Thursday, December 18, 2008
A Sea of Salted Caramels
This is my first attempt at making salted caramels. I guess the whole idea of standing by the stove and stirring a pot of hot sugar just didn't appeal to me. I'd much rather bake cookies or dip chocolate truffles. But my encounter with a french macaroon made me reconsider.
A few months ago, my sister went to Paris and brought me back an assortment of Laduree macaroons. They all tasted heavenly but I completely fell in love with the caramel au buerre sale (caramel with salted butter). Oooooh...the sweet and salty combination made my tastebuds jump for joy. Too bad there were only two of them in the box :-(
With the flavor of caramel au buerre sale deeply ingrained in my memory, I decided to take a crack at making it. I took a caramel recipe from one of my cookbooks and added a little sea salt to it. It took every ounce of my patience to stir and stir . . . and stir some more, until the candy thermometer finally reached the proper temperature. Yes, I got impatient and lifted the slab of caramel off the pan before it completely cooled, which explains the ugly ripples on top. Ugh!
Now, if only I could restrain myself from devouring all of these, maybe they'll make it into the goodie boxes :-)
(adapted from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook)
Allergy Note: contains dairy
1 cup butter
2 1/4 cups brown sugar
2 cups half-and-half or light cream
1 cup light corn syrup
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Grease and line an 8x8 square pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Leave enough parchment paper or aluminum foil outside the pan so the caramel can be lifted out later. Set aside.
In a 3-quart saucepan, melt butter on low heat. Add brown sugar, heavy cream, corn syrup and sea salt. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring until it reaches a boil. Lower the heat to medium and attach a candy thermometer to the pan. Keep cooking and stirring until it reaches 248 degrees F (firm ball stage). Remove the candy thermometer and remove from heat. Stir in the vanilla extract and immediately pour into the prepared pan. Sprinkle sea salt over the caramel. Let the caramel cool completely, then lift it out of the pan. Cut into 1-inch squares. Makes about 64 caramel candies.
UPDATE "Shortcut Version": I tried the shortcut version a couple of days ago and it tasted just as good as the regular version. By replacing the cream with a 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk, it shortened the cooking time to about 15 - 20 minutes. Oh joy!