Boiling sugar boggles me. Once 10 years ago, I tried to make caramel sauce for flan and it was a disaster. I haven't boiled sugar since (or made egg custard).
I bought a candy thermometer for $9. I'm not sure if it's any different than any other cooking thermometer but I invested in it just in case. If you don't have fleur de sel (since it's $15 for a small pot of salt basically), check out the other sea salts at your supermarket. I bought a container of mild coarse gray sea salt for $6 (at Whole Foods, so I'm sure you can find cheaper).
Recipe adapted from Barefoot Contessa's
Yields 24-ish pieces depending on how big you slice it (and how many get eaten before counting)
Vegetable oil (to lightly coat parchment and pan)
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup (I used dark b/c that's what I had)
1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon fine fleur de sel, plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Prep the Pan
Prep a 9"square pan with parchment paper hanging over 2 sides. Cut the paper so it fits flat in the pan otherwise the creases will be in your caramel.
Warm the Cream
In a small pot, bring the cream, butter and 1 teaspoon of fleur de sel to a simmer over medium heat. Turn off the heat and set aside.
Boil the Sugar
In a deep saucepan (the recipe recommends a 6" wide and 4.5"), combine the water, sugar and corn syrup and bring them to a boil over medium-high heat. Do not stir the mixture, just swirl the pan if you need (otherwise the sugar will not caramelize and become rock candy instead). Boil until the mixture is a warm golden brown.
Ok, I have no idea what is "warm golden brown". I mean, I couldn't see the sugar mixture because it was bubbling. I think I might have turned it off too early when you compare the color of my caramel to the one in the recipe photos. But it turned out ok so...no advice here. Sorry.
|From top left and clockwise: original sugar mixture before heating, mixture mid-heating, boiled mixture before cream|
Make the Caramel
When the sugar mixture is done, turn off the heat. Slowly add the cream mixture to the sugar mixture. Be careful -- it will bubble up a lot. Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon and cook over medium-low heat until the mixture reaches 248F on a candy thermometer.
This is the candy's "firm ball" stage. I have no idea what that really means. Your caramel will form a firm ball? I used a pretty low heat and it took ~15-20 min to reach 248F (it started at about 225F). The original recipe says 10 min so maybe I was too conservative with my heat but better safe than no caramels.
|Mixture after it reached 248F|
Again, the one in the Food Network photos is much darker. Next time I'll be less of a 'fraidy cat and boil the sugar longer and hope they turn out darker with an even more caramel-y flavor.
Finally, the fun part! Now that the caramel is set, time to salt and cut it. Take it out of the refrigerator and let it come up in temperature slightly so it's easier to work. Remove the parchment onto a cutting board.
I cut my square into thirds for smaller bite-size pieces. Rolling the caramel into a log wasn't that easy. I don't have good photos to show you but basically I manhandled it into a roll. As much as I could, I used parchment to shape the roll like sushi chefs do. Try to keep the roll tight, it'll be easier to cut (and eat). Salt the top, press the salt down slightly so it sticks.
Cut into 8-10 pieces per roll depending on your liking. Wrap in parchment or place in mini cupcake cups.
Don't leave it on a plate without parchment or something because it will quickly stick (as I found out while I took photos)! Keep refrigerated - caramels will spread if it gets too warm.