Who doesn’t like a taste of something sweet, especially during the holidays? Salted caramels anyone?
Besides longing for sweet treats, I had another motivation. Every year of age seems to add to the challenge of maintaining a healthy weight, and I have found that a small taste of something sweet–like a chocolate truffle or a small salted caramel, can help stem a bigger attack of munchies. So with the current popularity of salted caramels (the New York Times gives some insight into their rise), I decided to give homemade a try.
Combining two recipes off the internet (from Ina Garten and Land o’ Lakes), the results were perfect, the second time. After making the first batch I learned my candy thermometer was inaccurate (see my advice on testing your thermometer in my homemade toffee post) and my “soft” caramels came out more like Werther’s Hard Candy. For the second attempt I used the cold water test–dribble a bit of hot syrup into cold water, swish it into a ball and see if it is the squishy/firm consistency that I like my caramel. The beauty of the coldwater test (versus a thermometer) is that everyone likes their caramel a little different.. By testing in water, you don’t need to take Ina’s word that 248 is just right or go with Land o’ Lakes 244 F. You can do it to your personal taste. Worked like a charm!
I took the successful batch of caramels with toffee and sugared nuts to our extended family Christmas–and happily the few leftovers were quickly appropriated by another party-goer. Now that’s the way to stay thin!
Here is an overview:
Cook the ingredients until they form a firm but smash-able ball (approx. firm ball stage, or 244-248 F) when a spoonful is dropped in cold water. Add vanilla.
Pour into parchment lined rectangular pan and cool.
Pull parchment out and cut into two long pieces.
Fold over and push together.
Cut to size (I like to cut some large, some small).
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/4 cup light corn syrup (see note for alternative)
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 5 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- sea salt for sprinkling
- Line a 6 x 8 or 8 x 8 inch pan with parchment; set aside.
- Combine all ingredients except vanilla in heavy 4-quart saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 15-20 minutes or until butter is melted and mixture comes to a boil.
- Continue cooking without stirring, 25-30 minutes or until candy thermometer reaches 244°F (or to 248°F for a slightly firmer caramel) or small amount of mixture dropped into ice water forms a firm ball.
- Remove from heat; stir in vanilla. Pour into prepared pan. Cool.
- When the caramel is cool, lift the sheet from the pan onto a cutting board. Cut the square in half.
- Starting with a long side, fold the caramel up tightly into an 8-inch-long log.
- Sprinkle the log with fleur de sel, trim the ends and cut into pieces. Try brushing the knife with flavorless oil or spraying with non-stick spray if you are having problems with sticking.
- Wrap the candies individually and store in the refrigerator. Take out to warm before serving.
- The calorie count is based on smaller (cut into 32) pieces of caramel.
- An alternative to the corn syrup is to use 1/4 cup maple syrup plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice. (This version was delicious for a couple days, but those I had hidden away crystalized by a week)