Is there a dessert that you make that’s always a hit? One that’s always requested at family get-togethers? I have a couple that I love to make, but lately the most popular one is Salted Caramels. With a little time and effort, you can transform this short list of ingredients into heavenly salted caramels to share with your friends and family (or not, we won’t judge).
These caramels are seriously amazing, and the hardest part is having enough patience to wait for them to cool off before digging in! It may sound intimidating at first, but you can do this! The heat does all of the work for you, and there is very little hands-on work once you have everything prepared. All you have to do is melt everything down, cook it to a certain temperature, whisk in the cream, cook it again and you’re pretty much done!
Don’t be scared off by the length of the directions, they are mostly just descriptions of what the caramel should look and smell like at the various stages.
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There are a few tools that you definitely need to ensure the caramels turn out perfectly.
A candy thermometer (I love this Taylor one)
Parchment paper to line pan (not wax paper)
Two saucepans (one at least 2 quart, the other at least 4 quart) Do not use a smaller pan! It may seem like you don’t need a pan that large, but trust me you do! The caramel triples in size at one stage and it would be a complete disaster to use a smaller pan.
Wax paper (optional, to wrap caramels)
1 c. Heavy Cream
4 Tbsp. Unsalted Butter
2 tsp. Sea Salt, plus more for sprinkling (I always use this Maldon sea salt)
1 & 1/2 c. White Granulated Sugar
1/4 c. Corn Syrup
1/4 c. Water
1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract (I love this gourmet Nielsen-Massey one)
1. Prepare the caramel mold
Line an 8×8 baking dish with parchment so that excess paper hangs over the edges. I like to cut mine so that the parchment can form nice corners to keep the caramel looking more uniform.
2. Melt the butter in the cream
Over medium heat, melt the cream, butter and salt together. Remove from heat once melted.
3. Combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water
In the larger (4 quart) saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water. Stir until the sugar is mixed evenly into a thick grainy paste. Then, wipe down the sides of the pan with a damp pastry brush so there are no sugar crystals above the surface of the sugar mixture.
Add your candy thermometer, ensuring that the bottom of the thermometer is immersed in the mixture but not touching the bottom of the pan. One reason I love my Taylor candy thermometer is because it has a guard on the bottom to prevent the thermometer from touching the bottom of the pan and reading the temperature incorrectly.
Do not stir the sugar after this point.
4. Cook the sugar syrup, but do not stir at this stage
Place the pot with the sugar mixture over medium to medium-high heat. Let the sugar come to a boil (without stirring), and keep an eye on the thermometer. Around 250°F, the sugar syrup will become transparent as it continues to boil. Be careful! The mixture is extremely hot throughout the rest of the recipe.
At any point after 250°F and before 325°F you can move to the next step.
Around 320°F, the liquid will start to darken. Do not go higher than 325°F, or your liquid will become scorched and your caramels will taste burned.
5. Whisk in the cream and butter
Turn off the heat under the sugar syrup. Slowly pour the melted butter/cream mixture into the sugar syrup while whisking. The mixture will bubble up and triple in size. As soon as you’re done adding in all the cream, stop whisking and return the pan to medium or medium/high.
6. Heat the caramel to 245°F – 250°F
Without stirring, let the caramel come to a boil and keep an eye on the thermometer again. The caramel will start off a buttery yellow and eventually darken to reddish-brown caramel. Remove from heat when the caramel reaches 245-250°F.
7. Whisk in the vanilla
Quickly whisk the vanilla into the caramel.
8. Pour the caramels into the mold
Immediately pour the caramels into your parchment-lined mold. Do not scrape the bottom of the pan (there are sometimes hard burnt bits on the bottom). Knock the pan against the counter a few times to help air bubbles work their way out.
If you want to sprinkle more sea salt on top, wait about 3-4 minutes to add it. If you add the salt too soon it will sink into the caramel, but if you wait too long the salt won’t stick at all.
9. Let the caramels set
Put the caramels somewhere to set at room temperature (at least 2 hours, but overnight is best). Once the caramels have cooled to room temperature, cover the pan.
10. Cut the caramels
Once your salted caramels have set, lift them from the pan using the parchment flaps. Place them onto a cutting board, leaving them on the parchment. If you put them right on the cutting board, they will stick to the cutting board pretty badly (I learned this lesson the hard way).
Using a very sharp knife, cut the caramels into your desired shapes. I like to cut them into one-inch squares and place them into these mini cupcake papers made from parchment paper. Do not use the regular mini-muffin papers! The caramels will stick to the paper and pull off bits of paper when you try to take them out (I also learned this the hard way and ruined a whole batch).
11. Wrap the caramels in wax paper
Alternatively, you can cut squares of wax paper a little longer than your caramels. Cut the caramels into rectangles, wrap each one in wax paper and twist the ends closed.
These salted caramels will keep at room temperature for about two weeks.