Isn’t it amazing to think, that just over a two years ago I was terrified of caramel? Like, honestly truly scared I was going to burn my face off or something. And ruin a few pans while I was at it.
Now I can’t get enough.
I’ve made peach caramels and gingerbread caramels and whiskey caramel sauce and can confidently say my fear of caramel has officially been conquered.
These dark chocolate caramels taste like the convergence of buttery caramel and dark chocolate tootsie roll, soft and chewy and intensely chocolate.
On a whim, I scattered some cocoa nibs I had on hand on the candies as they were cooling, to add a bit of visual and textural interest. Despite the inherent stickiness of caramel, they didn’t stick quite as firmly as I’d hoped, so I had to be careful when cutting and wrapping so as not to lose all of the crunchy bits. But simply adding this one element of crunch to an otherwise smooth confection was a revelation.
I made this batch of caramels with my grandma in mind. We were headed to New York for a few days and planned to stop in and visit her. And if you know my grandma you know that your visits will be that much more appreciated if you come bearing sweets (indeed, there is no question that I am her granddaughter). I had originally planned on baking cookies, but my mom told me the gingerbread caramels that I sent her over the holidays last year were a huge hit. She would carry them around in her pockets, refusing to share with anyone who (dared to) ask. Yup, that’s my grandma for you.
Since she loves chocolate too, I thought that these chocolate caramels would be perfect. And, lucky for the rest of my relatives, one batch made A LOT of caramels, so I had more than enough to go around. Caramels for all!
I tediously wrapped them all in waxed paper and boxed them up in cute kraft candy boxes, arranged them in my suitcase and crossed my fingers that TSA wouldn’t consider them threatening. I’ve had issues with peanut butter, jam, and even a banana before (granted, it was a very sinister looking banana), so you never know. I even threw in some extras fully imagining I’d need to bribe the agents with samples so they’d let me through.
They didn’t even bat an eye.
Ah well, better to be prepared than caught off guard, I say.
Needless to say, Grandma loved the caramels. Her eyes lit up when I handed her the box. She couldn’t even wait to dig in while we took a picture (said photo features her reluctantly looking into the camera with a partially-wrapped candy in her hand). And I’m betting they didn’t even last a day in her possession.
Tip for cutting: I used a lightly buttered rotary cutter, carefully scoring rows with a ruler for guidance, and getting progressively deeper with each cut. Cut and wrap one row at a time, as the cuts will ooze back together if left touching and the candies will spread out the longer they sit. While Martha insists you can’t move the caramels for a full 24 hours, I found they were fine to cut after about 4 (we had a plane to catch, afterall).
Oh, and be sure you leave yourself enough time to wrap them. You don’t think one quarter-sheet pan’s worth of caramel would make a lot, but you’d be wrong. You don’t want to be rigorously wrapping a seemingly never-ending line of candies when you really should be packing for your trip. Not that I’d know or anything… just saying.
Dark Chocolate Cocoa Nib Caramels
The cocoa nibs are optional, you may leave them off if you like. But we love the texture and crunch that they give to these decadent chocolate caramels.
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 1/4 cups light corn syrup
- 2 1/4 cups sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped in small pieces
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
- 1/4 cup cocoa nibs
- Line an 11-by-9-inch baking pan with parchment paper and set aside.
- In a heavy 4-quart saucepan, combine 1 cup cream, corn syrup, sugar, and salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 15 to 20 minutes, washing down sides of pan with a pastry brush dipped in water as needed to remove any stray sugar crystals.
- When the temperature reaches 220 degrees, add chocolate and butter and return to a boil. Slowly add remaining 1 cup cream. Cook at a gentle boil, still stirring, until temperature reaches 240 degrees (soft-ball stage), another 30 to 40 minutes.
- Immediately pour mixture into prepared pan (do not scrape the pot). Sprinkle with cocoa nibs. Let stand uncovered at room temperature for at least 4 hours without moving.
- When cool, lift out of baking pan using edges of parchment paper as handles. Using a large buttered knife or a pastry cutter, cut into 1-by-1 1/4-inch logs. Wrap each piece in cellophane or waxed paper.
- Caramels will keep in the refrigerator for up to one month. Let come to room temperature before serving if you prefer a softer caramel.
** I halved the original recipe, which seemed ridiculously huge, and adjusted the cooking times as necessary as a smaller batch will take less time to come to temperature. Even this half-sized batch will still make a TON of caramels, and remember that you’ve got to (tediously) wrap them all individually, so plan accordingly.
Recipe from Martha Stewart.All images and text © Lindsay Landis / Love & Olive Oil
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Any suggestions on a substitute for corn syrup?
I use golden syrup (cane sugar syrup) instead of corn syrup for my caramels.
Wow! These look really good :) I love cocoa nibs so much, and this is a great way to incorporate them into a recipe. I am a teen blogger, and love looking at your blog for inspiration. Hop on over to my blog if you like- I just posted about creme puffs!
That is the reason why I have no caramel recipes on my blog! I am so afraid of it! But I need to overcome my fear. Maybe make these..
I am not familiar with cocoa nibs. Are the something to purchase or to make? Thanks.
My mother in law makes chocolate caramels very similar to these. She dusts them with powdered sugar after cutting them so they don’t stick together. No need for wrapping – just pop in the freezer or refrigerator if you want them to last a little longer (of course that only happens when dad or the kiddos aren’t around)
I can’t wait to try these! I think these would be great chocolate-dipped too!
wow! these look amazing!
I have only tried caramels once, but I loved them. I think I need to make more!
I am not comfortable with caramels either. Not so much getting burnt, but my success rate is kind of dismal. But hey look at you two. This look candy store perfect.
These are seriously cute! And I’m still a little afraid of caramel — just a little bit. :)
The first time I successfully made caramel I was ridiculously excited and couldn’t wait to show off my creation; unfortunately I gave my mom a sample whilst it was still too hot… She’s still leery when I approach her with a spoon.
Your caramel candies look savagely delish. I’d be willing to endure wrapping-induced hand spasms for a happy dozen!
Always love your caramel recipes! These ones sound amazing! Love cocoa nibs :)
Lindsay, these look incredible! I’m sure they taste delicious.
Craving these now!
I’ve made caramels once before and, like you, was a bit anxious, but they went off without a hitch. They didn’t compare to what I can imagine these must taste like… Love the cocoa nibs on top for crunch; these look absolutely decadent!
I wouldn’t share either if I was given these! Your Grandma reminds me of my great aunt…she would always have Riesens hidden throughout her house so she could have one whenever she wanted one! We always came to bearing more Riesens and she was a happy camper. I’m sure she would have loved this homemade version too!
The caramels look great and will try for the holidays. In the recipe it list 2 cups heavy cream then in the instructions step 2, use 1 cup cream with the syrup and sugar then in step 3 it says to slowly add the remaining 2 cups of cream. So is it a total of 2 or 3 cups cream?
That would appear to be a remnant left from the original Martha Stewart recipe (which calls for 4 cups of cream total). So I’m 99.9999% sure the instructions should say add the remaining ONE cup of cream. :)
Love the idea of cocoa nibs on top! These look so great. I’m always terrified of losing the caps on my teeth (rollerblading incident) when biting into caramels but I bet when they’re really fresh they’re quite soft, right?
Ooh these look so good Lindsay! Well done for conquering your caramel fear!
Chocolate caramels, and with cocoa nibs, you thought of everything! :) I love that macro shot, too! Mmmm! Pinned :)
These look awesome. I’ve always been super nervous about caramels too, but chocolate caramels look too good to pass up! I also love your plan to get them through TSA :)
My MIL and extended female relatives start the Christmas cookie making, wrapping and freezing in September. There is always a single day devoted to caramel cutting and wrapping. I believe I will shake up tradition this year by adding these. One of my favorite indulgences is Riesen chocolate caramels. I believe these will make a divine homemade version!
I love your caramel recipes! These look incredible!!
Mmmm these sound awesome! I made gingerbread caramels over the holidays and these might have to be my next holiday venture!
I love making caramels, but I use the cheater’s way (nuking them in the microwave). If you can overcome your fear, then I can too. I happen to have some cocoa nibs in the pantry that need to be used, so I may try this recipe soon. Thank you!
Those look beautiful. Speaking of the TSA, I haven’t had any issues with peanut butter or fruit, but once I had a bratwurst (the plane ride was about four hours) that got an extra look before being allowed.
Caramels have been on my list forever and you always make them seem so easy!!
I’ve made caramel sauce before, but never caramels. These look fantastic, as anything with chocolate does!
Caramel still terrifies me. I’ve made homemade caramel sauce, but for some reason making it into a candy still scared the heck outta me!
But, when you mentioned chocolate….I feel like it’s about time to get over the fear! Pinned!