These hard caramels are smooth, sweet and utterly addictive.
You won't need a candy thermometer – but you will need a lot of willpower to stop at just one.
Russian Caramels: the ingredients
The ingredients are likely things you already have in your cupboards and fridge:
- condensed milk
- brown sugar
- golden syrup.
(If you're in the US, you can find golden syrup in the British or Australian section of your grocery store. Alternatively, corn syrup is sometimes used as a substitute, though I haven't tried it with this recipe.)
The precise quantities can be found in the recipe card at the end of the post.
Making Russian Caramel
The caramels are made by combining all the ingredients in a saucepan and then stirring over low heat to melt the butter and dissolve the sugar.
The trick is to go slow.
Once the mixture is smooth, turn up the heat a little if necessary to bring to a slow simmer. You want the mixture to be bubbling gently.
You may not have to turn up the heat at all, though, so only increase the heat if it's not coming to a simmer.
Now you need to simmer for 20-30 minutes while stirring frequently.
You'll know the mixture is ready when it turns a darker, almost chocolate, colour and starts to thicken so much that you can see the bottom of the saucepan as you stir.
Also, if you scoop out the mixture with the spoon it will hold together a little rather than running straight off the spoon.
It's important to keep the simmer gentle during the process. If it starts to bubble too strongly on even the lowest heat setting, take the saucepan off the heat and allow it to cool a little before returning to the heat.
Once cooked, pour the mixture into a greased slice tin.
Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes and then score using a butter knife (to create 11 x 7 rows).
Once completely cool you can break into small squares along these lines and store in an airtight container.
Where did I find this recipe?
Growing up, my mum made these often and we simply called them "Caramels."
Dad loved them so much that Mum actually named them after him in her recipe book: "Toffee David".
I later learnt they are known as "Russian Caramels".
We also later learnt through DNA ancestry testing that my Dad's grandfather was Russian. A Russian ANZAC in fact. It was a surprise to learn that among the English and Scottish genes, 25% of Dad's heritage is Russian. So it seems quite appropriate that these little toffees Dad loves so much are actually called Russian Caramels!
I'm not sure of the precise history of the recipe, but Russian Caramels were around back in Nana Ling's day.
I found this recipe in her local paper, The Maitland Daily Mercury, dated March 1937.
I think this old version sums up this old-fashioned treat nicely:
"Caramels made with condensed milk are called Russian Caramels, and they are delicious."
- 115 grams butter
- 225 grams brown sugar (1 cup + 1 tablespoon)
- 395 grams condensed milk (1 tin)
- 2 tablespoons golden syrup
- Grease a slice tin (approx 27 x 17 cm).
- Add all ingredients to a saucepan.
- Heat slowly over low heat to melt butter and dissolve sugar.
- Increase heat a little if necessary to bring to a slow simmer.
- Simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring frequently.
- The mixture should thicken and become darker. It's ready when the mixture is a dark, almost chocolate colour and comes away from the bottom of the saucepan as you stir it.
- Pour mixture into the greased tin.
- Allow to cool for about 10-15 minutes and then score using a butter knife (to create 11 x 7 rows). Once completely cool you can break into small squares along these lines.
- Store in an airtight container.