A heads up that you will need parchment paper, a candy thermometer and a heat-resistant silicone spatula (for stirring) to make this recipe successfully. The caramels will need to cool for at least 2 hours before you can cut them. In the Notes section, I offer some tips and suggestions in an attempt to be helpful. But please don't let them overwhelm you, and ignore them if you want. This really is an easy recipe (which is also why I love it!).
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 5 TB unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1 tsp flaky sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/4 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 cup water
- Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, allowing it to drape over the sides (so you have something to grab onto when lifting the caramels out of the pan).
- In a small saucepan, heat the cream, butter and sea salt until the butter is melted. Turn off the heat and set aside.
- In a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, bring the sugar, corn syrup and water to a boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Then, boil without stirring, but gently swirling the pan, until the mixture is a warm golden brown, about 10 minutes.
- Carefully and slowly pour in the cream mixture (the mixture will bubble vigorously) and simmer, stirring frequently, until the caramel registers 248F on a thermometer, 10 to 15 minutes.
- Pour the caramel into the prepared baking pan and sprinkle the top with flaky sea salt. Let cool on the counter for at least 2 hours.
- Cut caramels into 1-inch square pieces, then wrap each caramel in a piece of 4" x 5" wax paper, twisting the ends to close.
- When preparing the baking pan, I like to drape the parchment over all 4 sides of the pan. It helps prevent sticking and makes for easier removal.
- The 3- to 4-quart saucepan size is very important. Too small, and it will dangerously boil over when adding the cream mixture. Too large, and it will be too shallow for the thermometer to gauge an accurate reading.
- Melting the sugar: This is important, as this is where all the flavor comes in! But it's a delicate balance. I like to cook mine until it's a rich amber color. But if you go too far, you now have burnt caramel. And while the flavor was trendy for awhile, burnt caramel really doesn't taste all that great. Also, it's important to gently swirl the pan when melting the sugar, as you want to make sure the color you're going for is uniform, and not just indicative of a few hot spots.
- There is a lot of mention of "swirling the pan" in this recipe. That is because stirring the caramel while it's cooking can cause the sugar to crystallize, and then you have gritty caramel, which is not the texture we're going for here.
- Don't add the thermometer and start temping the caramels until after the cream-butter mixture has been added to the golden brown melted sugar.
- When cutting the caramels, if they're sticking to the knife, lightly oil it with a flavorless oil.
- I prefer to use Maldon Sea Salt in this recipe (it's the same salt I like to top my cookies with!). Fleur de Sel is another great option.
- This is the thermometer I use.
- I get my caramel wrappers from here.
- For more generous gifting, this recipe can easily be doubled. I've even quadrupled it! Just be sure to increase all the sizes of the pans, too. (e.g. When making a 4x recipe, I poured the caramels into a 12 x 18 x 2-inch baking pan).
- Recipe adapted from The Best of Gourmet, 2005. Ina Garten also featured this recipe in the December 2010 issue of Food Network Magazine (she just added 1/2 tsp vanilla extract). And if Ina picks up a recipe, you know it's a good one! 😉
Keywords: Food Gifts, Salted Caramel, Caramel Recipes, Christmas Recipes, Christmas Candy Recipes, Holiday Recipes, Holiday Candy Gifts, Maldon Sea Salt, Fleur de Sel