Surprise! I’m actually posting something! I had some lovely intentions of posting during the holiday season but nothing ever materialized. And it’s such a shame too, because I have a really lovely collection of Christmassy recipes to share! (If I do say so myself.) Will you be totally annoyed with me if I inundate you with them now? I hope not, ‘cause they’re coming your way anyhow.
I’ve been trying different recipes of caramels for several months now. I wanted a nice, solid recipe with good flavor that wasn’t difficult to make. I thought I’d never find one until I tried a recipe from a blog I like, which shall remain anonymous. The recipe was a total fail, so I went back and read all the comments on that post. And it turns out that the diamond in the rough was waiting in someone’s reply! How funny is that!?
All I really did to it is add more salt. Mmmmmm, salt and caramel. There is this amazing fruit stand/gourmet nibbles shop/antique store I used to stop at on my way to Seattle (Thorp’s, anyone?) that sold the BEST salted caramels. And at fifty cents a pop too! Ouch! This recipe is just as wonderful and SO much cheaper! And it’s not terribly difficult. You do have to stand at the stove for 40 minutes stirring, but it’s not hard at all. I just parked myself to the side of my oven with the book I was currently engrossed in and half-heartedly stirred the pot for half an hour.
Before I give you the fabulous recipe I just wanted to add a quick note about candy thermometers. In my search for this recipe I came across many that called for the use of a candy thermometer. So I dutifully went out and bought one. (My old one was one of the only casualties of our cross country move!) And the dang thing was more trouble than it was worth. After several recipes that turned into rocky slabs of
caramel toffee, I decided to check the darn thing in a mug of boiling water. Um, yeah. After sitting in the BOILING water, it only ever got up to 150 degrees. Stupid thing. Anyhow, I’m sure there are recipes out there that might need a candy thermometer, and if you have one that you trust, you can absolutely use it here. But for this recipe, all you need is a little cup of cold water. So much less stress!
Sea Salted Caramels
Adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick unsalted butter)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
Pinch of kosher salt (I use a slightly hefty pinch ;) Caramel + salt = awesome
1½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 teaspoons sea salt for sprinkling, depending on how salty you are
Wax paper for wrapping, cut into 4 inch squares
Lay a long, wide strip of parchment in a 9-inch square baking pan, the long ends of the parchment will work as handles to help you remove the caramel from the pan later.
Combine all ingredients except vanilla in a small saucepan and turn the heat to low.
Cook, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves, about 10 minutes.
Continue cooking, stirring only occasionally, until a small piece of it will form a firm ball when dropped into a glass of cold water. (Or until the mixture measure 245 degrees on your reliable candy thermometer!) This should take about 30 minutes. ~~~ Basically, when you drop some into the water, it should feel like what you want your finished caramel to feel like, firm enough to form a ball but still soft enough to have a nice chew~~~
Stir in the vanilla, remove from heat, and pour into the prepared pan.
Sprinkle with flaky sea salt.
When the mixture has cooled to room temperature, use the parchment paper to remove the block of caramel from pan and use a sharp knife to cut it into small squares. (about 1x1") If your caramels are fussy about being cut neatly, heat the knife up under hot water, dry it carefully and try again.
Wrap each caramel in a square of waxed paper.