I thought I’d give you a nice treat for Halloween. At first, I tested several home-made candy corn recipes, but judging from my experience and that of several frustrated commenters such efforts result in only rage and anguish. This is a disproportionate response to candy-making; I wouldn’t recommend it.
This caramel recipe by Maki Itoh is one I’ve been making this for years – you get consistently luscious and richly flavoured caramels without too much trouble – if you have everything ready to go, and you don’t stick your finger into scalding hot caramel, it should all go smoothly. (The latter point may seem obvious I’ve seen otherwise very intelligent cooks with burnt fingers due to over-enthusiasm.)
It’s worth the wait for the caramels to cool down. If you want to gift them, I’m afraid you’ll have to go through the slog of wrapping the candies yourself. Personally I just keep the whole slab in the fridge, cutting myself a chunk whenever I fancy. Sometimes you just have to treat yourself.
Makes 1 x 23cm square slab, about 1 cm thick.
- . 200g crème fraîche (you can also use the same weight of double cream)
- . 175g white caster sugar
- . 150g golden syrup
- . 75g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
- . 1 teaspoon coarsely ground/flaky sea salt
- . 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Line a 23 cm square (9") tin with a piece of greaseproof paper, leaving some overhang so you can easily lift up the finished caramels.
- Fill a fairly deep heavy bowl, jug, or glass with cold water. Keep within easy reach of the stove. You may have to change the water if it gets too warm.
- Put the butter cubes and salt into a small dish or plate. Again, keep within easy reach of the stove.
- Put the crème fraîche into a small saucepan and gently melt it over a low heat until it's just warm to the touch. Set aside.
- Place the caster sugar and the golden syrup together into another small saucepan and set on a medium heat. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved, then lower the heat until it barely bubbles. Cook, stirring constantly and watching the syrup carefully as it thickens and darkens.
- From time to time carefully drop little bits of the boiled syrup into the cold water and test its consistency with your fingers. Once the syrup balls are completely hard and the syrup is a rich brown, it's ready. You can cook it a little further for smokier caramels but don't go beyond a deep brown.
- Take the pan off the heat and carefully add the crème fraîche, butter, and salt, being mindful of any splatters. Stir until everything has completed melted and all is combined.
- Put the pan back on a very low heat: you just want the mixture to be gently bubbling away. Simmer it like this, stirring all the time, until it's reduced to the consistency you want, anywhere between 15 — 30 minutes. Again, periodically test droplets of the syrup in the cold water, or use a sugar thermometer. The bare minimum level of firmness is a soft and quite pliable ball (soft ball stage, 112°C - 115°C). You can cook it for a few minutes longer until the ball is chewy and springy if you prefer firmer tablets (firm ball stage, 118°C - 121°C).
- Once the caramel's thick enough, immediately take off the heat and pour in the vanilla extract, stir well, and pour into the lined tin. Leave to set completely. If the surface of the caramel seems a little greasy, gently mop up with a paper towel.
- Keep the caramel well wrapped and airtight. Cut into pieces as you like. You may have to oil your knife if the caramel is very soft, and store the caramel in the fridge if the room is very hot.