If there is one thing my Mom and I most certainly have in common it is our weakness for caramels. When I lived at home and we’d go out running errands or shopping, we always found an excuse to stop by the candy store where we got our praline fix. Caramel with pecans is a match that’s meant to be. So, for Mother’s Day, I decided to make some homemade caramels for Mom, and I turned again to Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich. Each time I use this book, I appreciate it more. There’s a preciseness to the flavor combinations and an intentional simplicity which allows certain flavors to come forward. I previously made the fleur de sel caramels which were positively incredible. That recipe is found in the ‘flavors of herbs and spices, flowers and leaves’ section, and it, of course, highlighted the play of salt vs sweet. The caramels I made for Mom, are from the ‘flavors of honey and sugar’ section, and Medrich recommends experimenting with different honeys for this. I could do that on an on-going basis and run out honey varieties before getting tired of the caramels.
I chose a local, Texas wildflower honey for these. The honey was combined with corn syrup, sugar, and salt in a saucepan and cooked until simmering. A candy thermometer was attached to the pan, and the mixture was brought up to 305 degrees F. At the same time, cream was warmed in a small saucepan. Butter was added to the honey mixture off the heat, and then the cream was stirred in as well. It was returned to the stove and brought up to 245 degrees F, and then there was the opportunity to decide how chewy you want your caramels. For soft chewy, you let it go to 248 degrees, and for firmer chewy, it goes to 250. I chose soft, and at 248 and not a degree higher, I turned off the heat, added the vanilla, and poured the bubbly goodness over some pecans in a pan lined with buttered foil. Medrich suggested walnuts, but I used pecans. See above statement regarding caramel and pecans.
I left the pan of caramel to cool overnight, and cut it into pieces the next day. These were much stickier than the sea salt caramels I made before. I’m not sure if that was due to the honey or our off-the-charts humidity. Or, maybe I let the sea salt caramels get to a slightly higher temperature, and they set up to a firmer state. Storing them in the refrigerator also makes them firmer, and some chilling time made them easier to cut. Were they delicious? Let me just say that cutting and wrapping them individually in cellophane was slow going. I ate every other one I cut and then had to pause and rinse my hands so as not to leave sticky fingerprints on the cellophane. I finally wrapped enough of them to fill a box for Mom. The rest are mine, and I’m not sharing.