My first encounter with salty caramel was a scoop of ice cream at the Jeni’s (Splendid Ice Creams) in Grandview. At the time, salty caramel was just beginning to approach the intersection of Trendy and Cool. Now salty, or salted, caramel is a flavor I have seen used in almost every dessert imaginable. It’s popularity is exactly the reason I avoided making my own salted caramel dessert for as long as possible. Why should I post something that every one else is posting? Um, because it’s delicious, that’s why.
Making caramels fell under the “must do” portion of my blog list near the holidays. I remember many an afternoon during the school break holiday when I would sit at my grandma’s or my aunt’s kitchen table wrapping homemade caramels in squares of wax paper. I loved the caramels. I tolerated the wrapping.
A friend from work and I recently had a conversation about gift ideas for parents, or the people who have everything. It went something like this:Friend: “It’s so hard to buy gifts for my parents.” Me: “No kidding. My sister and I are struggling to come up with ideas this year.” Friend: “It’s like, hey Mom and Dad, how about I buy you a car for Christmas? Oh wait, that’s right, you bought me a car.” Me: [Unable to speak due to laughter.]
Perhaps our next conversation will go something like this:Friend: “It’s so hard to buy gifts for my parents.” Me: “Make them some salted caramels. They’re delicious.”
- ¾ cup (1½ sticks) butter
- 2¼ cups granulated sugar
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1 cup whipping cream
- ½ cup water
- 2¼ teaspoons sea salt
- 1½ tablespoons pure vanilla extract
- Line an 8 x 8 inch pan with aluminum foil, then generously butter the sides and the bottom of the foil.
- Combine all of the ingredients except the vanilla extract in saucepan over medium-low heat.
- Stir frequently until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved.
- Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally, until the mixture turns golden brown and measured 250 degrees F on a candy thermometer. This will take approximately 18-25 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and very carefully stir in the vanilla extract. The mixture will bubble up very rapidly.
- Pour the caramel into the prepared, buttery foil-lined dish. Let stand at room temperature until the top is set, approximately 20 minutes.
- When the top is set, carefully transfer the dish to the refrigerator. Chill until the caramel is firm enough to cut, approximately 2 hours.
- Invert the firm caramels on a cutting board and peel back the foil.
- Use a sharp knife to cut the caramels into one-inch squares.
- Garnish with coarse sea salt if desired.