One of my favorite parts of baking is giving what I have made to others. It is such an incredible feeling to be able to create something and give it to someone else, and to know that it is meaningful to the person you are giving it to.
Recently through studying abroad in Japan, I made some friends that I know will always be a part of my life despite the distance. That said, it is hard to be separated after creating such deep friendships, and I wanted to do something to show my friends that they were a part of my life even though I had returned to Minnesota. Baking is more or less what I am known for among my friend group, and I really wanted to share this aspect of my life with these friends.
However. It is not exactly possible to ship a cake to California, much less to Japan!
So I thought long and hard about what I could create that would ship easily and–here’s the kicker–still taste good when it arrived. I ended up finding a recipe for homemade caramel. One problem: I had never made caramel before! >.<
I set off making caramel for the first time and discovered that not only is it incredibly easy, it is incredibly delicious! I have always loved caramel in any form, but there is something about homemade caramel that tops the list.
Basically all the ingredients are combined and boiled until everything reaches 240 degrees Fahrenheit, or the “soft ball” stage.
The Soft Ball Stage is reached when you can take a small amount of boiling sugar, pour it into a glass of cold water, and have the sugar form a lump that sticks together but doesn’t become hard or crack. I found that it is helpful to monitor the caramel both by temperature on a candy thermometer and by dropping some caramel into a glass of water when you think the caramel is ready. NOTE: pour more caramel than you need into the glass….this soft, warm ball of caramel is DELICIOUS and you will want to eat it!
Once everything is ready, pour it into a buttered pan and wait for it to cool!
I made my caramels in the morning, then cut them into pieces that evening. Let me tell you, cutting the caramel into individual pieces AND wrapping each piece in wax paper takes time. However, it takes very little thought and I used the time to catch up on some television shows I had been neglecting while I had been abroad! 😛 Maybe I am just an abnormal person, but I found the cutting and wrapping of the caramels while watching TV to be a very calming and therapeutic process!
If you are planning on sending caramels in the mail, I shipped them out (individually wrapped, in a bag which was in a mail envelope) and they arrived within the US after about 5-7 days, and to Japan about 10-14 days after having made the caramels. The caramels remained intact and delicious despite the distance!
Homemade Caramels Recipe
Inspired by Oh So Delicioso (Her website and recipe is completely fantastic, and I would definitely recommend checking it out!)
1 (14oz) can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups sugar
1 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups karo syrup (corn syrup)
**You will be needing a candy thermometer and wax paper
1) Combine all the ingredients in a heavy pan and turn the heat to medium.
2) Stir constantly until the mixture boils and reaches 240 degrees or the soft ball stage. **Make sure not to scrape the sides–only the bottom–of the pan while you are stirring, as to not incorporate any sugar crystals from the sides of the pan into the mixture. In addition, add the candy thermometer to the caramel after it has already been boiling and once it has begun to change color, and do not remove the thermometer once you have added it to the pot or sugar crystals will form.
3) Take off the heat and stir until the bubbling reduces a bit before pouring into a buttered 9×13 inch pan.
4) Let the caramel cool completely to room temperature before cutting the caramel into individual pieces and wrapping in small squares of wax paper.
5) Store in an airtight container for best shelf life.
**This recipe made about 100 caramels, so even though the ingredient list might look a bit small, don’t double it unless you need a ton of caramels!
^^ One of my friends sending me proof that he got my caramels safely, and planned to eat them for dinner 🙂