My mom makes the best caramels. I have found that no matter what the recipe, if it came from my mom, I can never make it as good as she can. The same holds true for this recipe for "Light Caramels" (light what? color?) Years ago, this is one of the recipes that mom put in the church cookbook and I dig it out every year with varied success. Sometimes they end up hard as rocks, sometimes they are perfectly melt in your mouth chewy. This year my first attempt turned out more like caramel sauce than caramels. It was taking so long to get to the right temperature that I just gave up and decided to try again later. Don't get me wrong, eating this over ice cream or just with a spoon is delicious, but I prefer it as a candy.
These do take a while, with lots of stirring involved, so make sure you have the time to spend on these. It's worth it in the end to have fresh, delicious caramels to enjoy and share with friends!
Light Caramels (I always double this recipe)
1 c. white sugar
1 c. heavy cream
3 T. light corn syrup
2 T. butter
1 t. vanilla
Combine all ingredients in a deep soup pan over medium heat. Stir frequently (I use a wisk). When sugar is dissolved and mixture is boiling, carefully set candy thermometer in place and continue cooking until temperature reaches 245 degrees of firm ball stage. (I don't have a candy thermometer, so I keep a cup of cold water handy and when a drop of syrup forms a firm ball when poured in to the water it is ready.) This takes about 30-45 minutes. It is very important to stir frequently and towards the end constantly to prevent burning the caramel. Be careful not to over heat or the caramels will be very hard. Pour into a well greased pan. Cool, then cut into pieces. Wrap in wax paper if desired. Store in a covered container or freeze.
On my second attempt, I put the ingredients in a large soup pot and was able to maintain a higher temperature without the mixture boiling over, so they didn't take as long, maybe 30 minutes. Sometimes, I like to sprinkle the hot caramels with pecans before they cool for a little extra flavor and texture. These caramels definitely aren't diet food, but for special occasions they are a nice treat!