Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Salted Caramels

Sarah got married.  Wow, that is still so weird to say!  I have a son-in-law.  His name is Ryan and he's awesome.

Since Sarah had an October wedding I did what any self-respecting mother-of-the-bride should do and I made 500 individually wrapped salted caramels for the reception.  My friend told me this was not a self-respecting mother-of-the-bride activity but just evidence that I'm not tolerating my empty nest so well.  She might be right.....

Salted Caramels
adapted from epicurious

1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons salted butter, plus more for greasing the pan
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
fancy salt, like sea salt, fleur-de-sel, or Murray River salt for sprinkling over the top

Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper.  Wipe a very thin layer of butter over the parchment paper with a paper towel. DO NOT use cooking spray because it imparts a very unpleasant taste when you first put the caramel in your mouth.  Trust me.

Place the cream, butter, and vanilla extract in a small saucepan and heat until butter is melted and mixture comes to a very gentle simmer.  Turn off heat, cover pan, and set aside.

In a 3-quart saucepan bring the sugar, corn syrup, and water to a gentle boil. You might want to stir the mixture but you don't need to.  It's best to leave it alone because stirring can encourage crystallization, the enemy of all good caramels. Let the mixture boil over medium heat until it is a lovely golden color, around 372 degrees on a candy thermometer.  The exact temperature at this point isn't important, just be very careful because around 375 degrees the caramel will burn.

Very gently pour the warm cream/butter mixture into the sugar mixture.  Be careful because the marriage of the two mixtures will be exciting! Expect lots of bubbling, splattering, and hissing.  Again, leave the mixture alone and let it gently boil over medium heat.  The original recipe called for stirring, but I never did and it worked perfectly.  When the mixture comes to 252 degrees quickly remove from heat and pour into prepared pan. Resist the urge to scrape the sauce pan, again to prevent crystallization. Let caramel set for about 15-20 minutes. Sprinkle sea salt over the surface.  Let rest until firm and cold, about 2 hours.

Remove caramel from pan, peel off the parchment paper,  and cut into 1-inch pieces.  Wrap each piece in squares of wax paper, or even better, cellophane candy wrappers.

Once wrapped, the caramels freeze well.

Notes on the recipe:

The epicurious recipe calls for the final temperature of the caramel mixture to reach 248 degrees, but I found that those caramels were too gooey and sticky and would not hold their shape once cut.  I had much better results at 252 degrees.

Cutting waxed paper into neat little 4 or 5 inch squares is tedious and can suck the joy out of caramel making.  I found pre-cut cellophane wrappers online. Once twisted they stay put and look beautiful too.  

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