I have a passion for black licorice. And caramel. The two together are simply brilliant. I know that not everyone shares my passion for black licorice but I really do think that if you are in the black licorice-hating camp, and you were bold enough to give this a try, you just might begin to be persuaded. If not, well.... as my dad used to say "All the more for me!!"
This recipe is really just a tiny adjustment to the Caramels with Mediterranean Sea Salt that I posted in February.
Disclaimer: I am not any kind of an expert candy maker. I have made caramels for more years than I care to share and although they are about the most fool-proof candy out there, there are a couple of tips best kept in mind.
The first tip is that a candy thermometer is a minimal investment and worth every penny. Everybody's grandmother probably tested candy done-ness with a cold water bath and you can too but it takes a bit of trial and error to figure out exactly what a soft ball is as opposed to a hard ball (and we are not talking sports here). If you want to go that route, knock yourself out but you will probably also ruin more than one batch of candy while you are learning. So save yourself some grief and get a candy thermometer. A good one will still be under 10.00.
Second tip: Proof that new (or old) candy thermometer. What? How? Remember back to grade school science? We learned that water boils at 212 F (or 100 C). That is true but it is also true that it is true at sea level and elevation makes a difference. Way up here in the foothills of Alberta water actually boils at 202 F (according to my thermometer) so unless I want to overcook my candy and have a tooth-pulling mess, I need to account for the difference when making candy. What this means for you is - when you get your candy thermometer put a pan of water on the stove, clip your thermometer on the side, and note at what temperature the water boils. If it boils at 202 F, when your recipe says to cook the candy to 245 F, you know that you only need to cook it to 235 F.
black licorice caramels
1 cup butter
2 1/4 cups brown sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup corn syrup
1 15-oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp anise oil (sometimes called extract)
1/2 tsp black food coloring paste - optional
Melt butter in a heavy 3 quart saucepan. Add the sugar, salt, corn syrup, and condensed milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. Stir. And stir. And stir some more. At some point in the stirring clip your invaluable thermometer onto the side of your pan so that you know when you have gotten to the firm ball stage (245 F). It may take a while - or it may not be more than 12-15 minutes. (You can see the advantage of the thermometer, right? When you have a bit of experience making caramels it is easy to see from the color of the cooking candy, and the thickness of the syrup that you are close to where you want to be - but as I say, experience is the critical thing here.)
Remove the pan from heat and stir in the anise oil and food coloring if you are using it. Pour into a well- buttered 9x13-inch pan. Cool.
When thoroughly cooled, turn the candy out onto a cutting board and cut into squares using a large sharp knife. Wrap in 4" squares of waxed paper.
And December 15th has flown by.