What is an appropriate gift for your boyfriend’s mother when you are invited to Christmas for the first time? I tortured myself with this question for weeks before I went to the MIT Glassblowing Lab sale. Twice a year, (before Christmas and Mother’s Day) they sell beautiful one of a kind glass crafts. I got 3 lovely bowls, and I decided to fill one with homemade caramels for Steve’s mother. (I heard her saying how much she loved caramels over Thanksgiving dinner).
I have to be honest, I screwed up the first batch; I burnt the sugar. It was not a complete disaster; some people love the dark, complex nutty flavor of brunt sugar – it’s a classic ice cream flavor at Toscanini’s. However, I wasn’t going to take a chance on it, so I made a second batch. Now, I’ve written many times before about the fussiness of candy making – lack of precise can result in caramel sauce, or a brittle, when you were aiming for soft and chewy. I did the water test for batch #2, after it was poured into a prepared pan. Instead of forming a soft ball, it became slightly brittle. Steve rolled his eyes as I declared that I was going to have to make batch #3. But I decided to use a little food science knowledge in an attempt to save batch #2. I stirred in another 4 tablespoons for butter and prayed. Success! The caramels were soft, golden, buttery goodness – I was so pleased with batch #2.
The work wasn’t over – I wanted to wrap the caramels individually. I cut 200 squares of wax paper and spend the next two hours hand wrapping each one. It was worth it, the bowl and caramels looked great and Joyce seemed to love them – I watched her try one, finish it and immediate reach for another. She had 6 during the next half hour. Awesome.
Fleur de Sel Caramels Gourmet | October 2004
Yield: Makes about 40 candies
Active Time: 45 min
Total Time: 2 3/4 hr (includes cooling)
1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon fleur de sel*
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, then lightly oil parchment.
Bring cream, butter, and fleur de sel to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside. Add vanilla.
Boil sugar, corn syrup, and water in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil, without stirring but gently swirling pan, until mixture is a light golden caramel.
Carefully stir in cream mixture (mixture will bubble up) and simmer, stirring frequently, until caramel registers 248°F on thermometer, 10 to 15 minutes. Pour into baking pan and cool 2 hours. Cut into 1-inch pieces, then wrap each piece in a 4-inch square of wax paper, twisting 2 ends to close.