Black Licorice Caramels" by omitting the Anise extract.
Trader Joe's Brand of excellent Dark Chocolate $4.99 a pound), that cooked along with water, sugar, butter and sweetened condensed milk. The aroma of chocolate filled every nook and cranny of our kitchen/dining room area, in a very good way.
NOTE: You might be wondering if you can use chocolate chips. My answer is "I'm not sure". I recommend using bar chocolates, and the best quality you can afford. It will be worth it.
If you've never made caramels, I can assure you that this recipe is pretty fool-proof. However, in reading reviews for other recipes that I researched, it seemed that there were a number of people who had trouble with their candy setting up properly. I would venture to guess that they did not use a candy thermometer. Candy making involves some science, in that the temperature is very specific. Undercook the candy, and it will never set up properly. Overcook the candy, and it will become hard as lollipops. I've made this recipe three times, with perfect results every time. The target temperature is 242F, which takes about 40 minutes on my gas range.
I had a box of Maldon Sea Salt and a jar of Singing Dog Vanilla Bean Paste. So, I adapted the caramel recipe once again-- by adding vanilla bean paste and pure vanilla once the candy was cooked to 242F. I waited about 20 minutes to allow the caramel to settle down a bit, before adding the Maldon Sea Salt (lest it melt into the caramel).
Oh! The pan that you see in the above photo... I'm loving my newest kitchen gadget! This pan is made by Chicago Metallic. It's made of heavy duty plastic, and has grid lines for cutting things like fudge or marshmallows. Once the caramel set (allow 2-4 hours), I simply unhinge the pan and lift out the caramel! Otherwise, I strongly suggest that one makes a parchment paper "sling" to lift out the caramel. My new pan is so much easier, and I love that it stores flat. I also use a very sharp chef's knife to easily cut the caramels. I get 100-120 pieces per batch! I love this pan so much, that I ordered the larger pan for making homemade marshmallows.
By the way, if you don't like the sweet and salty combo-- leave the salt out! These will be delicious plain vanilla caramels. I won't judge.
For me, I still love the Black Licorice Caramels, the best.
This is the first time I've made homemade caramel candies. I gotta tell you-- this is a lot less work than cookie baking. As an added bonus, unlike cookies, don't have to worry about these becoming stale. I have a mound of caramels, in three different flavors, to present it gift bags to my friends and family. Those who have already receive their caramel goody bag, have been delighted with them-- and they have raved about how delicious they are.
I especially get a kick out them asking me if I really made them myself. Why, yes, I did! So can you! You'll be a hero, if you make any, or all of these flavors. I will never buy caramels again! Why should I? These are amazing!
Both printable recipes cards are at the end of this post.