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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Vanilla caramels

The original name of this recipe is "Chocolate-Dipped Vanilla Caramels," but I have yet to decide if I'm going to be dipping the caramels in chocolate or not (they're very sweet and tasty on their own).

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:

When I got home, they were firm enough to cut into squares, but didn't hold their shape so well.  Nonetheless, I tried dipping them into the chocolate.  Not so successful.  These are the two best ones:

  Coated in bittersweet chocolate and sprinked with some salt

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.

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