Learn how to make caramel candies at home and add flavor! This recipe for chai tea caramels is easy to follow, and the results are sure to impress.
Candy making, especially as the weather turns, feels like the right thing to do. And I’d love to share some story about making candy with my family. But we don’t have a candy-making tradition. Unless you count going to the store, buying the candy, and transferring it to a dish. One way to do it, darlings. #noshame
That being said, we’re all overachievers here, so let’s make some chai tea caramels! You don’t get flavored caramels like this at the store anyway…
What equipment do I need to make caramel?
I’m getting into this candy making business in a little way this year. I’ve toyed with making caramels before, but now classes are involved and it’s a bit more serious. 😉 Candy making can be involved, darlings! Thankfully, caramels are pretty easy to make in that they don’t require a lot of equipment. Chances are, you have everything you need in your kitchen.
You’ll need: a heavy bottom pot for cooking the caramel, a candy thermometer or digital read thermometer, an 8×8 inch baking dish for setting the caramel, and some parchment paper and nonstick spray. That’s it. Obviously, there are the measuring cups, but if even my mom has a set, I know you must. I love her.
As far as the thermometer, let’s chat for just a quick second. If you don’t have one, don’t go out and splurge on a $100+ instant thermometer with bluetooth and Alexa voice activation or whatever they have now. A basic candy thermometer will run you under $10 at any craft store. I used my instant read digital thermometer, which cost me maybe $20. As long as you can read the temperature in single digit increments, it’s good.
How do I get the chai flavor into my chai tea caramels?
There are a couple different ways to infuse flavor into caramels. For this recipe, we infuse the heavy cream with the chai flavor. I do not recommend just adding chai spices like I do in the pumpkin chai tiramisu, chai caramel corn, or pumpkin chai macarons. Not only will this mess with the texture, you can’t control the final flavor.
Unlike baked goods which are usually consumed within a few days, candy lasts a few weeks. Most of my friends who make candy for Christmas will have a candy making day about 2 weeks or so before Christmas and then do the baking the weekend prior. If you leave the spices in the candy, it will over-steep and could ruin the flavor.
To avoid this, we use a flavoring method called “infusion”. Basically it means we steep our flavoring agent in a liquid until enough flavor transfers. Then we use that liquid in the recipe. For these caramels, we make a strong chai in the heavy cream. The flavor stays after the tea bags are removed. Then it is present in the caramels in a controlled and extra delicious way.
The only downside to this is that one won’t know exactly what flavor the caramels are at first glance. If you aren’t wrapping them as I did and take them open in a candy box, you could conceivably top them with a sprinkle of chai tea spices. But again, probably only if they will be consumed quickly. Otherwise the flavors will be off, and you are adding a “texture” to otherwise creamy caramels.
How soft or hard are these caramels?
The final firmness of the caramels is up to you. This is why an accurate candy thermometer is important. A difference of just a few degrees will impact the firmness of your caramel candies. To make caramels like in the photos, follow the instructions for the more firm caramels, cooked to a higher temperature.
My husband and I liked them on the more firm side, but the kids that tried the caramels felt they were too “sticky”. I’m not 100% sure what they meant by that. My guess is they were hoping for a softer candy, which I will probably make next time in another, kid-inspired, flavor. Extra caramels for me! 😉
I hope you enjoy this recipe for chai tea caramels! And I really hope you feel inspired to give candy making a try soon. As far as efficient treat making, I love that I was able to make a good amount at once. The wrapping and cutting took some time, but having treats on hand to give out over a few weeks was really nice. Well, a week. They didn’t last longer. Enjoy!
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cubed
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 bags of chai tea (see notes)
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 cup water
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- nonstick spray
- Line an 8x8 inch pan with parchment and spray with nonstick spray.
- In a small saucepan, combine the butter and heavy cream. Bring just to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from the heat. Put the chai tea bags to steep in the butter and heavy cream mixture, cover, and set aside for 20 minutes.
- In a large heavy-bottomed pot with straight edges, combine the water, corn syrup, and sugar. Set the pot over medium heat, and stir until the sugar has dissolved. If needed, brush the sides of the pot with a pastry brush dipped in water to remove sugar crystals.
- Once the sugar has dissolved, stop stirring and clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pot. Allow the mixture to boil until it reaches 325 F.
- While the sugar is coming to temperature, remove the tea bags from the heavy cream mixture.
- When the sugar mixture reaches temperature, carefully pour in the chai-infused heavy cream. Be careful as it will sputter and bubble a lot. Stir to combine.
- Cook the caramel mixture to 258 F for quite firm caramels, as pictured. If you'd like softer caramels, you may cook to between 250-255 F.
- As soon as the caramel has reached your desired temperature, remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla extract, and pour into your prepared dish. Allow to rest at least 4-6 hours at room temperature, up to overnight.
- To cut the caramels, spray a sharp knife with nonstick spray and cut. Wrap in wax paper and store up to 3 weeks in an airtight container.
- If you are going to use loose chai instead of bags of tea, use 2 tablespoons of the loose tea. Strain the cream through a fine mesh sieve after the steeping time to remove solids.
- Final yield will be determined by the size of your caramels. Cutting 1-inch squares will give you about 64 caramels, but the exact size of your cut is up to you. Adjust based on preference and packaging.
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