Two nights ago I was talking to my aunt, and she said she had been looking for a good salted caramel. I know it was just conversation, but I heard challenge! Since I had been meaning to make these anyway, I took the opportunity to make them last night. They're time intensive, yes, but well worth it.
On Saturday night I made the caramel, and left it out to cool and set overnight. The directions said to let it set, which I interpreted meant to keep it on the counter overnight. The following morning they were still soft/a little runny (when I cut a bite to taste), so I put them in the fridge as I headed out to work.
This is the caramel after it was poured into the tray:
2 sticks unsalted butter
2.5 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
1 Tbsp coarse sea salt, crumbled (plus more to sprinkle on top of dipped caramels
1 pound bittersweet chocolate, melted, optional
Line a 9x13" rimmed baking tray with tin foil and coat with nonstick spray.
In a heavy saucepan, melt the butter. Add the sugar, corn syrup, and heavy cream and bring to a boil; stirring until sugar dissolves. Add the vanilla seeds. Cook over moderately low heat, stirring, until a golden caramel forms and temperature reaches 245F, about 1 hour. Stir in 1 Tbsp salt. Scrape caramel into pan. Let cool and set completely overnight (mine needed to be kept in the fridge).
Lightly oil a sheet of parchment paper and line 2 baking sheets with wax paper. Invert the caramel onto the parchment paper and peel off the foil. Using a sharp knife (or a pizza cutter, as I did), cut the caramel into 1 inch wide strips horizontally and then vertically, ending up with 1" squares. Dip the squares into the chocolate, tap off excess, and put onto the wax paper-lined trays. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and refrigerate for 10 minutes. Undipped caramels can be wrapped in wax paper and tied with thread or string.