Treat your sweet tooth with this recipe for homemade caramels from Marty Hanks, owner of Just Bee Apiary, and friend April Errickson, a local avid home cook, ceramic artist and librarian.
“When experimenting with caramel recipes, I tried some with just sugar and corn syrup, but, over time, I decided I wanted to avoid corn syrup. As luck would have it, I became part of a Community Supported Apiaries (CSA) program run by my friend Marty Hanks of Just Bee Apiary and became the proud babysitter of one of his hives that lives in my yard,” says April. “I decided that using honey in place of the corn syrup would make the caramels more festive.”
Local Honey Caramels
1 cup heavy cream
¼ cup unsalted butter
¼ tsp. sea salt (plus more for sprinkling at the end)
1 ½ cups granulated sugar 1⁄2 cup local honey
1 Tbsp. water
½ tsp. vanilla extract
- Line an 8-by-8-inch baking dish with parchment paper so that the bottom and sides of pan are covered. Use your fingers to spread a very light coating of vegetable oil or butter over the parchment or use a neutral tasting cooking spray.
- In a small pot, warm the cream, butter and salt over medium heat until the butter melts. Turn off heat.
- In a 4-quart saucepan, combine the sugar, honey and water. Stir gently to evenly moisten. Using a pastry brush or a wadded up paper towel dipped in water, wipe down the sides of the pan so there are no sugar crystals above the surface of the mixture. Attach an instant-read candy thermometer to the side of the pan so that the tip is immersed, but not touching the bottom of the pan. Don’t stir after this point.
- Place the pot with the sugar mixture over medium to medium- high heat. Let the sugar syrup come to a boil. Do not stir. You’ll see small bubbles first, and around 250 degrees, the sugar syrup will turn transparent and boil rapidly. When the mixture reaches between 290 degrees and 305 degrees, you will turn off the heat – the syrup will have darkened. Note: During cooking, if your instant-read thermometer isn’t quite submerged into the sugar, you may need to tilt the pan so the tip is fully submerged to get an accurate reading; wipe down the sides again so the mixture won’t crystalize.
- Slowly pour the warm cream and butter mixture into the sugar syrup while softly whisking the sugar syrup. The syrup will bubble up and grow. Stop whisking after all the cream and butter mixture has been added.
- Return the pan to medium to medium-high heat. Let the caramel come to a boil. Do not stir. The caramel will darken to a luscious amber color. Remove from heat when the caramel reaches 245 degrees to 250 degrees.
- Quickly whisk the vanilla into the caramel. Immediately pour the caramel into the baking dish.
- Do not scrape the pan (the caramel is hottest at the bottom and can cause grainy black bits that taste bad). Do not lick a spoon or use your finger to taste. It’s hot! Run a butter knife through the mixture a few times (without cutting the parchment) to work out some of the air bubbles.
- Leave the caramels to set for at least 2 hours, but preferably a full 8 hours. After the caramel has cooled to room temperature, cover with plastic wrap and set aside.When the caramel has cooled, sprinkle coarse grains of sea salt.
- When the caramel has set, remove from the baking dish by the parchment paper and onto an extremely clean cutting board. Remove parchment. Cut the caramels into strips or squares with a sharp knife coated with some oil or cooking spray to keep them from sticking.
- Use store-bought wrappers or cut squares of wax paper about an inch longer than your caramels. Wrap each caramel in paper and twist the ends. If you can make them last, caramels will keep at room temperature for a couple weeks. If you choose to refrigerate them, just let them sit out for a few minutes before eating. Note: You can also roll the caramels in chocolate and sprinkle with sea salt.