It is no secret, to anyone who knows me, that I adore caramel. Years ago, I discovered an English brand of licorice caramels that converted me from a non-loving black licorice eater to one who loved licorice caramels. One day, I discovered they were no longer on the shelves of the store where I found them. Over the years, I've searched in vain for them. Nothin'. They were nowhere to be found.
Mel's Kitchen Cafe", because I feel connected to her recipe collection. They all look so good! Oh, this was a year ago, by the way. To make these caramels, I had to order, on Amazon, the recommended Star Kay White brand of Anise extract. It was sold out, so I had to wait--and so the ghost of Christmas past prevented me from making these, last year.
But this year, I was ready! I even ordered the Americolor Super Black #101 Gel paste. What? Black? Well, yes... that is, if you want black colored caramels! Why not? I'll be adding Anise extract, so I decided to go all out.
Making caramels isn't super difficult, if you've never done it before. There are just some common sense things that will help make this a fun project, with great results. For one, a clip-on candy thermometer is something I can't be without.
Before I begin cooking all the ingredients, until it comes to about 242 degrees, I have everything prepped ahead of time. Once the caramel has reached the desired temperature, you need to be ready to add the extract and salt-- and you won't have time to fuss around with that! I've measured water, sugar, corn syrup, sweetened condensed milk and butter and stirred it until it's almost at the "firm ball" stage. Without a thermometer, this is total guesswork and your caramels might not set up properly, or become so hard you can't chew them. I don't want that, nor would you.
I couldn't photograph the process of pouring the molten hot caramel into my prepared pan (lightly buttered), because that could have been dangerous! 242 degrees of hot sugar could cause some serious burns, so I used both hands and focused on what I was doing.
No-Bake Collapsible Pan with Cutting Gridlines (8x8 inch). I let the caramel "set" for a little over two hours. All I had to do was unhinge each corner, and there you are! Beautiful even caramel. I was so excited. This pan is perfect for making homemade marshmallows.
TASTING NOTES: These tasted just like the caramels I used to buy-- I was so happy. Love these! I only wish I had used 1 teaspoon of the black food coloring, to make these turn deeper in color than a very dark brown. But, that's purely esthetic. As for texture-- these were nice and chewy, but quickly softened to a texture that wouldn't rip out your fillings or stick to your teeth! The licorice flavor was spot on! Seriously, I didn't find the anise to be overpowering-- if you love licorice, kick up the extract maybe 1/4 teaspoon more. Personally, I wouldn't change a thing. My licorice haters, gingerly bit into one. They were surprised that these were not over powering...and they liked it. My licorice lovers, went bonkers over these. That is why, tired as I am, I need to post this tonight so that I can share the recipe.
Oh! I made a Belgian Chocolate version of these caramels that were over-the-top awesome. That version is coming up next.
The printable recipe is at the end of this post.