My mom got me a Christmas cookie cookbook years ago. This poor cookbook has seen it all. The pages are stained and the cover is stained and warped. It's full of Christmas cookie and candy recipes from around the world. I've never made a lot of the candies out of it, but the first one I tried was a caramel recipe.
When I was a kid growing up, there was a small town in Indiana called Hagerstown. This town was known for the caramel they made. They were the most Delicious caramels ever. They were wrapped in wax paper. The white wax paper was plain and the yellow was with pecans. I remember my aunt and grandmother having them at Christmas. Sometimes my dad would bring home a box from work that had been given to him by someone he worked with. I just loved them.
When I got my cookie book I noticed there was a recipe for cream caramel. I had to try it. I swear they stole the recipe from the Hagerstown caramel makers! It tastes just the same. This caramel takes some time and patience to make, but you can't buy anything like this in the store, unless you get to Hagerstown!
My husband's favorite candy is Turtles. So a couple years ago I decided to use my caramel and make homemade Turtles for him. They are a big hit every year. I have to keep my eye on him or he will eat too many of them!
First you need to line several cookie sheets with parchment paper. Then take 3 pecans, start at the top of the sheet and lay them out in a star shape. What you will be doing is pouring the hot caramel in the middle of that star later. But for now make rows of these star shapes till your cookie sheet if filled. You could also just lay two pecans side by side. What ever works for you. Basically your bottom layer will be pecans and you will pour caramel over the pecans and chocolate on top of the caramel.
Once you get your trays full of your pecans, it's time to make the caramel. You will need:
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine the cream and milk in a measuring cup. Then pour 1 1/2 cups of the mixture into a heavy 4 quart saucepan. Stir in the sugar and corn syrup. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a boil.
Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, to 234 degrees or until a small amount of the mixture forms a soft ball in cold water. Be patient here as this part takes time. Watch the pot carefully so it does not boil over. You will have a mess if this happens.
Slowly add the remaining 1 1/2 cups cream mixture, so that the mixture continues to boil. Continue cooking, stirring to keep from scorching, to 244 degrees or until a little of the syrup forms a firm ball in cold water.
Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Let it cool for just a few minutes, then I use a small scoop, one that looks like any ice cream scoop with the metal bar that pushes the food out. Each pecan star that you made on the cookie sheet will get one scoop of caramel right in the center of the star. You might have to smooth it around so that it covers all of the pecans in the shape of a circle. So now your stars are covered with a circle of carmel. It's ok to leave just a little of the pecans showing if you like.
Let these cool.
After they are good and cool you are ready for the chocolate. I use Ghiradelli melting and dipping chocolate from Sam's club. It comes in a box and looks like a huge bar of chocolate. Each bar of chocolate is divided in 16 sections you can break off. I used about 8 bars for this recipe. You can use any chocolate for this really. I have used melted chocolate chips in years past and they work just as well.
Melt the chocolate either in a double boiler or microwave. Again I use that handy ketchup bottle and pour my chocolate into it. Then I squeeze the chocolate over the top of the caramel. I use the back of a spoon to spread the chocolate smooth. Let them cool completely and enjoy. If you make these for your friends and family I can guarantee they will be impressed!
For this next recipe I used the same Ghiradelli melting and dipping chocolate. I took 8 bars and melted it in a double boilers. I added 2 cups of almonds then spread it thinly on a wax covered cookie sheet. Cool and break into pieces. This is just too easy. And it looks so nice out on a pretty dish at Christmas.
More to come later in the week. Coconut macaroons and orange spritz!