It’s the season of giving, and one of our favorite presents is handmade salted caramels. The ingredients—cream, butter, sugar, corn syrup—are probably already in your pantry. You’ll need a candy thermometer, a heavy-bottomed saucepan (for even cooking),and parchment paper. Making caramel for the first time may seem intimidating, but if you’re prepared and careful it should go off without a hitch. Here are a few tips: Prior to starting, test your thermometer for accuracy—one or two degrees can make all the difference in how sugar hardens. It should read 212 degrees when placed in boiling water, not touching the bottom of the pot. Have all ingredients measured and utensils ready before lighting the stove. When the cooking commences, don’t stir the pot unless directed. Stirring boiling sugar causes crystals to bind, resulting in grainy, cloudy candy (it’s one of the differences between caramels and pralines). After pouring the caramel into a pan to cool, resist immediately salting; the flakes will be absorbed rather than rest atop as a garnish. After a (long) couple of hours, you’re ready to savor the candies that will have you reaching for seconds before you finish the first.
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