This weekend was an honest to goodness baking marathon for me.  I baked for nearly two days straight with very little sleep.  But finally I’m sitting down, and I just couldn’t wait to tell you about these caramels.  They may not be the snazziest of holiday treats, but in my book it just doesn’t get much better than really good caramels.  These sweet, chewy candies have flecks of vanilla bean throughout and a touch of fleur de sel that almost sparkles on top.

I think candy making is such fun – there is just something so gratifying about making your own caramels.  It really doesn’t require much effort, just some patience and a candy thermometer.  In fact, I pull up a barstool to the stove, grab a good book and sit reading next to the stove, monitoring and stirring occasionally while the sugar works its magic.  I think anyone would be thrilled to receive these as a holiday gift.  And I’m thrilled to have a few left over to enjoy myself :)

 

 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 5 tbsp. unsalted butter
  • ½ tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 vanilla bean pod, split lengthwise and scraped
  • 1¼ tsp. fleur de sel, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • ¼ cup light corn syrup
  • ¼ cup water

Directions

  • 01

    Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper.  Lightly butter the parchment.

  • 02


    In a small saucepan or a heatproof measuring cup, combine the cream, butter, vanilla extract, vanilla bean seeds, and fleur de sel.  Heat over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.  (Alternatively, microwave until the butter is melted and the cream has come to a boil.) Remove from the heat and set aside.

  • 03


    In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water.  Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved.  Boil, without stirring but gently swirling the pan occasionally, until the mixture is a light golden caramel color.

  • 04


    Once the sugar has reached the desired amber color, carefully stir the warm cream mixture into the caramel in a steady drizzle down the inside of the pan – the mixture will bubble up, so pour slowly and stir constantly.

  • 05


    Continue simmering the mixture until it registers exactly 248˚ F on a candy thermometer*.

  • 06

    Immediately remove from the heat and pour into the prepared pan.  Let cool for 30 minutes, then sprinkle lightly with additional fleur de sel.  Continue to let sit until completely set and cooled.  Cut into 1-inch pieces (a buttered pizza cutter works well).  Wrap the individual caramels in small pieces of wax  or parchment paper, about 4-inch squares.

  • 07

    *The type of candy thermometer that clips to the side of the pan is really important here.  My Thermapen is pictured above because my new candy thermometer is en route after my old one bit the dust, but I strongly urge you to use the clip on kind.  They are inexpensive and can steadily monitor the temp – important, since even a few degrees make a difference in the final texture of the caramels.

http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5247/5256520154_598462a95d.jpg