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Vanilla Bean Caramels

  • vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed golden brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 T whole milk
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 T condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy (double) cream
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • pinch of salt

Line an 8-inch square baking pan with foil, covering the bottom and sides. Brush generously with vegetable oil. In a heavy 3-quart saucepan over medium heat, combine the brown sugar, granulated sugar, corn syrup, whole milk, condensed milk, cream, butter, vanilla bean, and salt. Stir constantly until the sugar dissolves and the mixture comes to a boil. Using a pastry brush, dipped in water, brush down the sides of the pan to prevent sugar crystals from forming. Raise the heat to medium-high and clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan. Cook, stirring slowly but constantly, until the thermometer registers 240 degrees Fahrenheit, about 10 minutes [jsd note: more like 15-20 minutes, by my tests]. Remove the pan from the heat. Remove the vanilla bean and discard. Immediately pour the caramel into the prepared pan all at once; do not scrape the residue from the pan bottom. Let the caramel cool completely, about 2 hours. Coat a cutting board with vegetable oil. Turn out the cooled caramel onto the board and peel off the foil. Oil a large knife and cut the caramel into strips about 1 1/2 inches wide. Cut the strips crosswise into pieces 1 inch long, re-oiling the knife occasionally to prevent sticking. Wrap each candy in a piece of clear cellophane, waxed paper, or colored waxed paper, twisting the ends. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks. Makes about 3 dozen JSD's Notes: This caramel is relatively sticky. I have a granite slab that I use in place of the cutting board. It seems to help in cutting the caramel if I put it in the freezer for about 10 minutes before cutting (after I've turned it out onto the slab). I use a long, oiled knife to score the top of the caramel (so I know where to cut), then use my metal "Bash 'n' Chop" (a flat-edged, metal pastry scraper kind o'thing) to cut the caramel. (I don't want to use a knife on the granite, or it will dull the knife for life.) I buy waxed paper squares from my local baking/cake decorating supply store - 4 1/2 inches by 6 inches is recommended. I recently tried dipping the cut caramels in tempered dark chocolate. Truly divine! Next on my list of adventures is bear claws (chocolate-coated caramel pecan clusters). . .

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