Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sea Salt Caramels

This Christmas, the Mr. and I managed to put together a whole bunch of homemade gifts. My favorite by far was a recipe for caramels I'd had my eye on since I noticed it at the apartment therapy blog in 2008. Caramel and candy making in general has always daunted me with it's talk of precise temperatures, "hard ball" stages and vivid memories from my childhood of the smell of burnt sugar from a particularly disastrous caramel-apple making session at a friends house. However, with one wee little candy thermometer (which you can pick up for less than $5), this recipe couldn't be simpler. I ended up making many batches of these babies and perfected the technique with each attempt, but honestly, each batch was delectable as was - even the first batch! Though it requires careful babysitting on the stove, this process is surprisingly simple and incredibly delicious.

Sea Salt Caramels
adapted from

1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water

Line the bottom and sides of the pan with parchment paper and lightly oil the paper.
Bring the cream, butter and sea salt to a boil in a small saucepan; remove from heat and set aside.
Boil the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil, without stirring but gently swirling pan; then cook without stirring until the mixture reaches 248°F, the firm-ball stage. Carefully stir in the cream mixture—the mixture will bubble up. Simmer, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes. The temperature should not go higher than 250°F. The mixture will slowly darken and turn golden brown. Once to the consistency you want (see candymaker tip below), pour the mixture into the baking pan and cool 2 hours.
Yield: About 40 caramels
CANDYMAKER TIP: To get the caramel consistency you want, test by dropping a spoonful of caramel into a bowl of cold water. It will form a ball, which you can test with your fingers. Stop cooking when the ball is the consistency that you want.
OPTIONAL: You can enrobe your caramels in tempered melted chocolate; sprinkle the top with some grains of sea salt (pretty salts make a difference); or press in some culinary lavender buds.* Cut into 1-inch pieces, then wrap each piece in a 4-inch square of wax paper, folding ends or twisting to close like taffy.*
ALTERNATIVE: Pour the caramel into individual candy cups.

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