It amazes me that, despite the amount of baking I do, I still manage to screw up a lot of stuff in the kitchen. Under-baked cakes, over-cooked candies, you name it, I've done it. And chances are I've done it recently, but I'm too proud to share. I did think, initially, that these caramels fell into the screw-ups category and was hiding them in my fridge until I could re-make them and redeem myself. Then my sister and girlfriend, Kim, tried them and assured me that they were not screw ups, they were delicious. So I tried them and was very pleasantly
shocked surprised. (They were also tasted by a number of other people and met with rave reviews.)
I saw this recipe in a Taste of Homes magazine and I just knew right then and there that I'd be making them at my earliest opportunity. These caramels are chewy and decadent - and the crunch of the broken pretzels and toasted pecans put them over the top. I thought about adding a bit of salt on top but talked myself out of it because the pretzels have enough salt on them to flavor them. You could, however, forego the pretzels and sprinkle the tops with a coarse salt and they would be divine. Also, as much as I love pecans, roasted almonds would make an excellent substitute if you were so inclined. I'll be doing that next time.
You will require a thermometer but I promise that this recipe is not as finicky as most caramel recipes are. It takes a little while to get the temperature up to the hard ball stage (245 degrees), but even so, I strongly recommend having your add-ins (in this case broken pretzels and toasted chopped pecans) ready before you start boiling the caramel. Perhaps that last comment was a 'no-brainer' for some of you but I sure could have used a reminder when I tried my second batch. Enough said.
This is the perfect recipe for Christmas time, but it's too good to file away until then. The recipe makes a whole lot of caramels, as you want to cut them small because they are so rich. I cut them into 1 inch squares. It's better to have people go back for seconds or thirds then to have them put down a half-eaten caramel because it's just too much.
They make a great gift and they store well in the fridge. But, based on my experience with them, they probably don't have a chance.
Pretzel & Pecan Caramels
(adapted from Taste of Home | 100 Best Recipes | 2011)
1 cup butter
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 cup dark corn syrup
2 cups heavy whipping cream, divided
1 lb chopped pecans (toasted)
2 cups of broken pretzel pieces
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Line a 13x9 inch pan with foil, generously spray with non-stick cooking spray (or use butter). In a large heavy saucepan, combine the sugars, corn syrup, 1 cup of the cream and the butter. Cook and stir over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to boil. Slowly stir in the remaining cream. Cook, without stirring, until a candy thermometer reads 245 degrees (firm ball stage).
Remove from heat; stir in pecans, pretzels and vanilla. Pour into prepared pan. Let stand until firm. Using foil, lift candy out of pan. Discard foil, cut candy into 1 inch squares.