Antique Recipe: Honey Caramels

June 23rd, 2009 by megan · 24 Comments

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Honey Caramels

Honey Caramels

Honey Caramels come to you in honor of NYC’s Pollinator Week (this week!), which is coordinated by Just Food. Beekeeping is currently illegal in New York City (sign a petition to make it legal here), although there are quite a few rogue beekeepers in Brooklyn and in the rest of New York City. Read more about urban beekeeping here.

I found this recipe in the Puerto Rican Cookbook by Elizabeth B.K. Dooley, an antique cookbook that is part of my growing collection of ye olde cookbooks. It dates from the mid-40s, and is a fascinating collection of Puerto Rican food from the era of American colonization (i.e, prior to Puerto Rico becoming a Commonwealth). It’s got an entire chapter dedicated to recipes made with honey; pretty interesting coming from an island that grew a heck of a lot of sugar cane.

If you’re a novice candy maker, it really, really helps to have a candy thermometer on hand. The various stages of candy making (soft ball, firm ball, hard ball, etc.) tend to happen really, really quickly – you can take your candy from firm ball to hard ball in just seconds and then be totally screwed (mind out of the gutter, people). Without a proper candy thermometer, you will have to drop a bit of your candy into ice water to determine its stage in the candy making process. Don’t be intimidated – it’s really not that difficult, you just have to pay close attention to what’s going on in your pot.  Also – hot sugar is one of the hottest, most dangerous things you’ll come across in the kitchen. I kid you not. If you get hot caramel on your skin, it just keeps on burning and burning. (Speaking from experience here.) So be careful, OK?

Ingredients:

1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 4 pieces
1 cup honey (mild honey works best here)
1 cup raw sugar (or granulated sugar)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Fleur de sel or other sea salt for topping

Special Equipment: 8×8 pan, candy thermometer (optional)

Procedure:

  1. Line an 8×8 pan with aluminum foil, letting the edges of the foil hang over the side of the pan, and spray with cooking spray, or butter generously.
  2. Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium, heavy bottomed saucepan.
  3. Add the honey, sugar, and heavy cream. Stir over medium heat until the sugar has mostly dissolved.
  4. Turn the heat to medium low. Clip your candy thermometer onto the side of the pan….carefully.
  5. Cook the mixture over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches firm ball stage, which you can determine in one of two ways: a. the mixture reaches 248ºF (give or take a degree or two) on a candy thermometer (it will be marked with “FB” or “firm ball”) or b. Drop a bit of the mixture into a small bowl filled with ice water. It should immediately form a ball that you can squeeze together with your fingers without it dissipating.
  6. Immediately remove from the heat, quickly stir in the vanilla (it will bubble slightly) and pour the mixture into your greased pan. Sprinkle with fleur de sel or other sea salt.
  7. Let cool, lift out of the pan using the foil, then cut into squares and wrap in squares of parchment paper or cellophane.

Note: If you happen to accidentally take your caramels past the firm ball stage (i.e., if the caramel mixture gets a little too hard after it has cooled), remelt the candy over low heat with 1/4 cup of heavy cream. Stir until the mixture is totally combined, then do the ice water test to check the consistency of the mixture (dropping the mixture into cold water is a reliable indicator of what the texture/consistency of the caramels will be when cool). Immediately pour into a newly-foil lined and greased pan, and cool completely.

24 comments

The Duo Dishes Jun 23, 2009 at 5:07 pm


Beekeeping is llegal in NY?! Never heard of that. Interesting to learn though. The little caramels look so good. The honey flavor is a nice match. We should invest in a thermometer.

katiek @kitchensidecear Jun 23, 2009 at 7:48 pm


ooohf! This looks good. I thik I’d get a kick out of using REALLY GOOD dairy componenets. Good fresh cream. I like things milky.

Vanilla bean might be nice but pricey. I recently bought 10 to make 300 cookies… $$$$$

anna Jun 23, 2009 at 11:12 pm


Ooh, tasty! I’ve made caramel before but not caramels, plural. And I love honey. Perhaps a candy-making session is in order.

Ketzirah (Carly) Jun 24, 2009 at 8:50 am


Beekeeping is illegal in DC too. We tried it anyway, but my bees swarmed and left. :( They didn’t like living in the ‘hood.

I saw you post this to Twitter from my Blackberry and just finally got to look at it! It looks amazing!!!

megan Jun 24, 2009 at 10:18 am


Totally, totally use the best butter and cream you can possibly find. I used cultured organic butter and local cream from Milk Thistle Dairy (finally we have organic, local milk and cream at the farmer’s market here!)

Jen Jun 24, 2009 at 3:42 pm


I wonder if this can be made using dairy substitutes so i don’t increase my risk of cancer and heart disease?

megan Jun 24, 2009 at 4:34 pm


Jen, you can definitely use margarine (just don’t use corn-based margarine) and I would think soy milk for these. But if you are truly worried about getting cancer and heart disease from caramels, then I would recommend that you forgo the candies entirely and eat a piece of fruit instead.

Daily Spud Jun 24, 2009 at 6:30 pm


I’m not even sure that I count as a novice candy maker – it’s been soooooo long since I even thought about trying to make anything like caramels or toffee. As for the beekeeping being illegal in NYC – that just sounds crazy to me!

Kelly Jun 25, 2009 at 5:53 pm


Should you use one half cup of butter or 4 tablespoons? 4 tablespoons is one quarter cup of butter….

megan Jun 25, 2009 at 7:10 pm


Thanks Kelly. It’s 1/4 cup butter (4 tbs.). Changing recipe now.

Marc @ NoRecipes Jun 29, 2009 at 11:55 pm


Oooo I bet this tastes phenomenal. There’s a flavour of ice cream in Australia/New Zealand called “Hokey Poky” that has little bits of caramelized honey in it. It’s my flavour of ice cream.

liza Jul 19, 2009 at 12:29 am


We have bees and a hive in our garden so we will definitely be trying this out…sorry you can’t raise bees, they are fascinating and very helpful on our land.

radish Jul 27, 2009 at 2:11 pm


At Landmarc, they give you honey caramels after dinner, I always try to hoard them, but eat all within an hour. I have even asked for seconds (no shame whatsoever!) — this looks fantastic and making caramels is so much fun. I’ve made salted before, but not this – need to try!

richard Dec 12, 2009 at 6:07 pm


to underscore possible danger of hot sugar – spilled some on my thumb while making peanut brittle. had to go to emergency clinic, burned all the way to bone! worst pain ever! got infected, took two months to heal, still have bad scar. BE CAREFUL!

megan Dec 12, 2009 at 6:41 pm


whoa richard, that’s pretty extreme! I’m with you though, I’ve gotten terrible, terrible burns from hot sugar – mine too was a brittle accident! it huuurts.

mostlygreenmama Oct 22, 2010 at 4:45 pm


Just had a friend forward me this recipe. She made it with coconut milk instead of cream and coconut oil instead of butter, for her her dairy allergic little one. Turned out GREAT! But if you go that route, half the measurement for the coconut oil, she said.

Allison Dec 4, 2010 at 9:02 pm


I just made this recipe as a filling for some chocolates I made. It’s wonderful (with a little sea salt on top of the chocolate)! Do you know if I could reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe and still end up with a chewy caramel?
Thanks!

Stephanie Jul 31, 2011 at 11:39 am


I need a little help with this. I cooked it to the right temp, but it came out too sticky ;; any ideas?

Jessica Oct 15, 2011 at 1:53 am


Oh my… This is the best caramel I have tasted to date. This is the first recipe I have use from this lovely site… Looking forward to visiting and creating!

Jessica Oct 20, 2011 at 1:19 am


The absolute best recipe for caramel, this is the best caramel I have ever had.

Cheryl Dec 21, 2011 at 9:32 am


I just made these last night and wanted to thank you for posting the recipe. I was looking for a caramel recipe made without corn syrup and all the junk. (Just couldn’t bring myself to buy caramels in the store after reading the ingredients!) I followed your instructions exactly. I used a candy thermometer to get the caramel to 248*. They turned out perfect and delicious. Yay!! Thanks again and Merry Christmas.

Jennie Feb 11, 2012 at 3:33 am


To get a creamier caramel you have to add more cream to the recipe. Now I haven’t tried making this caramel so I can not tell you the amount. But the more cream you add the softer/ creamier it will get.

Milk and Honey and the Best of the Land « Creative Family Moments Sep 13, 2012 at 2:45 pm


[...] Honey caramels (or Bit-O-Honey candies) [...]

Maya Oct 30, 2012 at 7:13 pm


We are beekeeper a in Washington state. My daughter has a severe dairy allergy, and I wanted to make her a special treat for Halloween. I substituted coconut oil for the butter, and coconut cream for the heavy cream. They are fabulous, and made with the honey from our own backyard! Thanks for the recipe, you’ve made one little girl VERY happy!

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