For homemade caramels, follow a simple recipe that yields smooth and rich caramel squares, or add chocolate and pecans for a slightly textured alternative. Both recipes yield caramel pieces in less than four hours, including cooling time.
For simple plain squares, combine 2 cups of white sugar, 1 cup of packed brown sugar, 1 cup of corn syrup, 1 cup of evaporated milk, 1 pint of heavy whipping cream and 1 cup of butter. Heat slowly and stir. Using a candy thermometer, let the mixture reach 200 degrees F and remove from the heat. Add 1 1/4 teaspoons of vanilla and stir, then pour into a greased 12-by-15-inch pan. When the mixture cools, cut into squares.
For a variation on this simple recipe, combine 2 cups of sugar, 1 cup of half-and-half, 3/4 cup of light corn syrup, and 1/2 cup of butter in a pot over medium heat. Let the mixture come to a full boil stirring occasionally. Add 1 more cup of half-and-half, and stir until the mixture reaches 245 degrees F. Pour into an 8-inch pan covered with greased aluminum foil extending over the edges. Refrigerate for up to 90 minutes or until firm, and cut into 64 square pieces. Melt 3/4 cup of real semi-sweet chocolate chips, and drip 1/4 teaspoon of melted chocolate over each square. Press a pecan on top of each of the 64 pieces.