"It was an instinct to put the world in order that powered her mending split infinitives and snipping off dangling participles, smoothing away the knots and bumps until the prose took a sheen, like perfect caramel."
These were on my to-do list last holiday season, but I never got to them. So when the cook at work recently asked for the recipe, it was a good nudge to dig it out and whip up a batch. Plus the timing is great to share it with you while you still have time to find or order the fleur de Sel (mine was ordered from My Spice Sage), and make them for gifts or parties.
The original recipe comes from Ina Garten, and you can find it here. Reading the comments after the recipe is very helpful. Taking reader's advice, I decided not to oil the parchment paper, and it was no trouble to remove the caramels. I also cooked mine a tiny bit longer because I prefer a harder caramel, and cut them into squares instead of rolling them. My dentist will love me for posting this, because these babies could pull all your crowns out (just the way I like 'em). They are really delicious. If you make the softer ones, you could dip them in chocolate to make them extra special, and sprinkle a little fleur de sel on the chocolate instead of the caramel.
Take note that you will need a candy thermometer if you decide to attempt these and you should pay close attention to the recipe and follow it exactly. Whatever you do, don't walk away from the boiling sugar, because when it starts to turn color it will go quickly and there is no remedy for burnt caramel. Have your heated cream and butter at the ready and make sure the pot you use is big enough, as it will boil up 4 or 5 inches high. Lastly, be really careful not to get any on you. It will burn you quickly...therefore, it is not an appropriate project for kids to participate in. Stay tuned and soon I'll post a candy recipe that is. One that's been a Christmas tradition in my family for decades. Enjoy the season, my friends!
Fleur de Sel Caramels
makes approximately 18 pieces
Recipe by Ina Garten
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon fleur de sel, plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Line a 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, allowing it to drape over 2 sides. Brush the paper lightly with oil [I didn't - but I lightly butter the sides of the pan not covered with the paper].
In a deep heavy saucepan (6 inches wide and 4 1/2 inches deep), combine 1/4 cup water, the sugar and 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.
In the meantime, in a small pot, bring the cream, butter and 1 teaspoon of fleur de sel to a simmer over medium heat. Turn off the heat and set aside.
When the sugar mixture reaches the warm golden brown, turn off the heat and slowly add the warmed cream 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.
Very carefully pour the caramel into the prepared pan and refrigerate for a few hours [I sprinkled my caramel with extra fleur de sel right away and it was fine. Plus, one hour was enough for cooling - then I removed it from pan and cut into squares], until firm.
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 with fleur de sel, trim the ends and cut into 8 pieces. It's easier to cut the caramels if you brush the knife with a flavorless oil such as corn or canola.
Cut parchment paper into 4x5 inch pieces and wrap each caramel individually, twisting the ends.