Monday, December 14, 2009

Fleur De Sel Caramels

From Tips Cooks Love: Over 500 Tips, Techniques, and Shortcuts That Will Make You a Better Cook!, by Sur La Table, and Rick Rodgers

Makes 36 Caramels

Salt is usually considered a savory flavor, but it is often sneaked into caramel desserts where it acts to heighten the interplay between bitter and sweet. A pinch of crunchy sea salt flakes on each caramel identifies it as an out-of-the-ordinary candy experience.

• 1 1/4 cups heavy cream
• 6 tablespoons (¾ stick) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
• 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt, such as fleur de sel or Maldon, plus more for topping
• 1 2/3 cups sugar
• 1/3 cup light corn syrup
• 1/3 cup water
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Lightly butter an 8-inch square metal baking pan. Line the bottom and 4 sides of the pan with parchment paper, allowing the paper to overhang the rim on all sides by about 2 inches. (The overhang will be used as “handles” to remove the caramel slab from the pan.)

2. In a saucepan, bring the cream, butter, and salt to a simmer over medium heat, stirring often until the butter melts. Remove from the heat.

3. Combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring just until the sugar has dissolved. Continue to boil without stirring, occasionally swirling the pan by its handle and wiping down any sugar crystals that form on the sides with a natural bristle brush dipped in cold water, for about 6 minutes, or until the syrup is dark golden brown—about the color of a new penny. The syrup should have a slightly acrid aroma, and a whiff of smoke should rise from the surface.

4. Gradually and carefully add the hot cream mixture—it will bubble up—to the caramel. When the bubbles subside, clip a candy thermometer to the saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring often to avoid scorching, until the temperature reaches 245° to 250°F (firm-ball stage). Remove the heat and stir in the vanilla.

5. Pour into the prepared pan. Transfer to a wire cooling rack and let stand until tepid, about 30 minutes.

6. Using an oiled chef’s knife, score the top of the candy into 36 equal portions. Sprinkle a tiny pinch of salt into the center of each portion, and press with your finger to help it adhere. Let cool completely, 3 to 4 hours.

7. Lift up the paper handles to remove the caramel slab in a single piece. Peel away the parchment paper. Using the oiled knife, cut the caramel through the scores into 36 individual pieces. Wrap each caramel in a square of waxed paper, twisting the ends to seal. The caramels can be stored in an airtight container at cool room temperature for up to 1 week.

Tips for Caramels

• Do not stir the syrup until the butter and cream are added.
• Wash down any crystals that form on the inside of the saucepan with a natural-bristle brush dipped in cold water.
• Judge caramel by color and aroma, not with a candy thermometer.
• Add vanilla extract to hot mixtures after they are finished cooking.

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