Introduction: Salted Caramels

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When people are asked “Who is you hero?” you might often hear responses like “Martin Luther King,” or “Superman,” or “Abraham Lincoln”

Me?  My hero doesn’t don a unitard or matching cape.  My hero hasn’t really altered modern day society as a whole (although, she was part of the Carter and Ford Administration working on nuclear policy).  Nope.  My hero wears custom made blue button up shirts from Italy, lives in the Hamptons, and plays bridge with very attractive gay men.  My hero is the one, the only Ina Garten.

One time, I drove about an hour, and waited in line for two hours to get Lord Ina’s autograph.  As I waited, I had practiced over in my head all the things I was going to say to her.  Things like “you have inspired me to be a better cook,” or “you have shown me to cook with love.”  But when I finally got my turn to stand in front of her, I was so starstruck, and could only utter the words “Your shirt is blue!!”  She smiled and nodded at me, then eyeballed her staff, as to suggest “SECURITY, we got a live one!”

Anywhoo what I’m trying to say is that this recipe I am about to post is really just one huge BIG UPS to Ina.  I don’t have some cherished family recipe passed down from generations.  Hell, I’m Asian, and my grandma is chilling in that Dim Sum restaurant in the sky.  It’s not like “Salted Caramels” could have ever come from me.   But in a fantasy world, Lord Ina is my grammy, and she has passed me this recipe to share with my Instructables friends.  So with my deepest respect to Ina Garten, I share with with you Fleur De Sel Caramels.  

I have added a little variation of mine to appease the choco-holics in my life.  I hope you enjoy!  Now how easy was that!

Step 1: Ingredients & Tools

The ingredients you will need:

-Vegetable Oil
1/4 Cup of Water
-1.5 Cups of Sugar
-1/4 Cup of Light Corn Syrup
-1 Cup of Heavy Cream
-5 Tablespoons of Unsalted Butter
-Sea Salt (Fleur De Sel) Enough to sprinkle on top  (I'd stay away from ultra refined, granulated sea salt, as the potency level is stronger, and it lacks that sort of "rustic" look that you get from flaked or coarse sea salt)
-1/2 Teaspoon of Vanilla Extract
-1/2 cup Milk Chocolate Chips (optional)
-1 oz of Unsweetened Chocolate (optional)

The tools you will need:

-Two heavy saucepans.  I have not done this with a teflon pan, if that is all you got, I'm sure it's fine. 
-Candy thermometer
-Measuring cups
-Parchment Paper
-8x8 baking pan
-Food Brush
-Wooden Spoon

Step 2: Prep the Pan

Before you get started, why not prep the pan?  This way, you can devote your time to making sure you watch that candy thermometer!  No need for added distractions.  Cut the parchment paper as shown in the picture below.  Once it is fitted, with long bits draped over the edge, lightly brush vegetable oil on the parchment paper.

This will prevent sticking.  What I should have done, was also lightly brushed the walls of the baking dish that were going to be in contact with the caramel, because it ended up sticking when it came time for me to pull the candy out.

Step 3: Heat Up Ingredients

Pour the water, the corn syrup and the sugar into a saucepan at least 6"wide and 4.5" deep.  (I'll explain why later)

Heat this mixture on high. 

While that is getting set up, pour the cream, and the butter into another saucepan, and heat on medium till hot.  The cream will heat up before the sugar is done, so keep the cream on low, as not to burn it (although, if I recall, cream doesn't burn like milk does because of the fat in it... or something).

Once you get the sugar to a boil, let it continue to bubble until it starts to turn into a golden brown color.  Don't use a spoon to stir this mixture, instead, simply swirl the pot around to mix everything up.  Once the color has turned into a rich golden color.... do a quick jig, because THAT my friend, is caramel!

But don't stop there, because we are about to take things up a notch. 

Step 4: Things Start to Get Violent

Remember how I said to get a sauce pan that was at least 6" wide and 4.5" deep?  Well the reason for that is because when it comes time to put the cream in with the caramel sauce, the mixing of the two fluids causes it violently bubble and it will double in size.  But don't worry, it won't bubble over (if you have a deep enough pot) and will settle down shortly after.

So once you have this gorgeous golden bubbly stuff, turn the heat off.  Then slowly, pour the hot cream and butter into the caramel.  Throw a candy thermometer in, turn the heat back up to a med/low, and then wait....

Keep a close eye on that thermometer, you want to pull it from the heat at 248F. 

Now is a good time to rehearse the alphabet backwards, or work on some stretching.... but whatever you do, don't walk away from the stove.

Step 5: Pour & Wait

Once you have hit 248F.  Pull the candy thermometer out, and pour the hot caramel into the parchment paper lined pan.  Be careful because this stuff is hot!  It is tempting to put your finger in the vat of hot caramel magma, but don't do it.... consider yourself warned.

Once you have scraped every last bit of caramel out of the pot like a fiend, go ahead and put the pan into the fridge and let it set for at least an hour. 

When its thoroughly chilled, bring that puppy back out!

Step 6: Cutting and Salting

Take some parchment paper, and cut out little squares.  This will be the candy wrapper.  3"x3" squares oughta do it, of course that will also depend on how big you are cutting your candy pieces to be.

Once it is cooled, carefully pull the parchment paper out remove the whole slab from the 8x8 pan.  Plop it upside down on the cutting board and peel away the paper.  It should come off with no problems since we brushed it with vegetable oil before.

Then taking a nice, big, sharp knife, cut the candy into smaller pieces of your liking. 

Sprinkle the pieces of caramel with some sea salt.  I'm using coarse sea salt, but if you have flaked sea salt, that looks great too. 

Step 7: Wrap and Enjoy!

Using the bits of parchment paper, wrap up the little morsels and put them into a candy dish. 

Actually no, wait.  Take a piece for yourself.  Close your eyes.  Ignore the dishes.  Say a little something to Ina,  and just enjoy your delicious creation. 

Step 8: Oh What? You Want Chocolate Too?

So to make a good thing better, you can cover your little caramel pieces in chocolate.  To do this, you want to take some caramel bits, but BEFORE you cover them in salt, first dip them into some melted chocolate.

I used a double broiler, and melted the chocolate down till it was nice and creamy.

I the plopped a piece of caramel into the chocolate and coated. Then I carefully placed them on some parchment paper and while the chocolate was still wet, I sprinkled the sea salt over them. 

Place these little treasures in the fridge to cool.

Step 9: Repeat Step 7: Wrap Em Up!

Just like the other caramels, once they have set, you can do the whole "two for me, one for you" bit.  Don't worry, I won't tell.

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