My latest candy craze is the soft "Homemade Caramels" sold at Home of Economy. Not sure in whose home they are made, but I could buy those babies by the box. At 25 cents apiece I've been known to invest a few dollars and bring home a heaping handful.
I was itching to drive over there this afternoon and get my fix when I remembered Patti's caramels she brought to work this winter. THOSE truly were homemade. Yum. After finally locating the recipe I discovered I actually had all the ingredients on hand and a candy thermometer which was still in one piece (I tend to break those regularly).
I had only one problem while cooking this candy--which should I follow: the time (12-15 minutes) or the temperature (firm ball stage)? I opted for the temperature but I'm not sure it was the right thing to do.
Here's the recipe:
1 cup margarine
2 1/4 cups brown sugar
dash of salt
1 cup light Karo syrup
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
Melt Margarine; add brown sugar and salt. Stir until mixed. Blend in corn syrup. Gradually add condensed milk, stirring constantly. Continue to cook and stir over medium heat, 12-15 minutes, until it reaches firm ball stage. Remove from heat. Add vanilla and nuts, if desired. Pour into greased 9 x 13" pan and refrigerate.
I added vanilla but left out the nuts. I might skip the vanilla next time. I also overgreased the pan, I think--not sure. After refrigerating for a short while, using a kitchen scissor I cut the caramel into bite sized pieces. I started to wrap each individually but lost steam quickly in that endeavor and so I simply used wax paper to layer pieces in a small container.
I think I answered my own question already, it's possible I should have stopped cooking after 15 minutes even though they weren't at "firm ball stage" because they got darker than I remember Patti's caramels being. They taste darker too. Not bad, just not quite what I had in mind.
I'll have to try again when I need my next caramel fix.