March 20, 2020
Today is a special day. Today is my 3rd year blogiversary. A true labor of love. And although I only do this on my spare time, I am proud of myself for each and every day that I am able to continue doing it. Sadly, because of COVID-19 I am unable to go out or have friends over to celebrate. So instead, I decided to make something I could share. Salted caramels are a favorite of mine and something I was easily able to make with the pantry ingredients I happen to have on hand.
History of Caramel
Homemade salted caramels are worth every single calorie. While I often say I am not a sweet person, I must confess, I am a huge caramel lover and I always have been. As a kid, the little square caramels wrapped in plastic typically used for making caramel apples were a favorite. It was not until later in life that I discovered the homemade kind.
In recent years caramel, (salted caramel in particular) has become extremely trendy–the kale of the sweet world if you will. The list of sweet and salty offerings seems limitless, candy, almonds, popcorn, cupcakes, donuts, coffee drinks, martinis, ice creams and pie. I have even seen salted caramel air freshener and candles which is mind boggling. Declared a “hot new flavor” way back in 2008, salted caramels popularity is showing now signs of stopping anytime soon.
But where did this trend begin? That is something I have wondered about for awhile. Henri Le Roux, a french chocolatier attended candy school in Switzerland. He returned to Brittany (and area known for its salted butter) and decided to add the well known local ingredient by developing salted butter caramel with crushed nuts which he sold in his local store.
Le Roux was awarded “Best Sweet” in France by the Salon International de la Confiserie in Paris in 1980 for what was called an inventive culinary creation. In 1990, salted caramel was further popularized by French pastry chef Pierre Hermé when he invented a salted caramel macaron. American chefs took note of this trend and by 2008 began adding sea salt to various types of sweets, including caramel. No longer an elite culinary obsession, salted caramel is now mass produced from Starbucks to Walmart, but it’s not all worthy.
Artisanal salted caramels can be wonderful and also expensive, but there is a lot of variance in the product. Making caramel is all about a watchful eye, and the balance of color and sweetness matters a lot. I don’t typically use corn syrup, but in combination with sweetened condensed milk, you get the perfect caramel texture and sweetness balance. Using a good quality flaky salty in this recipe is ideal, it makes the caramel pop and intensify the delicious caramel flavor perfectly.
This recipe for caramel does not call for fancy ingredients, in fact, many of you may have these ingredients tucked away in your pantry already making it a great cooking project during your COVID-19 shelter-in-place or lockdown period if you, like me or happen to be in one of those hot spots right now.
During this unusual time of uncertainty in our world, today I’m taking a moment to pause and reflect on the positive and all that I have. I feel incredibly fortunate. I am so thankful to all who read my blog, share my blog, follow me on social media and support me and this creative outlet I have grown to love so much. Stay healthy, keep cooking, modifying recipes as needed based on what you have available, and stay connected as best you can, despite the distance.
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
- 1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- flaky sea salt, for sprinkling
- vegetables oil, for greasing pan
- Step 1 Line a 8″x8″ pan with parchment leaving overhand on all sides. The best way to do this is to cut two long strips and cross them. Lightly grease with vegetable oil and set aside.
- Step 2 In a medium saucepan add the sugar, water, and corn syrup. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally till the sugar is completely dissolved.
- Step 3 Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium, swirling only occasionally, until the mixture is a nice amber-brown, about 10 minutes.
- Step 4 Remove the pan from the heat and carefully and slowly mix in the sweetened condensed milk and butter. Note: the mixture will bubble a good amount, this is completely normal. using a heat-safe spatula, mix well until smooth.
- Step 5 Place the caramel back over a medium-low heat and while stirring continuously, until a thermometer registers 240 degrees F. Remove the caramel from heat and stir in the vanilla, and kosher salt. Mix to incorporate.
- Step 6 Carefully pour the hot caramel into the prepared pan. tap the pan lightly on the counter to remove any air bubbles.
- Step 7 Gently sprinkle sea salt over the top, and let cool for about 1 hour before cutting.
- Step 8 To portion, run a slicing knife under very hot water, dry and slice. Clean your knife after each cut to avoid sticking. Wrap the small caramels in unbleached wax or parchment paper and keep unrefrigerated.
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