Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Salted Caramels

I was all ready. I read the recipe several times over. I read all of the comments. I put the laptop on the kitchen bar so I had I could quickly reference the directions. I bought a candy thermometer. I found some nice French butter. I even measured everything out in advance and had it ready to go. I actually put on an APRON.

And then...I ended up with this. Hard as a rock.

Seriously, I still don't know what went wrong. I mean...I do know what went wrong, but I was at a loss. The recipe I was following said to let the caramel get up to 310 degrees. Which I did. I watched the thermometer like a hawk. Maybe I let it rise a couple degrees above 310, but nothing drastic. So I made the caramel again. The same day, right after the failure of the first batch. Rarely do I immediately try something again if it doesn't work out, but I was really determined to figure this out. And I got the same exact result. A solid bar of caramel hard enough to pull the fillings out of my teeth (but that didn't stop me from trying to eat it).

I noticed the packaging on the thermometer had a list of various types of candies, and caramel was listed at 245 degrees. I checked some other recipes, and they all said 245. So why this one said 310...I really don't know. Many of the comments were from readers who tried and succeeded with the 310 degrees. I so wanted to be one of them, but it just wasn't happening. Some of the other recipes I checked out called for adding water, so I figured - if I'm going to try this a third time, I need to change it up.

This recipe is from Ina Garten. I will preface this by saying two things. First, the caramels didn't turn out perfect but pretty close, and a tremendous improvement over my first two attempts. Second, I noticed after the fact that one of the comments corrected some measurements in the recipe - this person had also watched the episode when she made these and wrote that it should be 1 1/2 cups sugar (instead of 1/2 cup), and 1 cup of cream (instead of 1 1/2 cups). While I haven't yet tested the recipe with these measurements they sound about right based on the fact that I couldn't get the sugar mixture dark enough (needed more sugar), and the finished product was a little light in color (too much cream).

So with that being said, I'm still sharing my experience with the not-so-perfect-but-edible-and-very-delicious caramels. This is the recipe exactly as I made it - Ina's recipe (with "incorrect" measurements), and a couple very small changes I made.

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon fleur de sel, 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, then brush the paper lightly with oil, allowing the paper to drape over 2 sides. You can also use an 8-inch square silicone baking pan coated with cooking spray.

In a deep saucepan (6 inches diameter by 4 1/2 inches deep) combine the sugar, corn syrup, and 1/2 cup water and bring 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!

In the meantime, bring the cream, butter, and 1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel to a simmer in a small pan over medium heat. Remove from the heat, set aside and keep warm.

When the caramelized sugar is the right color, slowly add the cream mixture to the caramel - it will boil up violently. Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon and cook over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until the mixture reaches 248 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Very carefully (it's hot!) pour the caramel into the prepared pan, let cool for a few minutes and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Refrigerate until firm.

When the caramels are cool, use the parchment paper to pry the sheet from the pan (or carefully flip the silicone pan inside out) onto a cutting board. Starting at 1 end, roll the caramel up tightly until you've rolled up a quarter of the sheet. Cut the sheet across and then roll the second quarter tightly. You will have 4 logs. Sprinkle the logs lightly with fleur de sel, cut each log into about 10-12 pieces. Cut parchment papers into 4-inch squares and wrap each caramel in a paper, twisting the ends. Store in the refrigerator or at room temperature.

The end product was a little softer than what I was imagining, but the taste was great. I've been storing them in the fridge to keep them a little harder. Once I get the recipe perfected, these will be a great gift around the holidays. I'll write another post when I try them again with the new measurements.


  1. How 'bout you send me a basket of these, stat?

  2. I'm anxious for the updated version and would love to try them soon... Halloween... Catherine, not familiar with "fleur de sel"???

  3. fleur de sel is a very delicate, flaky sea salt. definitely don't use regular table salt - too salty. Maldon sea salt is a good brand to use, if you can find it. La Baleine is good too and probably easier to find - get the coarse grain so you can grind it (red container), not the fine grain (blue).