When something is so nice you have to make it twice within a week, you know you’ve got a special recipe. I was up late one night watching the food network and they were doing some sort of Holiday Cookie Showdown when one of the contestants started making caramel for their cookie. I realized at that moment that I hadn’t yet attempted making caramel in my life. I had always been deterred to make caramel due to my lack of a candy thermometer but found that using a regular digital thermometer and my trusty Le Creuset Dutch Oven worked just fine to make this maple bourbon caramel recipe.
Now that I’m on my second round of these caramels it goes to say that making candy isn’t difficult per se but it is time-consuming. As with grilling, there is a nothing complicated about throwing meat onto a fire but it’s absolutely crucial to watch the clock and watch the temperature to make sure you don’t overcook or undercook your meat – in this case sugar. After about 25 minutes of fussing, you should be left with delicious, chewy caramels that are teeming with butter and have the sharp hint of bourbon on each bite.
The good thing about caramel is that you can never truly mess it up. If you undercook it you get a delicious caramel sauce (about 230 degrees F/ 15 minutes of cook time) and if you overcook it, you’ll get sticky, snappy toffee-like caramel that will shatter like glass if you overcook it (about 260 degrees F/ 35 minutes of cook time). I’ve read on a lot of forums and blogs the “perfect temp to pull caramel out”, however in my experience over these last two attempts where I’ve made it, the perfect temperature was 250 regardless what the recipe wardens said about pulling it at 245.
Maybe the Southern humidity that is still lingering this time of year has altered the correct temp to pull the caramel at, so take it for what you will. I am a home chef who has only been trained by trial and error, but I can definitely tell you that these caramels are packed full of flavor and definitely worth the attempt this winter while you’re still running on a sugar high from all the sweets of Christmas.
- 1 cup of maple syrup
- 1 cup of brown sugar
- 1 cup of heavy cream
- 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk I use Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk
- 1/2 cup corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
- 2 ounces bourbon
- 4 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
Place your Dutch Oven on medium heat and combine maple syrup, brown sugar, cream, condensed milk, corn syrup and salt. Bring to a rolling bubble.
When mixture is bubbling, add in vanilla and bourbon. Pouring both ingredients in slowly as the mixture will bubble more fiercely.
Using a whisk or a wooden spoon, continue stirring the mixture until it reaches 250 degrees F.
When the temperature is reached, pull from the heat and mix in the cold butter. Once butter has dissolved, transfer to a parchment paper lined square dish.
Let cool for a minimum of 3 hours.
Before cutting, place in freezer for 5 minutes. When cold enough, cut and divide onto small parchment paper pieces, wrap, and store until ready to eat.