Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sea Salt Caramels

Each Christmas I enjoy making home-made caramels for friends and family.
This year, my mother's time honored recipe has been up-scaled,
as I jumped on the sweet/salty band-wagon and did a version with a dark chocolate pour and a sprinkle of sea salt.

The heavy cream, butter and sugar amounts stayed true to Ione's recipe but the corn syrup got a boost with honey.  And, as I like to split batches for maximum variety, I reserved half the batch for a splash of brandy vs vanilla.  These caramels got a sprinkle of toasted pecans.

The other half were topped with molten Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate. 
Before the chocolate set, I used a spoon to sprinkle the sea salt in random rows.  
I like the concentration of more salt in some areas and I chose sea salt
which had more of a crystal look than the kosher salt.
Lining the pans with parchment made clean up and scoring so much easier.

I took the first photograph and was pleased.  
By the time I ran a large knife over the top to score and slice the rows, 
our waning December sun made one last peek under the cloud cover, 
shot the sky with pink and purple, and departed.  
Because I wanted to shoot the method of cutting, I wrapped the whole board with foil wrap
and placed it in the refrigerator overnight.
The caramel held up nicely, but the chocolate became brittle 
and separated from the buttery surface.
  So these cut caramels are not as gorgeous as if I would have cut and wrapped them in wax paper on the same day as I had cooked them.

 I cut the rows approximately 3/4" wide  by 1" long 
which works well for pre-cut wax paper wrappers.

 Delicious...this recipe up-do is a definite keeper.
What family recipes have you improved, experimented?
I'd love you to share your story.

After posting on Facebook, I have had requests for recipe... here it is:

2 cups white sugar
1 cup Karo syrup
3/4 cup honey
1 cup butter
2 cups half and half cream
1 tsp vanilla

Stir together the first four ingredients on low heat until melted, then add half of the cream.

Boil for 30 minutes, medium heat, stirring often with wooden spoon.
Add rest of cream,  boil and test to chewy stage just beyond soft ball...recipe says 248 degrees but I always found this was too far.  Stir in vanilla.
Pour into a parchment lined 9x11" pan and let cool.
Melt 8-12 ounces of Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate chips or bars in a glass dish in microwave on low, until melted.  Stir in 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil to the melted chocolate.
Pour over the cooling caramel.  Before the chocolate completely sets, sprinkle sea salt as desired.  Chill the caramels until you can lift them out of the pan and they retain their shape.
Score the top with a long thin butcher knife, cut into 3/4" by 1" pieces.
Wrap in wax paper wrappers.

Of course, you could hand dip each caramel in the chocolate for a more finished look and then sprinkle...this method would ensure that the chocolate layer doesn't separate from the caramel.

I separated half of the recipe and added a tablespoon of brandy in addition to the vanilla, then topped with toasted pecans to the cooling caramels.

Store in the refrigerator, in a covered tin for up to 4 weeks... fat chance!

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