Soft Chocolate Caramels


*Note: for regular caramels, simply omit the chocolate and proceed with the recipe. Also, if you prefer using unsalted butter, increase the salt amount to 1 teaspoon.

*Makes one 9X13-inch slab of caramels

1/2 cup (4 ounces) water

2 cups (1 pound) sugar

1 can (14 ounce) sweetened condensed milk

1 cup (12 ounces) light corn syrup

1 1/2 sticks butter

1 cup (6 ounces) dark chocolate, chopped

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon salt

Lightly butter a 9X13-inch pan and set aside.

In a heavy-bottomed 4-quart saucepan, combine the water, sugar, condensed milk, corn syrup, butter and chocolate. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly with a heat-resistant rubber spatula. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan, ensuring that the tip of the thermometer isn't touching the bottom of the pan and is inserted at least 1-2 inches into the liquid (or according to your thermometer's directions).

Continue stirring while the mixture boils and cooks, until the caramels reach 245 degrees F. If the caramels seem to be scorching on the bottom of the pan, moderate the heat to a lower temperature. You can also test the caramels using a spoon and dropping a pea-sized amount of the hot caramel into cold water. If the cooled piece of caramel is firm but not hard, the caramel is properly cooked.

Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract and salt. Pour the caramels into the prepared pan and allow to cool completely to room temperature, at least 2 hours.

When cool, remove the sheet of caramels from the pan. Cut the caramels into pieces using a large knife or bench scraper.

Combine all of the ingredients but the salt in a large pot. Caramels tend to foam and bubble so use a larger pot to accommodate boiling over.

Cook the mixture and stir as it dissolves.

Almost there.

There we go. Nice and dissolved.

Continue cooking until the mixture comes to a boil. Clip your candy thermometer onto the side of the pot.

Stir constantly while the mixture cooks.

You can see how as the cooking process goes on, the bubbles get smaller and closer together.

Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the salt.

Pour the caramels into the buttered pan. It's going to be hot, baby, so be careful!

Let the caramels harden at room temperature for at least 2 hours. It may take longer for them to cool enough to cut so just judge according to your kitchen temp, etc.

Cut the caramels into strips.

Then into little squares.

Then place the caramel on small squares of wax paper...

Twist the ends and you're done! Oh, wait, except for the other 100 caramels you have to wrap. It's worth it, trust me!