Cross a rock-hard candy with a caramel and you’ve got the ne plus ultra, in my humble opinion, of candy. If you need a comparative treat to help you wrap your head around this deliciousness, think of a Sugar Daddy. There is nothing like that chewy sugar lockjaw, that mercury-filling-extracting, unintentional drool-producing goodness. Don’t even think about biting down on this when it’s first introduced into your mouth; just let it ride around a bit until it relents just enough for you to get your chew on. The beauty of this treat is that it works just as well as a lollipop as it does a single-wrap candy. And you can mix it up with an array of delightful infusions to enjoy while your teeth are fused together by that supreme sugar fixative that is The Sugar, Baby!
In a 4-quart saucepan over low heat, warm the sugar, corn syrup, and salt, stirring until the sugar has melted.
Raise the heat to medium-high and clip on a candy thermometer. Heat to 310 degrees Fahrenheit (154 degrees Celsius).
Meanwhile, in a small saucepan over low heat, combine the cream and the vanilla paste and stir until they just begin to simmer. You can also microwave the two in a microwave-safe bowl for 1 minute. Keep warm.
When the sugar syrup reaches temperature, turn off the heat and add the warm cream mixture. The addition of the cream will cause the caramel to bubble vigorously, so step back until the caramel storm has passed. If the temperature of the mixture has dipped below 275 degrees Fahrenheit (135 degrees Celsius), warm the caramel mixture until you reach that temperature.
Remove the pan from the heat. Add the butter, stirring constantly until it is completely melted and has emulsified. Pour the caramel into 25 square silicone molds sprayed with nonstick spray. Let the caramel stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes. While the caramel is still warm and malleable but beginning to firm, insert a lollipop stick in each mold. Allow the caramel to cool completely and then gently coax the lollies out. One trick is to pop the silicone molds in the freezer for a minute; this will help the lollipops come out quite easily. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 2 weeks.