Homemade Candy: Salted Butter Caramels

Homemade caramels (click through for recipe)The holidays are just around the corner. But before they start to sneak up on us in full force, I vote we all take some time this month to make some homemade candy. In collaboration with Chronicle Books to promote Rachel Khoo's new cookbook, I made these amazing salted butter caramels! 

Did you know that making your own caramels is super easy? It is. Honestly. The only real trick to it is that you'll likely want a candy thermometer. I resisted buying a candy thermometer the first few years I got into cooking. But finally, I took the plunge, and you know what? It has turned out to be one of my more used kitchen items. Go figure. 

But, if you are still resisting the ol' candy thermometer, good news, you can still make caramel. 

Homemade caramels (click through for recipe)  These are not your average caramels. Oh no. These are salted butter caramels from My Little French Kitchen. Did you know that Rachel Khoo has another cookbook out!? I loved her last one, so I was super excited to check this one out as well. And if you like French cooking and beautiful photos, then you'll love this cookbook. You can see my copy in the photo below, and it's pretty full of Post-it notes already. To me, if I immediately start filling up a cookbook with Post-its (on pages of things I want to cook), that's a very good sign.

OK, let's make caramels (or caramel sauce… you'll see).

How to make homemade caramel  Salted Butter Caramels, 3/4 cup sauce or 15-20 caramels (depending how large or small you cut them).
Recipe from My Little French Kitchen by Rachel Khoo.

3/4 cup sugar
7 tablespoons heavy cream
2 tablespoons honey
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt (plus more for the top is you wish)

Place half of the sugar plus 2 tablespoons of water in a medium saucepan or pot. Cook over medium/high heat until the sugar dissolves, begins to bubble then turns a deep amber brown. This may take 5-7 minutes depending on how hot you have your temperature turned to. It's best just to keep an eye on it so it doesn't get too dark or burnt. 

Once it turns that deep amber brown, remove from the heat and add in the remaining ingredients. Be careful as you do because the mixture may bubble up or spit at you (how rude!). 

How to make homemade caramelOnce you've added all the ingredients, return the pot to the heat source and add your candy thermometer. 

Now, if you want to simply make caramel sauce, you don't really need a thermometer. Just cook over medium heat for an additional 3-4 minutes. If you want to make caramel candies (like I did), you'll want to cook the mixture until it reaches 260Β°F or "hard ball" stage. 

How to make homemade caramel Once the mixture reaches 260Β°F, remove from heat and pour into a loaf pan lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle on a little more salt (course grain sea salt is best) if you desire. 

Allow the caramel to cool for at least an hour before you cut it into smaller pieces and wrap in parchment paper.

Homemade caramels (click through for recipe) Easy, right? Another excellent use for this recipe might be to dip apples in the hot, liquid caramel, then allow that it set for 30 minutes to an hour. Caramel apples? Yes, please! Enjoy. xo. Emma

Credits // Author and Photography: Emma Chapman. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess actions.

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    • Whenever making anything sugary and messy (like caramel, rice krispie squares, etc.) I find it’s just a matter of soaking it in very hot water immediately after use. I first run the water as hot as I can get it before filling up the pot, while also taking advantage of the water pressure and giving the entire pot a quick “once over”, with a bit of extra attention paid to any areas that won’t be in constant contact with the water during the soak, such as the very top edge of the pot, or the outside if anything had dribbled out and onto the side(s). I have a spray attachment on my faucet so that also helps with the water pressure to work at a larger area of built-up sugar more quickly and easily. But it shouldn’t take longer than say a minute (or maybe two, max.) to rinse and fill up with hot water. Then simply walk away and let it do its thing!

      When I go back to it later after the water has cooled down it should’ve all dissolved away. If not, then I just dump out the cool water and replace it with a new load of (fresh) hot water before leaving it again to do something else instead (rather than expend time and energy scrubbing at something that will easily dissolve on its own accord, without any elbow grease required). However, if I’m feeling especially impatient or needing to use the pot again immediately, then I’ll use a wooden spoon to help it along and work at the thicker, globby areas to help it dissolve. Or sometimes I might even use boiling water to dissolve it more quickly… though I don’t usually start with the boiling water (only because I prefer using the faucet spray for the initial “once over” as a “pressure wash”… or rather, as a “pre-wash pressure rinse”, as I find it easier to control than trying to direct the stream of a kettle of boiling water while pouring it over top). That’s all there is too it: it’s as simple as giving hot water a bit of time and patience to “melt” away the mess with very little effort involved… it’s really quite simple actually. Especially for recipes involving mostly sugar and butter as the main ingredients (and/or any liquids or water-soluble ingredients that will readily dissolve with heat).

      However, if you’ve also scorched the bottom of the pot and have a burnt layer of crud that’s not just sugar and butter (such as for recipes involving more starchy or fibrous ingredients) then the hot water just needs a bit of extra help: Start by sprinkle a layer of baking soda onto the bottom of the pot. Then add enough hot (or cold) water to cover about 1 cm (or about 1/2″) past the mess (cold water will just take longer to boil, otherwise the temperature doesn’t matter). Bring to a boil on stove top, then lower heat and simmer for a few minutes. Then the offending mess should easily come off with a wooden spoon or a scrubby sponge.

      Extra, bonus tip!!: For other types of messes that are more solid, or protein-based in nature (such as burnt meat or veggies on the bottom of a pot, frying pan, etc.): Soak the cooking vessel for a few hours in water with a bit of dishwashing detergent (the type used in dishwashers). The enzymes in the detergent will help break down the solid matter so very little elbow grease or effort should be required afterwards… though very stubborn messes may require leaving it to soak overnight.

      I hope these tips are helpful for those who have difficulties cleaning messy or burnt-on foods!

  • I am so scared to try and make caramel for the first time! I know you said it’s easy but I can just picture something going horribly wrong. And I’m not the most steady person when it comes to baking, I usually end up exploding cocoa all over the kitchen or spilling sauce in the middle of the floor. But these look soooo good and I want to try so bad <3

  • I can’t speak for this recipe in particular, but I made a similar caramel this past weekend and it cleaned really easily, because the sugar dissolved in soap and water. I hope that helps πŸ™‚

  • A good trick for caramel is to pull it off the stove the very SECOND it starts to smoke. Even if you’re using a thermometer, if it stars to smoke, it’s gotten too hot / been on too long. I’ve burned so much caramel that way, haha.

    Cat
    http://oddlylovely.com

  • Why is there a picture of honey? Did you actually use honey in the recipe? Could the sugar be substituted with honey?

  • Okay I just found what treat I am going to make this weekend. Love this! Looks amazing!

    xo
    Octavia
    as told by taviΒ 

  • I’ve never made caramels before. These seem super easy and yummy! Looks like I’m adding a candy thermometer to my kitchen wishlist his year. I held out on getting a digital thermometer for so long I now I can’t imagine being without one.

  • I have to say what we’re all thinking… Where can I buy that fabulous gold striped plate?!?!

    And the caramel looks pretty amazing too πŸ™‚

    But really, anyone know where I can purchase that beauty?

  • This looks amazing! How long will the caramel sauce last if I bottle it up and give it to friends? & the caramels themselves? Do you know the possible shelf life?

  • I’ve always been skeptical of salted sweets, but I tried the salted caramel pretzel ice cream in my college dining hall (I just finished my first quarter of my freshman year!) and have fallen in love. I’m planning to give salted hot chocolate a try too–I’ve heard that hot chocolate tastes amazing with a pinch of salt. -Audrey | Brunch at Audrey’s

  • I think it’s worth reminding everyone that a bubbling candy thing can inflict a terrible burn, in part because the hot stuff sticks to you. Cannot over-emphasize the caution aspect.

  • This reminded me of that time my Dad made caramels and it smelled so good in the whole house, I must have been 7yo but I still remember it clearly.

    I’ll have to try those!

  • Any tips for cutting these neatly? Seems the knife would be all sticky and make a mess? Can’t wait to try this for Christmas presents.

  • Yes, I agree with Clare. Once the pot cools a little I fill it to the brim with hot soapy water. Once it soaks for a little bit it’s pretty easy to clean out.

    Also, if you’re doing a lot of cooking I will sometimes stop up one side of my sink and fill it with warm soap water and you can just add dishes to it (excluding knives) as you go. This makes washing everything at the end super easy. This trick (learned in Home Economics in middle school) seriously saves you so much scrubby when you have a dinner party to prep for or an afternoon or making candy, popcorn balls and cakes for weekend events.

    -Emma

  • Great tip Cat. Could not agree more. And always be very careful when working with hot sugar because if you get some on your skin it will stick (as opposed to hot water).

    -Emma

  • I made hard caramels instead of sauce, but the cookbook says to store the caramel sauce in a glass container that can be sealed. You can store it in the refrigerator for a couple of months. If it’s too thick reheat with a little water to thin it.

    Hope that helps!

    -Emma

  • A couple of weeks if kept at room temperature or cooler. If they get too hot they can melt (not sure what part of the world you live in).

    To be honest we ate all of them at our office within two days… so they didn’t last very long for us. πŸ™‚

    -Emma

  • The cookbook suggests dipping your knife in very hot water (boiling). To be honest, I skipped this. I just used a sharp knife and it the caramel felt like it was sticking I gently pulled it off the knife as I worked.

    -Emma

  • I have friends that gift hand-pulled taffy to all their friends at Christmas time. This looks easier but just as delicious and sounds like a great way to return the favor!

  • I just made these, cooled them and cut them. They’re very hard. Are caramels traditionally a hard candy, or did I do something wrong?

  • And an update…just made them! I don’t have a candy thermometer, just a regular one but everything seems to have worked fine. I think I overcooked just a tiny bit with the sugar/water mix, it started to smoke a bit, next time I’m going to remove it a little early, keep stirring til it gets brown, add the rest of the ingredients & then put it back on the heat. We’ll see how they taste once it cools!

  • Are the caramels hard? I like a chewy caramel, so I was wondering if I want to take it off the heat at soft ball rather than hard ball?

  • Hi Ann,

    These are hard. You can take it off the heat at soft ball stage, not sure if they will sit up like these did but it certainly would result in a softer caramel. Good luck!

    -Emma

  • how do you slice this ? Do you cut it like a slice of loaf cake and then down into smaller pieces for wrapping? How quickly does the caramel set up before you have a problem cutting through it?

  • Caramels are my absolute favorite treat. I would try adding a teaspoon of vanilla for more flavor. I also made a batch with cocoa powder once. Thise were yummy too.
    Thanks for the lovely pics and recipe.

  • Oh wow! This recipe looks amazing. I’m definitely going to try this when I’m home for Christmas!

    Beauty and Lifestyle Blog

    xx

  • I tried these and they were so delicious! Thank you! But I think the honey needs to go in with the sugar and water in the beginning, otherwise it will not work (at least it didn’t for me πŸ™‚ )

  • For the recipe, do you use Kosher salt or regular salt? I heard it makes a difference. Thanks.

  • Oh my gosh! I totally agree about TJ Maxx. There are so many hidden gems there in the kitchen and home sections. And YUM. This recipe looks so good. I love caramel!

  • Has anyone tried this recipe for making toffee apples? Would you heat it to exactly the same temperature as for the candies? I’ve volunteered to make the toffee apples this Halloween… with a sort of “sure, I bet I can figure out how to do that!” attitude. Might be regretting that now πŸ˜‰

  • Hey I think I have the same napkin! I bought a pack of them in 4 different colors at Target thinking they would be great for food photos! I guess you thought so too. πŸ™‚ The blue one will be featured with some mini pumpkin doughnut-muffins in a post on my blog later this week!

  • OMG I am so addcited to salted caramels and anything thats is a combo of sweet and salty! Way to go!
    B munchingthroughlifeandmore.wordpress.com

  • It looks great! I feel tempted to try it out. If I were to go for just sauce instead, do I need to use it right away? If not, how and how long can it be stored?
    By the way, it’s the first time I’m commenting, but I’ve been coming over to your site for quite a while now. I love all the positive energy around here! Best regards xx