Need for holiday speed

  Yikes! Christmas is coming way too fast. Too much to do; too little time — that’s my excuse for not blogging the last few days!

But I resolve to do better in this week leading up to the holiday, and if you’re like me and need some quick treats to share with family and friends, I’ve been doing a bit of research and have come up with some semi-homemade ideas as well as a several microwave methods for making candy.

First up is this microwave caramel recipe from DotMom’s “Mixing & Musing.” Because of an earlier candy-making experiment gone awry in the microwave, I reduced the power on this to 90 percent with good success, although I haven’t yet perfected the timing in my own microwave. The first batch, cooked the full 10 minutes, turned out a bit too hard; while the batch cooked for 8½ minutes was a bit too soft. (I have been called Goldilocks before, but as a reference to my blonde hair.)

I recommend having a cup of cold water sitting at the ready to test for a firm soft ball stage to get the correct caramel consistency. (If you’ve never made candy before, this involves dropping a bit of the mixture into the cold water to see how it firms up. While the hard crack stage is easily discernible by testing this way, soft ball is a bit harder to discern.)

These caramels can be made with or without nuts; I wrapped mine in squares of waxed paper for gifting.

Microwave Caramels

In an 8-cup glass measure or bowl, combine ½ cup butter, 1 cup brown sugar, ½ cup light corn syrup, dash of salt and 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk. (FYI: You can get two batches of caramels out of one can of condensed milk.)

Microwave on high (or 90 percent power if you have a newer microwave, like mine) for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, to soft ball stage. Stir in ½ cup chopped pecans and ½ teaspoon vanilla.

Pour into a buttered 8-inch square dish. Let cool until firm; cut into squares.

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