Easiest Homemade Gift

So is everyone ready for Christmas? I haven’t been feeling particularly festive since its been so warm here. It is during times like these when I wish I lived in a cold environment. I’d love to go for a nice walk outside in the brisk weather all bundled up and then rush back inand drink a big mug of hot cocoa. Then I see what the hell is going on in Milwaukee (where my sister lives) and the rest of the mid-west and realize I’m perfectly happy stringing lights on my palm trees in 80 degree weather! :P

In an attempt to dive into the holiday spirit, I made caramels. These caramel candies are seriously one of the easiest homemade gifts you can possibly make. It has been a few years since I made them, but I’ve officially made the decision to make them every year. It only takes about 20 minutes to cook them… after they cool, cut and wrap them individually. Easy peasy… and they look so chic, especially if you put them in a nice festive container. I made them with a very light sprinkle of sea salt on top. It gives the caramels a nice balance of flavor and adds a bit of panache too.

Caramel Candies Recipe

1 c (8 oz) butter
1 1/4 c brown sugar
1 c sugar
3/4 c light corn syrup
1 c heavy whipping cream
1 vanilla bean (seeds scraped) or vanilla paste (or vanilla extract)
1-2 teaspoons sea salt

1. Butter the sides of a heavy 3-quart saucepan. Add butter and heat over medium heat. Once melted, add the both sugars, corn syrup and cream and stir to combine.

2. Increase heat to medium-high and bring mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to boil until mixture reaches 248°F on a candy thermometer.

3. Remove saucepan from heat and stir in scraped vanilla or paste. Pour caramel immediately into an 8×8 or 9×9 inch pan, lined with buttered foil or parchment on the bottom. Cool at room temperature for half an hour and then sprinkle with sea salt. Let cool completely.

4. Use foil or parchment to lift caramel out of pan. Butter a large sharp knife and cut caramel into 3/4 or 1-inch squares. Wrap caramels individually in small squares of parchment or wax paper. Store in the refrigerator, but they are better eaten at room temperature.

Makes about 100 caramel candies, depending on the size you cut them.