These soft caramels are a new, old family recipe—let me explain. The recipe is my great-grandma’s, but my mom only discovered it at a recent family reunion. During her visit this past week, we had a mother-daughter date where we shopped, ate too much Thai food, and made caramels. It was the perfect visit.
Despite my kindred bias, these soft caramels are melt-in-your-mouth delicious. They’re also incredible easy to make. Cream butter and sugar together. Throw that in a large pot along with sweetened condensed milk and corn syrup. Cook until it hits firm-ball stage, and you’ve got decadent soft caramels to rival any candy shop.
If you have no idea what “firm-ball stage” is, make sure you have a candy thermometer on hand. Pastry nerd alert! Firm-ball is used to describe cooked sugar that forms a firm ball* that holds its shape but is easily flattened when pressed. This occurs between 245-250°F. Caramels are usually cooked to firm-ball stage. They’re set up enough to easily handle but soft enough to easily chew. Most importantly, it’s what gives these soft caramels their velvety texture.
My mom and I churned out our caramels in about 30 minutes. I let them cool overnight, before cutting them. Then I individually wrapped them in parchment paper. It prevented the caramels from sticking to one another, and also gave them a nostalgic feel. If you’re especially motivated, you could tie a ribbon around each one. I forwent the additional presentation points, but these caramels are still perfectly sweet and wonderfully simple.
*Personal Admission #26: Not the most creative name, but it’s easy to remember what it means.
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 lb. brown sugar
- 1 can (14 oz.) sweetened condensed milk
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- Coat a 9x13" pan with non-stick spray. Line with parchment paper, making sure the paper extends beyond the pan. This will make removing the caramels much easier. Generously coat parchment paper with non-stick spray. Set aside.
- Cream butter and brown sugar in a large pot. (You can do this in a stand mixer, or if you don't want to wash two extra dishes, use your hands to mash the butter and sugar together.) Cream until there are no lumps and the butter and sugar are homogenous.
- Pour in milk and corn syrup. Turn stove to medium heat, and stir continuously until the mixture comes to a boil.
- Reduce temperature to medium-low. Insert candy thermometer, and cook caramel to firm-ball stage (245-250°F). Occasionally stir the bottom of the pot ever so gently to ensure the sugar doesn't burn.
- At firm-ball stage, remove from heat, and pour into prepared pan.
- Allow to cool on counter for an hour before moving to the refrigerator to cool completely overnight.
- Once cool, remove caramels by pulling up on the excess parchment paper. Place onto cutting board and cut into 1x1" caramels. Store on counter for up to a week, but as my great-grandmother's recipe says, they probably won't last that long.