the caramels until firm.
- When the caramels are set, melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler or microwave. Remove the caramels from the pan and cut into squares or other shapes, or remove the caramel rounds from the foil or waxed paper. Dip each caramel in the chocolate and place on a foil- or waxed paper-lined sheet tray, then refrigerate until the chocolate hardens.
- Keep up to a week, sealed, in the fridge.
Caramel recipe from How to Cook Everything, inspiration from Food and Wine.