So I set out to make caramels. Truly not knowing what I wanted when I first poured the sugar and milk into the pot what was going to come of it. (I love making new recipes that way--going in totally blind when the thermometer gauge is ticking away). I did have a little bit of inspiration from an article in the NYT article about a famous chocolate-caramel recipe from 1881? Wild, from 1881. So the first batch was awful, very molasses overpowering, and no chocolate taste whatsoever. (sorry NYT, but still love you and look up to you). I know I followed everything to the T and know you have to literally "set up camp by the stove, do not leave pot" when making candy and/or caramels. The end result needed a lot more "ummphf". So the second batch I added in more butter, more salt, used half & half, and added in salty peanuts. BINGO. This recipe is a keeper. And I swear the second day they tasted even better. Everyone who was my taste-tester loved them. So I renamed them molasses-peanut chews because, well, thats what they taste like.
Super easy to make too. If you are familiar with making caramels then these will be a breeze for you. Are there some of you out there that still have last minute baking gifts to give? Use this. Trust me, these will knock their socks off.
I don't know if I will have another post before Christmas...Sooooo. I want to wish you all a merry christmas, happy holidays, etc... But more importantly: thank you truly for being such wonderful, awesome, incredible and loving fans. As I've said before "you guys rock my world"!
Cook Notes: if you have trouble with caramels here are a few things I can suggest to help you out. Get a good candy thermometer. Do not leave the stove when your mixture starts to boil. Set up camp at your stove until it's ready to pour. Stir like crazy. Be patient, it takes a good 15 - 20 minutes to get your caramels at the right temperature. The right temperature is 248 degrees (maybe minus 1 or 2 degrees)--watch that thermometer; anything higher in temp and you'll have hard candy.
molasses peanut chews
Inspired from 1881: Chocolate Caramels as seen in NYT
4 TB salted butter
About 1 TB butter to grease ceramic dish
4 ounces high quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 cup half & half
1 cup molasses
1 cup white sugar
1 ts high quality vanilla extract
Giant pinch of sea salt
½ cup of salted, roasted peanuts
Wax paper squares for wrapping caramels
Extra butter for greasing up your knife when cutting caramels
Remember this is hot sugar, never touch the hot sugar, never be tempted to taste test, and always use oven mits.
Butter an 8-by-8-inch or 8 x 9 baking dish. Get out a candy thermometer and clip onto pot.
In a large heavy duty pot (with high sides preferably) combine the butter, chocolate, milk, molasses, sugar, and salt. Place over a medium heat and stir constantly and CONSTANTLY scraping the bottom of pan. (You will be doing this for a while). Let it boil and cook until the temperature reaches around 247 -249 (soft ball stage). Once it hits this temperature remove from heat
And add in the vanilla extract (it will make a lot of noise and sizzle, just add in and stand back then stir in)
Once mixed, pour the hot mixture into your prepared buttered baking dish.
Sprinkle the peanuts on top of the caramel. Push peanuts down into caramel using rubber spatula—do not use your hands!
In about an hour or 45 minutes you should be able to handle caramel. Gently lift if out of baking dish and transfer to a wooden board or plastic cutting board.
Using a sharp knife cut long strips about ¾ of an inch, then cut those strips into 1 or 2 inch pieces.) Wrap in wax paper.
Should make about 70 pieces; all dependant on how you cut them (what size).