Here’s another edible holiday gift!
I love Bequet’s Celtic sea salt caramels, and I went through a phase back in March when I made several different recipes in an attempt to duplicate their amazing flavor and texture. One recipe was a total failure, and one had pretty amazing textural results but tasted really strongly of brown sugar (good, but not what I was going for). I dropped my pursuit of perfect caramels until I came across Grace Parisi’s recipe for Chocolate-Dipped Vanilla Caramels last week; I’ve had so much luck with Food and Wine recipes that I figured I might as well give them a try. These have the more delicate, sophisticated flavor I was looking for, and the texture is just fantastic. They’re not quite Bequets, but they’re close enough!
I skipped the chocolate part of Ms. Parisi’s recipe, so click the link to the original recipe at the bottom of the post if you want the whole thing.
Adapted from FoodandWine.com
2 sticks unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup (I ran out of light, so I used 3/4 cup light and 1/4 cup dark)
1 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt, crumbled
Line a 9-x-13-inch pan with foil; spray it with vegetable oil. In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter. Add the sugar, corn syrup and cream and bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Add the vanilla seeds. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until a golden caramel forms and the temperature reaches 245°F on a candy thermometer, 1 hour. Stir in the sea salt and scrape the caramel into the prepared pan. Let cool and set completely overnight.
Invert the caramel onto a cutting board and peel off the foil. Using a sharp, lightly oiled knife, cut the caramel into 1-inch wide strips and then into 1-inch squares. Wrap the individual caramel squares in wax paper.
- I lined my 9-x-13-inch pan with parchment paper, not foil, since that’s what I used when I made all those caramels back in March.
- I periodically washed down the sides of my pan with a silicone brush and water to make sure there weren’t any undissolved sugar grains. A single unincorporated sugar crystal can crystallize the candy mixture and ruin your whole batch. The corn syrup in the recipe helps prevent crystallization, but I figured it was better to be overly cautious.
- The recipe is kind of ambiguous about how much stirring you should do. I just stirred mine periodically and very carefully. (Sloshing the mixture around, especially early in the recipe, can lead to crystallization.)
- Since high altitude affects candy making temperatures, I cooked my mixture to 235°F instead of 245°F. (At my house, water boils at 202°F instead of 212°F, which is why I subtracted 10 degrees. If you don’t live at sea level, you can do the test yourself by sticking a candy thermometer in a pot of water and bringing it to a boil.)
- Once the mixture hit 235°F, I removed it from the heat and waited 1 minute before stirring in the sea salt. I think waiting a beat helps the salt maintain its crunch in the finished caramels.
Aren’t these absolutely adorable? I cut my caramels much smaller and did the more traditional wax-paper-with-twisted-ends packaging in the spring, but bigger cuts with bows are so much better for gifting.
I’m so pleased with the results of this recipe! The flavor is wonderful, and the sea salt maintained its crunch in the finished product (one of my favorite elements of the Bequet caramels). Cooked to 235°F, the caramels are firm enough to hold their shape but definitely soft and chewy. The Bequet caramels are softer (they might start to puddle ever so slightly if you unwrapped one and let it sit for a few minutes), so I might try taking these off the heat at 230°F next time to see if I can get even closer to a Bequet-like result. This is definitely my new go-to caramel recipe.
Update 1/19/13: I made these for Christmas last month and lined my pan with non-stick foil without any vegetable oil or spray. The foil worked perfectly! I’m going to use this method from here on out to prevent the vegetable oil problems a few of you have mentioned.
Recipe link: Chocolate-Dipped Vanilla Caramels