Vanilla Caramels

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.

Vanilla Caramels
Adapted from

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.

My modifications:

  • 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.

Vanilla 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

8 Responses to “Vanilla Caramels”

  1. 1 Lori Paulson December 23, 2011 at 11:23 pm

    Opening my e-mail this morning and seeing this recipe was like opening a wonderful Christmas present 🙂

    Thank you Ms Jenny!

  2. 3 sweetaltitude December 23, 2011 at 11:34 pm

    These look delicious! Can’t wait to try them sometime.

  3. 4 Cindy August 2, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    I was so happy to find this recipe – I have become addicted to Bequet Celtic Sea Salt caramels and I just can’t afford my addiction anymore, so I searched and found you 🙂 I tried the recipe twice – first followed your thought about cooking to 230 (I’m in Boulder) and it was a little too soft, but I added a bit more cream and it has served as an amazing topping for ice cream! I just recently tried it again and heated to about 233. The consistency is great, but after I cut and wrapped them all, they got greasy. The bag I put the wrapped candies in has a lot of oil in it now. Have you experienced this? I sprayed my parchment with oil – did you do this, or just pour it directly onto the parchment?

    • 5 jfochek August 2, 2012 at 7:31 pm

      Hi, Cindy! Thanks so much for your message. It’s been a while since the last time I made this recipe (though I was debating making them for a houseguest’s visit this week!), so I couldn’t say with certainty how I approached the oil. Knowing that my oil mister doesn’t quite mist, though, I’m willing to bet that I *lightly* sprayed the parchment with a canned canola or vegetable oil spray OR lightly brushed the parchment with vegetable oil using a silicone brush.

      My caramels didn’t get greasy, though they did start to stick to the wax paper I used to wrap them after a few days. I was planning to buy clear cellophane candy wrappers (like the Bequets use) this time around.

      Maybe a combination of non-stick foil (instead of sprayed parchment) and cellophane wrappers is the trick? I’ll be sure to post a follow-up comment if I’m able to tackle the recipe again this week.


  4. 6 Lynn Herman January 20, 2013 at 9:45 am

    Excellent recipe! Just as good as Bequets. I did end up with too much veg oil, but I probably used too much. Considering this was my first time ever making caramels, I am super pleased. Thanks!

  5. 7 jfochek January 20, 2013 at 9:49 am

    Thanks for your comment, Lynn! Just FYI… I made these at Christmas and used non-stick foil without any vegetable oil or spray. The foil worked perfectly. Next time! 🙂

  6. 8 manifestcreative September 4, 2014 at 9:41 pm

    Yum! I’ll have to give these a try. I just got on the Béquet Confections website and saw that they’ve introduced a new flavor; Salted Butterscotch. Right now, every order on their new site gets a sample bag, so I might just have to indulge my sweet tooth a bit.

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