two months ago we were running around like crazy, still getting ready - and looking forward to - the impending holidays. i don't know about you, but it seems like forever ago. anyway, i made these caramels in mid-december and brought half of them in to work. they were gone in less than 48 hours.
i've been eying this recipe from ina (aka barefoot contessa) lately, but what got me is catching an episode of her show one lazy december weekend where she made these for a dinner party. her secret is that she makes everything look easy because it actually is. perfect for me.
the only real trick is cooking the sugar enough so that it's caramelized but not so much that it's burnt. and if you burn it, try again. i have definitely burnt more sugar (and undercooked more sugar) than i have caramelized it perfectly.
almost all caramel recipes are the same: cook sugar, add cream and/or butter. the difference lies in the use of corn syrup or water or neither. i've heard that corn syrup is used to keep the sugar from crystallizing (the last thing you want are sandy caramels) and i have had better success with recipes that call for corn syrup or water rather than those which don't.
ina's fleur de sel caramels
adapted from ina garten
30 minutes to make caramel, 1 hour to cut & wrap finished piece
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon fleur de sel or maldon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
wax or parchment paper to wrap finished candies
- line an 8" square pan with parchment paper, allowing it to hang over the sides. coat with oil or non stick spray.
- in a deep saucepan, combine 1/4 cup water, sugar, and corn syrup. bring to a boil over medium high heat. boil until the mixture is a warm golden brown. the darker the sugar at this stage, the darker your finished caramel will be.
- while the sugar mixture is coming to a boil, heat the cream and fleur de sel over medium heat until it simmers. turn off the heat and set aside.
- once the sugar mixture is golden brown, turn off the heat and slowly add the cream mixture. the mixture will boil very vigorously when the cream is added, so be careful.
- stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon and cook over medium low heat until the mixture reaches about 245 (for softer candy) or 250 (for slightly firmer, chewier candy) on a candy thermometer.
- carefully pour the caramel into the prepared pan. let cool over night.
- remove the caramel from the pan by pulling up on the parchment paper hanging over the sides of the pan.
- use a well oiled chef's knife or pizza cutter to cut the caramels into one inch squares or half inch by 2 inch rectangles.
- wrap each candy in parchment or wax paper. store at room temperature.