photograph by iStock/Ulyashka

Yield: 5 dozen pieces.

1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
1½ cups sugar
¼ cup light corn syrup
¼ cup water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Mist an 8 x 8-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Line the dish with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides. Mist the paper.

2. In a medium saucepan, stir together the cream, butter, and salt. Cook over medium heat until the butter melts, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat.

3. In a deep 3- or 4-quart saucepan,
stir together the sugar, corn syrup, and water until the mixture is a moist, grainy paste. Brush down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water to wash away any grains of sugar above the surface of the mixture. Clip a candy thermometer on the side of the pan and position it so that the tip is immersed in the liquid. Cook the sugar mixture over medium-high heat until it reaches 250º. Do not stir! If the tip of the candy thermometer is not
immersed in the liquid, gently tilt the pan so that the liquid covers the tip when you need to check the temperature. Gently brush down the sides of the pan with the pastry brush each time. There can be no residue above
the surface of the liquid.

4. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the cream mixture. The sugar syrup will bubble, hiss, and rise vigorously at first. Stop whisking as soon as all of the cream mixture goes in.

5. Return the pan to medium-high heat and cook until the mixture reaches 245º to 250º (firm-ball stage). Do not stir! Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the vanilla.

6. Pour the caramel into the prepared dish. Gently tap the dish on the counter to remove air bubbles. Let the caramels sit undisturbed overnight, uncovered. If the caramel is still too soft and tacky to cut the next day, refrigerate until firm. Use the parchment paper handles to lift the slab of candy from the dish. Cut the candy into bite-size pieces. Wrap each piece in a 4-inch square of waxed paper and twist the ends closed. Store at room temperature for up to two weeks.

Tip: For softer, taffy-like caramels that are less likely to stick to your teeth, increase the cream to 1½ cups.

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Sheri Castle hails from Watauga County, but came down off the mountain to go to Carolina and now lives in Fearrington Village. She is a writer, recipe developer, cooking teacher, and popular public speaker. She is fueled by mountains, excellent bourbon, farmers’ markets, and searching for the right word. Sheri believes that stories happen only to those who can tell them. Check her out at shericastle.com.

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