Vanilla Bean Salted Caramels

Vanilla Bean Salted Caramels – yum!  I recently made these for a yard sale we had, benefiting our friend who is fighting cancer.  The yard sale was a huge success for them, as was the bake sale table we had as part of it!  This caramel recipe is adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe – I use gray salt instead of fleur de sel, and only half the amount, I added vanilla bean (which I think is essential – you can get them for a great price at Costco during the holidays), and my process and final temperature are a little different than her recipe.   I know caramels can sound daunting, but if you like caramel, you must try this recipe.  It took me a few different recipes and a few different tries, but now I can make this with my eyes closed – the key is to not walk away from it!  And it costs very little to make, so practice away!

Vanilla Bean Salted Caramels

Makes about 60 candies

1 cup heavy cream

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces

½ teaspoon French gray salt

Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean (or 1 tsp vanilla extract)

1 1/2 cups sugar

1/4 cup light corn syrup

1/4 cup water

Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, then very lightly oil parchment.

Heat cream, butter, and gray salt in a 2-cup glass measuring cup in the microwave for 1 ½ -2 minutes, until hot.

Add corn syrup and water to 3- to 4-quart stainless steel saucepan, then add sugar.  Turn the burner to medium heat and boil, without stirring but gently swirling pan, until mixture is a light golden caramel (this step is crucial – make sure the caramel is very light because it is darker than it appears on the surface, and it will also darken after the cream mixture is added).  Do not walk away from this caramel because it will darken very fast.  If sugar crystals are forming on the sides of the pan, brush them down with a little water (this is what recipes always say, I find it unnecessary).  Carefully stir in cream mixture with the candy thermometer (make sure to scrape out any salt that settled on the bottom of the cup), (mixture will bubble up) and simmer, stirring frequently, until caramel registers 244°F (for a soft caramel) on thermometer, about 10 minutes (keep a close eye on it). Pour into baking pan and cool about 2 hours. Cut into 1-inch pieces, sprinkle with some gray salt if you like, then wrap each piece in a 4-inch square of parchment paper, twisting 2 ends to close.

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