Fleur de Sel Caramels
So here’s the good news : I found my camera connecter-cable thingie.
The other good news (for me) is that between these pictures and the pork-filled sticky buns and chocolate vanilla custard cake from Portos that people delivered during lunchtime, there’s a lot of delicious things in and around my mouth today.
There’s not really any bad news here. I just tend to start commonplace or mildly interesting sentences with “so here’s the good news” or, “the good news is”, which I’ve come to realize confuses some people. And yet I persist. Story of my life.
Anyway, I made these at Christmas; because I see one side of my family on Christmas Eve, I often make something breakfasty they can have the next morning — scones, a loaf bread, whatever — but since this year I was working and interviewing in the days leading up to Christmas (spoiler alert: this is what adulthood is like. Am currently brainstorming occupations that have Christmas vacation but that pay better than teaching and don’t involve large rooms of children), I couldn’t get it together. So I went with caramels instead, mostly because I’d been meaning to make them for a long time, partly because one batch makes a lot, and partly because I figured that in the midst of a season where everyone is getting sweets constantly, these were good because you don’t need to eat them right away.
Not that it stopped me, but you know.
I did have a slight mishap, by which I mean near-total disaster that was a time-consuming pain in the ass to fix, but whatever. The caramels are difficult to cut neatly and attractively, and cutting them in the pan was problematic, as was getting them out of said pan, but I finally did it. Kind of. However, it only got worse when I placed them all in a container until I could come back and deal with them, at which point they had all melted together in a giant, mostly-solid mess that I then had to pry apart.
Obviously, since I had left this little endeavor until Christmas Eve, I had to slave all afternoon to fix it so I could take them to my aunt’s house to distribute. So do as I say, not as I do: I would line the baking pan with slightly-greased parchment paper or waxed paper, so you can lift it out and cut on a flat surface rather than fighting with the sides of the pan. If you still run into trouble and they come out all ugly and misshapen, the good news is: microwaves. I put some on a plate, heated them for like 8 seconds, and then reshaped them by hand in the wrappers. I’m deeply suspicious of reheated foods, but there was no difference in taste or texture that I could discern.
I also finished them with sea salt and some with chopped almonds. Chocolate drizzled on top after they’ve cooled would probably also be rad. Wherever your heart leads you.
FLEUR DE SEL CARAMELS
from Mark Bitman, in the New York Times
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, more for greasing pan
1½ cups heavy cream
2 cups sugar
½ cup light corn syrup (I know. But I had corn syrup to use up and not enough time to find a new recipe. Not my first choice, but I think we’ll survive)
Pinch sea salt
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract, optional (I’m pretty sure I forgot to do this. It was still good)
Lightly grease a 9″ square baking pan (or better yet, line with wax paper, or parchment paper and lightly grease that) and set aside.
Combine everything except the vanilla extract in a broad saucepan or deep skillet and turn heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves.
It will bubble and darken; continue to cook and stir the mixture until it is dark gold, nearly brown, and measures 245 degrees on a cooking thermometer. This will take longer than you think (or it did for me, since I’m used to making toffee, if that helps you as a reference). If you don’t have a thermometer, Bitman says it’s ready when a small piece of it forms a firm ball when dropped in a glass of cold water.
Stir in the vanilla, if you’re going that route, and pour into the baking pan. Sprinkle with sea salt if you want, or nuts. Allow to cool, then remove from pan in a block and refrigerate, but not for too long, since the mixture should be cool enough to not be too sticky, but not so cold that it’s solid; good luck gauging that better than I did.
Use a sharp knife to cut the caramels and wrap in plastic, waxed paper, candy wrappers, etc.