Toasted Coconut Caramels
While commercial candies weren’t widely available in the United States until the mid-19th century and mostly included hard sugar confections like Gibraltars or stick candy, home cooks often made caramels, as evidenced by recipes in antique cookery books like “The Cook’s Oracle” dating back to 1830. This recipe for a classic soft caramel is enlivened with the texture and taste of toasted coconut.
Prep time: 25 minutes
Yield: 25 to 30 pieces
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup light corn syrup
3 tablespoons water
1 cup sugar
1 cup toasted coconut, shredded or grated
1. Line an 8-inch-by-8-inch square baking pan with a 12-inch-by-8-inch parchment paper rectangle, allowing the long edges to fall over the side of the pan. Lightly grease the parchment and pan with cooking spray or butter.
2. Heat the butter and cream in a small saucepan over low heat until just melted and combined, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from the heat.
3. Combine the corn syrup and the water in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, then add the sugar. Using a wooden spoon, stir just until the sugar is moistened and resembles wet sand, then increase the heat to medium-high. Bring the mixture to a boil for 1 to 2 minutes. Cover the pan and boil for 1 minute longer. This will add moisture to the pan.
4. Remove the lid and continue to boil the mixture until it reaches 320 F (160 C) on a candy thermometer or the edges of the mixture begins to look light brown, about 6 to 7 minutes.
5. Slowly add the butter mixture, stirring well and cooking until the mixture reaches 240 F (116 C).
6. Pour the hot caramel into the prepared baking dish and sprinkle the toasted coconut evenly over the top. Use a rubber spatula to gently press the coconut into the hot caramel.
7. Set the pan aside until the caramel almost completely cools, about 45 minutes.
8. Using the parchment paper hanging over the side of the pan, lift the caramel sheet out of the pan and, using a sturdy chef’s knife or bread knife, slice the caramels into 1-inch-by-1-inch squares.
9. Wrap each caramel in a 4-inch-by-4-inch wax paper square and twist each end tightly. Store in a airtight container.
Main photo: The interior of Shane Confectionery in Philadelphia decorated for Halloween. Credit: Copyright 2016 courtesy of Shane Confectionery