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Homemade lavender caramels anyone?
You might know I’m a big fan of lavender around here. And butterscotch. And caramel. So what could be better than homemade lavender caramels? Not much that I have found.
Now, before I talk about how perfect this recipe is, I feel like I have to be honest about what’s involved. It’s not difficult. Not at all. But it’s time consuming, and mostly hands on time. If you don’t want to stand in front of the stove for an hour or more, constantly stirring, this is not the recipe for you. It took me an hour straight of standing and stirring. I know because I timed it.
You will also need a candy thermometer to make this. Unless you are super skilled at knowing the different stages of cooking sugar into caramel, which I am not. The thermometer makes it super easy.
So why would you put yourself through that if you can just go buy some caramels? Well, because you can taste the difference. These taste like sugar, of course. But they also taste like milk, and butter, and cream. They have a deep butterscotch flavor thanks to using a combination of dark brown sugar and sweetened condensed milk instead of white sugar and corn syrup. And there is a hint of lavender flavor. This comes from steeping a tablespoon of lavender into two cups of half and half before starting. If that seems like a lot, don’t worry — your caramels will have a hint of lavender with no soapiness or bitterness at all. These make an amazing gift if you’re the kind of person that likes to make things instead of buy things. And since we’re right on the heels of the biggest gift-giving time of the year, well, this should be in your cards.
To finish, you’ll add a sprinkle of coarse sea salt. I covered some of mine in dark chocolate, and they are glorious, but if you don’t want that extra step, the uncovered caramels are perfection on their own, I promise you.
Homemade Lavender Butterscotch Caramels
These decadent homemade lavender caramels are perfectly chewy with a rich, butter caramel flavor and a hint of lavender. Perfect for gifts.
Line a square baking pan (see note) with parchment paper.
In a large saucepan, add the half and half and lavender. Bring to a low simmer. Simmer for about 3 minutes, then strain.
Add the cream back to the pot, along with the butter, condensed milk, sugar, and salt (see note).
Over low heat, cook until the butter is melted. Turn the heat up to medium low and cook until it starts bubbling. If using a candy thermometer, attach it to the side of your pot so that you can read it easily.
Stir and cook while the mixture bubbles, watching the temperature as it cooks. Continue cooking until the temperature reaches about 245-250 degrees. Your thermometer may have this marked as “firm ball stage.”
Once you’ve reached this temperature, continue cooking for about 30 seconds or so and turn off the heat. Stir in the vanilla.
Pour the mixture into your prepared pan. Don’t try to scrap any of what’s left in the bottom of the pot; this may result in a grainy texture for the final product.
Lightly tap your pan on the counter to even out the caramel. Let cool for about 30 minutes.
Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and transfer to the refrigerator. Chill for about 2 hours.
Cut into cubes. Store in the fridge or at room temperature.
Don’t skip the salt in the cooked caramel. You can skip the coarse finishing salt at the end if you are afraid they’ll be too salty, but these are almost pure sugar. You need at least some salt to balance the sweet if you don’t want something sickly sweet.
Do not try to rush this recipe by turning the heat up — you will burn your caramel. It takes the time it takes.
Cook the caramel exactly to the correct temperature. Too low and your caramel won’t set up. Too high and your caramel will be too hard. This is why a thermometer is important — there’s a short window in which you will end up with perfectly, chewy caramels. If you haven’t used your thermometer in a while, test it by bringing a pot of water to boil with the thermometer attached to the pot. When it boils it should read 212 degrees.
A square baking pan will give you caramels that are almost perfectly square. Anything larger will result in caramels that are thin and brittle. Do not skip lining your pan with parchment.
Variations: You can leave the lavender out of these if you’d like; just skip the steeping part. You can use light brown sugar or even white sugar instead of dark brown, but your caramels will not have the deep butterscotch flavor that makes them so good.