Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Chocolate Covered Caramels

The first Christmas after Ann was born, I started dipping my own chocolates.  They make a wonderful gift and are a lot of fun to make.  Some of my friends and family know of my obsession with See's Candies.  Their chocolates are my absolute favorites ( I turn up my nose at Godiva and others that try to be fancy, but just don't taste as good).  But sadly my closest See's is in Chicago, a quick 5 hour drive away.  So I try to make a couple on my own.  Jared's and my favorite are the vanilla caramels with almonds in them.  They so yummy and chewy, I can sit down and eat them all.  This recipe in and of itself can explain my holiday weight gain so far this year.  So this recipe is my attempt to make something delicious for my family.  I've discovered that Ann isn't a fan of the caramel if it has nuts in it, but loves them plain.  Evelyn will eat anything if it's covered in chocolate. 
Learning how to do my own chocolates has been a work in progress and I feel like I've learned a little more each time I do it.  I think the best piece of advice I can give is to use the best ingredients you can.  That especially goes for the chocolate you dip them in too.  I have been using Ghiradelli Milk Chocolate, but would use Guittard if I coud find it out here.  Using good quality ingredients makes a surprising difference. 
Things you will need- Candy Thermometer, and if you want, a Chocolate Thermometer, and Parchment Paper.

Vanilla Almond Caramels
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 C light corn syrup
1 C granulated sugar
1 C packed brown sugar
1/2 C butter
1/4 t salt
2 t vanilla
1 C almonds (roasted, salted, I prefer Diamond brand)
Tempered dipping chocolate

Place parchment paper in 13x9 in pan and spray with pam.  Set aside.
In a heavy 4 quart saucepan, combine milk, corn syrup, sugars, butter, and salt.  Place over medium heat and stir with a wooden spoon until mixture comes to a boil.
Clip on candy thermometer.  Stirring constantly to precent scorching, cook to 242 degrees or soft ball stage.  remove from heat and immediately pour in vanilla and nuts, stirring quickly.  Pour into prepared pan.  Cool at room temperature until firm. 
Remove from pan and cut with a good strong knife into squares.  Dip into tempered chocolate.
For an extra touch, sprinkle on a little kosher salt before the chocolate cools.

Store in a cool dry place or else they will 'bloom' (when they get streaky or grey).