these golden, creamy little darlings hardly need an introduction. caramel is already the best candy ever invented, but the flecks of delicate salt on top kind of bring them to transcendental status.
if you haven’t tried candymaking before, fear not… with a trusty candy thermometer and a careful eye, it comes together with hardly any effort. it just takes a little time. which passes quickly with the help of a glass of spicy red Tempranillo. a little Perry Como on the iPod dock. my faithful pup lying on the arm of the couch so he can watch me work.
i have many Christmas memories of making caramels with my mom as a kid, standing on a chair so i could see into the deep, tall pot she used, breathing the aroma of golden sugar and butter cooking together. we would wrap dozens and dozens to give as gifts, but almost as many made their way to my mouth. i adore caramels! after following my mom’s recipe for years, i decided to branch out. and by branch out, i mean making a really similar recipe but with a slightly salty twist. David Lebovitz is the master; i knew he wouldn’t steer me wrong.
i love caramels more fiercely still!
salted butter caramelsfrom David Lebovitz makes around 80 candies
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp coarse salt
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 2 cups white sugar
- 8 Tbsp (1/2 cup) salted butter, divided, at room temperature
- flaky finishing salt, such as fleur de sel
Cut a square of parchment bigger than an 8 x 8 pan. Snuggle it into the pan so it comes up above all four sides (a scissor snip at each corner helps it lay smooth).
In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring the cream, vanilla, 4 tablespoons of butter and a teaspoon of salt just to a boil. Turn off heat, and cover to keep warm.
In a medium saucepan with a heavy bottom, melt the sugar and corn syrup together until smooth over medium-high heat. Once the sugar is completely dissolved, cook until a candy thermometer reaches 310º, gently swirling the pan occasionally to prevent any major hot spots. Resist the urge to stir, which can cause crystalization; the nemesis of creamy caramels.
Remove the pan from heat and stir in the warm cream mixture until combined.
Return to heat and cook until the thermometer reads 260º. This can take some time. Don’t leave the kitchen, don’t forget about it… keep an eye on your happy, bubbling, golden liquid candy. If you think the bottom of the saucepan is getting too hot for the caramel’s safety, scrape the bottom with a heat-proof spatula occasionally, and/or lower the heat a bit.
Once it’s reached 260º, turn off the heat and add in the last 4 tablespoons of butter. Stir until smooth.
Pour into the parchment-lined pan and let it sit for ten minutes, then sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of finishing salt over the top. Cool completely on a wire rack.
Use the parchment around the sides of the pan to gently lift the cooled caramel. Remove parchment, carefully cut into squares or rectangles with a sturdy knife, and wrap in squares of parchment, waxed paper or cellophane. David says that stored in an air-tight container, they’ll keep for about a month. But they are too delicious to last that long!