Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Salted Caramels


Happy Valentine's Day!  

I like to use Valentine's Day as another excuse to play with candy.  I've experimented with truffles and cake balls in the past.  This year I made salted caramels, pistachio cranberry white chocolate bark and peanut butter balls.

The salted caramels were a lot easier than I thought they would be.  Says the girl who burned her first batch . . .  Actually, the first batch burned because I was too concerned about the thermometer instead of following the visual queues given in the recipe.  And actually, they weren't burned to the point of ruin they just had an overly burnt sugar smell and flavor.  Still edible, just not good enough to send out in my treat packages.


When I said the caramels were easier than I thought, I was referring to getting the right texture, the right "chew".  You don't want a caramel that's so hard your fillings pop out when you chomp down, but you also don't want one that's so soft it doesn't keep it's shape.  I was really happy to get a nice medium.

The sea salt is a really great pair with the sweet, vanilla caramel flavor.

This recipe only uses the vanilla beans seeds, but don't discard the pod.  I keep a separate container for sugar to put empty vanilla pods in to create vanilla flavored sugar.  It's great for flavoring hot drinks.

Salted Caramels
From America's Test Kitchen
Yield:  About 50 caramels

1 vanilla bean
1 cup heavy cream
5 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch chunks
1 1/2 tsp fleur de sel (I used Maldon salt, a flaky sea salt similar to fleur to sel, but less expensive)
1 1/3 cups (9 1/3 ounces) sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water

Cut vanilla bean in half lengthwise. Using tip of paring knife, scrape out seeds. Combine vanilla bean seeds, cream, butter, and 1 teaspoon fleur de sel in small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to boil, cover, remove from heat, and steep for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, line 8-inch square baking pan with aluminum foil coated with vegetable oil spray; set aside.

Combine sugar, corn syrup, and water in large saucepan over high heat. Bring to boil, frequently swirling pan (do not stir) until mixture is amber colored and registers 350 degrees on candy thermometer. Remove from heat and carefully stir in cream mixture (mixture will foam up). Return mixture to stovetop, reduce heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring frequently, until caramel reaches 248 degrees on candy thermometer, 3 to 5 minutes.

Carefully transfer caramel to prepared baking pan, and let cool for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining ½ teaspoon salt, and then let cool to room temperature, about 2 hours. Cut caramel into ¾-inch pieces and individually wrap pieces in wax paper squares, twisting ends of paper to close. Serve.

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