12 Days of Desserts: Salted Caramels

12 Days of Desserts: Day 6

Salted Caramels

Caramels are not typically what one thinks of for the end of a meal, unless it’s caramel within a dessert. But sometimes you’ve just eaten so much that you can’t even begin to think about dessert, though you do want something sweet. These small caramels make a lovely end to a large meal, or as an accompaniment to espresso or coffee.

Ina Garten (aka Barefoot Contessa) is one of my favorite chefs and I love to use her recipes because they’re simple and typically (unless I make a huge blunder) come out just as they do when she makes them. This recipe is her Fleur de Sel Caramel recipe, with some slight adjustments. Enjoy!

Salted Caramels

Recipe from Ina Garten

Vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon fine fleur de sel, plus extra for sprinkling (you can also use Maldon Sea Salt, or Kosher salt, or even table salt, but fleur de sel looks best)
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 the vegetable oil. I recommend taking some vegetable oil on a paper towel and wiping down the parchment paper – less mess.

In a deep saucepan (about 6 inches wide and 4 1/2 inches deep – very important that it is deep!), 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.

In the meantime, in a small pot, bring the cream, butter and 1 teaspoon of your salt to a simmer over medium heat. Turn off the heat and set 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 F (firm ball) on a candy thermometer. It is very important that it reach this temperature, otherwise it will not set properly.

Very carefully (it will be very hot) pour the caramel into the prepared pan and refrigerate for a few hours, until firm.

When the caramel is cold, pry the sheet from the pan onto a cutting board. Cut the square in half.

Starting with a long side, roll the caramel up tightly into an 8-inch-long log.

Sprinkle the log with your salt, trim the ends, and cut into 8 pieces. (Start by cutting the log in half, then continue cutting each piece in half until you have 8 equal pieces.) [Note: It’s easier to cut the caramels if you brush the knife with flavorless oil like corn oil. Though this is not necessary.]

If giving these as gifts, or if you just wish to serve them individually wrapped, cut parchment paper into 4-by-5-inch pieces and wrap each caramel individually, twisting the ends. Store in the refrigerator and serve the caramels chilled.

For extra decadence, melt/temper chocolate chunks and dip the caramels in, coating completely. Set the chocolate covered caramels on parchment paper to dry, and sprinkle with some of the salt for a finishing touch.

During your holiday party, place one or two caramels on the side of coffee/tea saucers! These go great with a rich coffee with chocolate undertones (think Ethiopia Sidamo), or shots of espresso.

These, like a few other things I have posted, are great for gifting. Just wrap them up, tie the ends with a cute ribbon, and place in a cellophane candy bag. :]

Now to go prepare my own cookie/candy boxes! I have less than a day to prepare & drop them off – wish me luck!

xx

-C

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