Every year around the holidays, I try to make one new thing, just to 'test it out'. This year, that big thing was candy making...more specifically, making sea salt caramels.
And, I have to say, I was INCREDIBLY nervous, intimidated, and ready for failure. Seriously. Candy making always seems so hard....so tricky....so professional.
So, I was pleasantly surprised when the caramels turned out not just good, but GREAT. Like seriously GREAT.
Of course my husband would tell you that they only turned out because HE is the secret ingredient. Shhh...don't tell him, but he might be right. The one time I tried making them without him, they didn't turn out right. (But let's not tell him he's right, okay?)
I just have to warn you -- these things are SUPER ADDICTING. Like you need to hide them so you don't eat them in your sleep addicting. Also, they taste REALLY good if you coat them in dark chocolate and sprinkle the sea salt on top of that. Those are ALSO very addicting, FYI.
Sea Salt Caramels (original recipe here):
TIME REQUIRED : Requires a few hours of cooling in addition to cooking and prepping
COOK TIME: 20 minutes
YIELD: 16 to 20 Caramels - but this varies on how you prefer to cut them
Vegetable oil or Cooking Spray
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper. Lightly brush the paper with the vegetable oil or spray with the cooking spray. (Note - one recipe I used aluminum foil only after I realized I was out of parchment paper and they turned out just fine)
2. In a small pot, bring the cream, butter, and one teaspoon of the sea salt to a simmer, over medium heat. Do not let it boil. Once it has reached a simmer, turn off the heat, and set it aside.
3. In a deep saucepan, combine the water, corn syrup, and sugar. Over medium-high heat, stir only until the sugar has dissolved. Then allow the mixture to boil, without stirring, until the mixture is a warm, golden brown. Watch very carefully, as the caramel can burn quickly toward the end. (It can be helpful to use a wooden spoon and drip some of the caramel onto a white plate to gauge the exact color...or if you have a husband like mine, trust his judgement).
4. When the sugar mixture is done, remove it from the heat and slowly add the cream mixture to the sugar mixture. Be careful because it will bubble up violently. Stir in the vanilla.
5. Return the mixture to the heat and cook over medium heat until a candy thermometer reads 248 degrees (firm ball), about 10 minutes (If you don't have a candy thermometer, don't despair...you can buy one at your grocery store for around $5). Immediately pour the caramel into the prepared pan. (Don’t scrape the pot into the pan...but go ahead and scrape it onto a scrap piece of parchment paper and enjoy it early! You can thank me later.). Refrigerate pan for a few hours, until firm.
6. Remove the caramel from the refrigerator and allow it to come close to room temperature. Pry the caramel from the pan. On a cutting board, cut the caramel into bite sized pieces. (Note the original recipe had you cut it in half and then roll each half into logs and cut those up. I found this step unnecessary. Also, if you just go ahead and cut into bite sized chunks, these are easier to dip in the melted chocolate if you choose this extra step).
7. Store in the refrigerator or in an air-tight container (preferably out of sight because you WILL eat these mindlessly....trust me!)