This was the dessert two years in the making.
Well, maybe not making — but waiting.
You see, we’re all caramel hounds, but when Oliver got braces two years ago, I put aside my candy thermometer until I knew he too could enjoy their buttery gooeyness.
It just didn’t seem fair to make his absolute favorite treat and then scarf them down in his company while he had to do without.
Lest you think me a saint, au contraire.
I’ve gobbled down caramels and caramel filled treats all over town– and I’d occasionally buy salted caramel gelato for us all to enjoy when his cravings became untenable. But chewy caramels at home were clearly off-limits, and we all bravely soldiered on for his sake.
But yesterday was a big day for Oliver — it was the day his braces came off.
First thing I did was pick up a quick treat for him.
This is his favorite candy bar and it’d been over twenty-six months since he’d had one.
And then today, I wanted to make him something really special to celebrate this big occasion– and I knew just what to make.
One of his favorites.
Ina’s Fleur de Sel caramels.
Ina Garten is a favorite of so many home cooks because her recipes are never too fancy but always solid– and smackdab delicious.
Her Fleur de Sel Caramels are a great example.
I’ve talked to lots of people who are afraid of or daunted by the prospect of caramel making.
All you need is a couple saucepans, an inexpensive candy thermometer and just a few ingredients: sugar, cream, a little butter and vanilla and some great salt.
This is the time to pull out that jar of fleur de sel you have on hand — and if you don’t already have one, treat yourself.
These caramels take only about 20-30 minutes to pull together; the hardest part of the process is waiting the couple hours while the caramel sets before you can cut into them.
But man up, people — at the end of this wait, homemade, buttery vanilla-y caramels await.
And they are always perfect– firm enough to hold their shape but so soft and yielding on the tongue. The taste of vanilla is lovely and the salt sends it through the roof.
Time to wrap these puppies up.
Use wax paper, parchment, or if you’re lucky enough to have a big roll of cello-like film, use that.
Best two dollars I’ve spent at SCRAP ever.
Be sure to grab a helper to help package them up.
Once wrapped, they would look great in a bag or in a cute ice cream cup.
Ready for dropping off at a lucky neighbor’s.
Whether you share them to celebrate something big — or hoard them for private use– is up to you.
- Vegetable oil
- 1½ C. Sugar
- ¼ C. light corn syrup
- 1 C. heavy cream
- 5 Tbs. unsalted butter
- 1 tsp. fine fleur de sel, plus extra for sprinkling
- ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
- Prep the pan.
- Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, allowing it to drape over 2 sides, then brush the paper lightly with oil.
- Boil the sugar.
- In a deep saucepan (6 inches wide and 4½ inches deep), combine ¼ C. water, the sugar and the corn syrup and bring them to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil until the mixture is a warm golden brown. Don't stir -- just swirl the pan.
- Heat the cream.
- In the meantime, in a small pot, bring the cream, butter and 1 tsp of the fleur de sel to a simmer over medium heat. Turn off the heat and set aside.
- Finish the caramel.
- When the sugar mixture is done, turn off the heat and slowly add the cream mixture to the sugar mixture. Be careful -- it will bubble up violently. Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon and cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, until the mixture reaches 248 degrees F (firm ball) on a candy thermometer.
- Fill the pan.
- Very carefully (it's hot) pour the caramel into the prepared pan and refrigerate for a few hours, until firm.
- Cut the caramel.
- When the caramel is cold, pry the sheet from the pan onto a cutting board. Cut the square in half.
- Roll it up.
- Starting with a long side, roll the caramel up tightly into an 8 inch log.
- Cut into pieces.
- Sprinkle the log with fleur de sel, trim the ends and cut into 8 pieces. (Start by cutting the log in half, then continue cutting each piece in half until you have 8 equal pieces.) It's easier to cut the caramels if you brush the knife with flavorless oil like corn oil.
- Wrap the candies.
- Cut glassine or parchment paper into 4-by-5 inch pieces and wrap each caramel individually, twisting the ends. Store in the refrigerator and serve the caramels chilled.