(BPT) - There are many confections available to satisfy a sweet tooth, but one that melts the hearts of many is rich, creamy caramel. Both young and old adore this treat that can be enjoyed on its own or paired with other ingredients to create an extra-delicious delight.

Caramel is a candy staple in the United States and abroad, but few people know the interesting history and fascinating facts that make this treat so unique. Check out five caramel facts that will make you love this sweet treat even more:

1. People have enjoyed caramels for hundreds of years.
The first types of caramels were hard candies that date back to the 17th century. In America, the settlers cooked sugar and water together to make these sweet treats. Caramels were a candy staple for many years because the ingredients were affordable, they were easy to make at home and they had a long shelf life.

2. The word “caramel” is derived from “caramelo.”
The word caramel was first recorded in the English language in 1725. Its roots are from the French and Spanish word “caramelo.”

3. Before chocolate, Milton Hershey produced caramels.
In 1886, Milton Hershey began his first successful confectionery business. The Lancaster Caramel Company shipped caramels across the U.S. and to Europe, causing the candy's popularity to skyrocket. The Lancaster Caramel Company established Hershey’s reputation in the confectionery industry and provided the foundation for the launch of The Hershey Company, which first produced sweet chocolate as a coating for the caramels before creating the iconic Hershey’s Milk Chocolate bar.  Fast forward over a century, and the original recipe is reimagined with new Lancaster Caramel Soft Cremes. These new caramels are carefully crafted to ensure a rich, creamy, melt-in-your mouth sensation. Available in caramel, caramel and vanilla, and raspberry and vanilla flavors, these new confections offer a modern twist on a classic and timeless treat.

4. Caramel’s main ingredients are surprisingly simple.
Today, caramel has two main ingredients: milk and sugar. When heated together to a high temperature, the milk helps make the caramel soft and creamy.

5. National Caramel Day is celebrated on April 5.
Caramel is such a beloved treat in the U.S. that each year on April 5th people celebrate National Caramel Day. Enjoy this sweet day or indulge your sweet tooth any day of the year with a variety of decadent recipes found on www.lancastercandy.com, including these two:

Caramel and Chocolate Cracker Treats

Ingredients:
Lancaster Caramel Soft Cremes
Round, buttery crackers
Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Chips

Directions:
Each cracker treat will require 2 crackers, 1-1/2 caramel candies and about 8 milk chocolate chips.

1. Heat oven to 200 F. Remove wrappers from caramel candies. Cut each caramel into two equal pieces; set aside.

2. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. For each cracker treat desired, place two crackers with bottom facing up on prepared cookie sheet. Place 3 caramel halves on one cracker and about 8 milk chocolate chips or 3 chocolates on the second cracker.

3. Heat in oven 5 minutes. Gently pick up cracker with chocolate pieces and press chocolate onto caramel topped cracker. Allow crackers to cool until chocolate is set.

 

Caramel Blondie Bars

Ingredients:
25 Lancaster Caramel Soft Cremes
1 tablespoon plus 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
6 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts

Directions:
1. Heat oven to 350 F. Grease 8- or 9-inch square baking pan. Remove wrappers from caramel candies. Cut each caramel into halves. Toss caramel pieces with 1 tablespoon flour so the pieces don't stick together.

2. Beat butter and brown sugar in large bowl until fluffy. Add egg, milk and vanilla; beat well. Stir together remaining 1-1/4 cups flour, baking soda and salt; add to butter mixture, beating until well blended.

3. Spread one half of batter in prepared pan. Sprinkle caramel pieces and nuts over batter. Drop remaining batter by the teaspoon over mixture. Gently spread batter to cover as much of the caramel pieces and nuts as possible.

4. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars. Makes 16 to 20 bars.