Homemade caramels are perfectly soft and chewy and so easy to make!
Stir the mixture constantly, scraping the sides occasionally until it reaches a firm ball stage (about 238 degrees F on a candy thermometer). It takes patience and time, but it's sooo worth it! (Also, I don't always trust or rely on a candy thermometer either--I like to test it the old fashioned way. Drop a spoonful of hot caramel sauce into a cup of ice water and mold it with your fingers into a ball. When ready it will feel pretty firm and pliable, but still slightly sticky.)
Once you reach 238 degrees F / or the firm ball stage, remove from heat. Stir in vanilla.
Pour caramels into a buttered jelly roll pan. Refrigerate until cooled and hardened. (Best if you refrigerate them overnight, or for several hours. They will be easy to cut and wrap).
The caramel will seem hard in the fridge after they're set, but they should be soft at room temperature. Cut caramel into small pieces and, if desired, wrap like a tootsie roll in wax paper.
Don't miss the tips and tricks for this recipe listed above in the post!