Sea Salt Caramels
I could eat caramel every day. I love it more than chocolate (shocking, I know) and when you throw salt on top of the caramel is is pretty much heaven. Ina Garten makes these Fleur de Sel caramels that look amazing but I a) don't regularly keep expensive salt in my house, and b) I don't have the patience that it takes to make a big sheet of caramel and roll it up into cute little treats like Ina does. I tried it once and it ended up being one big, sticky, lopsided caramel pinwheel disaster.
Most of the time, the best ideas that come with online recipes are the comments that people leave about them. They have new and interesting ways to make something, and are always good about calling someone out if there is something off about the recipe. Even someone as world-renowned as THE Barefoot Contessa. Missing the comments is what I did wrong the first time I tried to make these caramels because the amount of sugar and cream are all out of whack. Pretty much every comment talks about the ingredient changes that need to be made to avoid a gooey mess, and there is also the brilliant idea to avoid the whole rolling aspect of the candies and just put the caramel into a smaller pan and cut them up into delicious little nuggets. Why didn't I think of that?!
Sea Salt Caramels
1 1/2 cups sugar 1/4 cup light corn syrup 1/4 cup water 1 cup heavy cream 5 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 teaspoon sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Line the bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan (or loaf pan) with parchment paper, allowing the paper to drape over the sides.
Bring the cream, butter, and 1 teaspoon sea salt to a simmer in a small pan over medium heat. Remove it from the heat, set aside and keep warm.
In a deep saucepan combine the sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue to boil until the caramel is a warm golden brown color. Don't stir - just swirl the pan to mix. Watch carefully, as it will burn quickly at the end!
When the caramelized sugar is the a golden color, slowly add in the cream mixture - be ready for it to boil up! It is somewhat scary in the moment, but it goes down quickly. Stir in the vanilla and cook over medium heat for 10 or so minutes, until the mixture reaches 248 degrees F (firm ball) on a candy thermometer. Keep a close eye on the thermometer because there is a very fine line between an undercooked caramel that never forms into the bite-sized pieces that you are looking for, and having caramel hard candies. Walk that line with caution! Very carefully (it's hot!) pour the caramel into the prepared pan and refrigerate until firm.
When the caramels are cool, use the parchment paper to pry the sheet from the pan onto a cutting board, and cut the caramels up into small pieces. Or big pieces. Whatever makes you happy. Then sprinkle a dash of sea salt on top. I found that the bottoms of the caramels were moister (I dunno, maybe something with the fridge), so I made the bottom into the top so that the salt would stick better.
If you are going to be giving these as a gift, put parchment papers in 6 by 4 1/2-inch squares and wrap each caramel in a paper, twisting the ends. Store in the refrigerator or at room temperature.
Source: adapted from Ina Garten