FOUR ingredients, SEVEN minutes and a microwave are all you need to make these too-good-to-be-true, soft, buttery, melt-in-your-mouth caramels!
Every once in a while I run into a recipe that just blows my mind!
This is one of them.
Gourmet tasting caramels with unreal softness, cooked in the microwave for 7 minutes without a thermometer, nor constant stirring, extreme caution, a pounding heart and undeniable intimidation, is the opposite of everything I have learned about candy making.
Something about the ease, the speed and the end result…that just didn’t add up.
Which is why I have been arrogantly eye rolling this recipe, every time it popped up in my Pinterest feed.
I was like…Ha?! Microwave Caramels? #PinterestFail for sure!
But boy did this recipe prove me wrong and stuck its tongue at me.
Because I can now shamefully say…that I’M OBSESSED.
And kicking myself for the years I spent in skepticism, making labor-intesitive, nerve-wracking caramels, when something this dead simple exists.
It all came about because I needed caramels to stuff into a new cookie recipe that I was developing. (FYI…that cookie recipe is what’s coming up next!)
I tried so many different types of caramel for the cookie filling, but each one posed its own set of problems. Ranging from bursting out of the cookie and oozing into a pool, to rock hard centers that stuck to the teeth.
I was left with only one final resort: Giving the very doubtful Microwave Caramels a go.
Let’s just say, that my first trial left my jaw dropping, got my husband thinking of opening up a candy business, and gave my kids something new to fight over.
Soft, smooth, buttery, not too sweet, with just the right amount of chew. Just everything you need from a caramel in a fraction of the time and effort.
People will think you slaved over these!
I got a little too excited and kept making batches after batches, tweaking them a little and experimenting with different types of sugar each time. It was like having a small candy factory in my kitchen, flowing with caramels everywhere. I took advantage of the major “getting the kids involved” nature of the recipe and got them wrapping so we could give them away as gifts. I knew that something this addictive needed to be out of sight asap.
As for the cookies? The real reason behind these caramels? My oh my…some of the best cookies I’ve ever tasted. The caramel was the perfect filling…not too loose…not too stiff, with dynamite flavor and 100X better than anything you could buy from the store. Exactly what I was going for. (Be sure to check back in a couple of days for the cookies)
I wasn’t actually planning on making a separate blog post for these caramels, but rather integrate it into the cookie one. Yet after their ragging success and seeing how everyone was raving about them, I felt they deserved their own spotlight.
Which also serves me a chance to bombard you with step-by-step photos and get a little nerdy about the making process and discoveries that came along the way.
- You’ll only need 4 ingredients to bring this recipe to life: Butter, soft brown sugar, sweetened condensed milk and light corn syrup. Oh and a pinch of salt. So 5 if you wanna count that! Also, if you’d like to fancy ’em up, you could add vanilla and sea salt flakes on top, but they’re not necessary.
- You’re gonna want to make sure to use unsalted butter here, because the salted kind splatters like crazy in the microwave.
- Use all soft LIGHT brown sugar! As I mentioned earlier, I experimented with different types of sugars. The first recipe I tried called for equal amounts of white sugar and light brown sugar. While it was incredibly good, it left us craving a stronger caramel flavor. The sweetened condensed milk flavor kind of came through too, which it not at all a bad thing, but not what we’re after when making caramels. I then tried ALL light brown sugar as suggested by other recipes, and it turned out super caramel-y perfection. For research sake, I also tried all dark brown sugar, wondering if it will increase the caramel-ness of the candy, but this one ended up being our least favorite batch. The color was unappetizingly dark and the flavor was molasses-y more than anything else. So…to make a long story short go with LIGHT brown sugar.
Now that we got the ingredients out of the way, let’s make some caramels!
You’ll first begin by melting the butter in the microwave, then add to that everything else…brown sugar, sweetened condensed milk and light corn syrup. Seriously though…with an ingredient list like that, you know you’re off to a good start.
Stir everything really well together. Make sure your bowl is big enough to accommodate for some intense bubbling. And of course, make sure that it’s microwave safe.
Place the bowl in the microwave and set it to 6 minutes on HIGH power. You might need to add a couple more minutes, but its better to start with less time and add to it, than to overcook your caramel; which will give you really hard candy.
Timing will vary depending on how much you make, the wattage of your microwave, and the size of your bowl. Mine gets done in 7 minutes in my new Miele microwave, but each microwave is different. Have I mentioned that I’m loving my new Miele kitchen gear? I should show you around some time.
If you have a candy thermometer, well look at you! Might as well make use of it. Just give the mixture a good stir to distribute the temperature evenly, then measure. It should register between 238F-242F/ 115C-117C for a softer caramel (perfect for stuffing in cookies and other desserts that will be baked) or up to 245F/ 118C for a firmer, chewier caramel (perfect for wrapping into candies). Caramels pictured are cooked to around 240F/116C.
If it’s not there yet, give it another 30 seconds in the microwave, then measure again and so on.
But I promised you delicious, soft caramel candies that doesn’t require a thermometer and I’m here to deliver! To know when your caramel is done, simply drop a small spoon of the caramel in ice water. Allow it to cool for a few seconds, then remove it. It should form a soft pliable ball; not too soft or liquidy nor too hard and brittle. If it needs more time, return to the microwave and heat in 30 second increments.
And that’s really just all the “cooking” this caramel needs!
Now pour into a pan…
Sprinkle on some sea salt flakes, for salted caramels…YUM! Or not, if you don’t feel like it.
Let it cool and set up in the fridge.
Cut it up into nice, squishy bites.
Call over the fam (or peeps)…and wrap them up to heart’s content. Or leave them uncovered if using in another recipe.
I might or might not have carried quite a few in my purse and used them as bribes, baits and conversation openers.
Be sure to check back in a couple of days to see them oozing out of some darn good cookies!
- ½ cup (4 ounces/ 114 grams) unsalted butter (do not use salted as it splatters)
- 1 cup (7 ounces/ 200 grams) packed light brown sugar
- ½ cup (5.6 ounces/ 160 grams) light corn syrup
- ½ cup (5.6 ounces/160 grams) sweetened condensed milk
- ⅛ teaspoon fine salt
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
- ½ teaspoon (more or less, according to taste) sea salt flakes, for sprinkling on top, optional
- Lightly spray (or butter) an 8X8'" baking pan. Line the bottom of the pan with a sheet of parchment or wax paper with the ends hanging off the sides, then lightly spray or grease the sheet.
- In a medium, microwave-safe glass bowl, heat the butter in the microwave until melted; about 1 minute.
- To the bowl with the butter, stir in the brown sugar, corn syrup, sweetened condensed milk and ⅛ teaspoon of fine salt until very well combined and a homogenous mixture forms.
- Return the bowl to the microwave and cook the mixture on HIGH power for 6 to 8 minutes. Start with 6 minutes, stop, stir and check for doneness, then add additional cooking time in 30 second increments, if needed. The caramel should register on a candy thermometer, between 238F-242F (115C-117C) for a softer caramel (perfect for stuffing in cookies and other desserts that will be baked) or up to 245F/118C for a firmer, chewier caramel (perfect for wrapping into candies). I like to err on the softer side. For an accurate reading, stir the the mixture first, to distribute the temperature evenly, then measure. If its below that point, return to the microwave for 30 seconds more, measuring and adding more time as needed.
- If you don't have a candy thermometer, while the mixture is cooking, prepare a glass of iced water and keep nearby. To check for doneness, drop a small spoon of the caramel in the ice water. Allow it to cool for a few seconds, then remove it. It should form a soft pliable ball; not too soft or liquidy nor too hard and brittle. If it needs more time, return to the microwave and heat in 30 second increments. Mine was done at 7 minutes, but timing will vary depending on how much you make, the wattage of your microwave, and the size of your bowl.
- Using one mitts, carefully remove the bowl from the microwave. Stir in the vanilla extract, if using.
- Carefully pour the mixture into the prepared baking pan. Lightly sprinkle the top with sea salt, if using.
- Transfer the pan to the refrigerator and chill until set, at least 30 minutes.
- Using the parchment/wax paper overhang, pull out the slab of caramel from the pan and place on a cutting board. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut the caramel evenly into rectangular pieces. I cut the slab into 4 rows, then cut each row into 12 rectangles.
- Wrap each caramel piece individually in wax paper, twisting the ends to seal.
- Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Separate the layers with wax paper if you are not wrapping them individually.