Monday, April 11, 2011

Sea-Salt Caramels

You can't go wrong...These are fantastic!

Who doesn't love caramel?  Caramel sauce, caramel ice cream, sea-salted caramels....  Caramel is the perfect compliment to chocolate but is also delicious with apples, pears, and my favorite spice, cardamom.  EVEN BETTER...caramel is good in candy form. So when Risa and I were deciding what to make for our latest "baking" extravaganza, we choose candy as our theme and made two of our favorites.  The recipe for pralines will come later, but for now don't be afraid to try something new, boil a little sugar, water, and cream together, and create something that gets ohhhhs and ahhhhs when you tell people they are homemade!!!

Salted Caramels
recipe from Ina Garten's
barefoot contessa how easy is that?

Vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract*

Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, allowing it to drape over 2 sides, then brush the paper lightly with oil.

In a deep saucepan , combine 1/4 cup water, the sugar, and corn syrup and bring them to a boil over medium-high heat.  Boil until the mixture is a warm golden brown.  Don't stir- just swirl the pan.  Watch carefully, as it can burn quickly at the end.

Meanwhile, in a small pot, bring the cream butter, and 1 teaspoon of sea salt to a simmer over medium heat.  Turn off the heat and seat aside. *

When the sugar mixture is done, turn off the heat and slowly add the cream mixture to the sugar mixture.  Be careful- it will bubble up violently.  Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon and cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, until the mixture reaches 248 degrees (firm ball) on a candy thermometer. Very carefully pour the caramel into the prepared pan and refrigerate for a few hours, until firm.

When the caramels are cold, pry the sheet from the pan onto a cutting board.  Cut the square in half.  Starting with a long side, roll one piece of caramel up tightly into an 8- inch- long log. Repeat with the second piece.  Sprinkle both logs with salt, trim the ends (eat them), and cut each log into 8 pieces.  Cut parchment paper and wrap each caramel individually.  Store in the refrigerator and serve chilled.*

Cook's Notes: *We used half a vanilla bean as a substitute for the vanilla extract. 
*If you have a small wire strainer run the cream mixture through to skim off the excess cream and butter fats. 
* The caramels made way more than 16 pieces.  Both batches made at LEAST 50 large caramels.  

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