25 January 2011

Vanilla Bean Caramels w/Fleur de Sel

Cut Caramels
I realized I had two recipes for Fleur de Sel Caramels that were almost identical and a third that used much more sugar. This made me nervous. I have made Vanilla Taffy (from an old family recipe) all my life, and several different toffees, though none this winter so far, but never have I made caramels. The idea of a salted caramel was enough to get me in gear - that and having all the ingredients on hand - including the vanilla bean (so there). 
That said, how to sort out the discrepancies - the biggest one being the amount of sugar. One recipe suggest 1/2 c granulated sugar -- really, for a caramel? That didn't seem right and then I found the recipe below. I'm a girl to give credit where it is due. These are wonderful and that's no reflection on me, but on those who have tackled (although this isn't really hard once you get down to it) this recipe before me. Comments below.

Recipe: Vanilla Bean Caramels with Fleur de Sel
From: Annie's Eats via mybakingaddiction.com Yield: 64 caramels
1 cup heavy cream (8 oz)
5 tbsp. unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean pod, split lengthwise and scraped
1 tsp. fleur de sel, plus more for sprinkling
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
Cream Mixture
Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking dish with parchment paper. Lightly butter the parchment. In a small saucepan, combine the cream, butter, vanilla extract, vanilla bean seeds, pods, and fleur de sel. Heat over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and set aside. 
In a medium saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water. Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved. Boil, without stirring but gently swirling the pan occasionally, until the mixture is a light golden caramel color.

Light Golden Brown Syrup
Remove the vanilla bean pods from the cream mixture and carefully stir the cream mixture into the caramel – the mixture will bubble up, so pour slowly and stir constantly. Continue simmering the mixture until it registers 248˚ F on a candy thermometer. Immediately remove from the heat and pour into the prepared pan. Let cool for 30 minutes, then sprinkle lightly with additional fleur de sel. Continue to let sit until completely set and cooled. Cut into 1-inch pieces (a buttered pizza cutter works well). Wrap the individual caramels in small pieces of wax paper, about 4-inch squares.

Comments: Just a few notes as I put these together - How long will it take until your sugar mixture is a "light golden caramel color?" Longer than you think, but keep your eye on it very closely from about 260˚. When it approaches 280˚, you're almost there - at least in my experience. The sugar mixture can go from perfect to a disaster in a millisecond. Really. Just when the sugar starts to color, it's time to add the cream mixture. 
248˚ F is also 120˚ C which is much easier to read on the thermometer. 
I needed to put my salt Fleur de Sel on the caramels before 30 minutes were up - they didn't stick as well as I would have like. I used Fleur de Sel de Guerande from The Meadow
Nicely wrapped caramels
Buttering the parchment is easy if you fit the parchment into the pan first, then remove it and butter the parts of the parchment that will be exposed to the caramel  - worked like a charm, first time out of the box. 
I needed a chef's knife to cut the caramels, but did not need any butter or cooking spray to help. Pizza cutter was a non-starter. 
These were a huge hit at home and at work ... I loved that it took a bit for everyone to realize that the secret ingredient was simply ... salt. It makes all the difference.

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