When Caitlin and I were in San Francisco last month, we stopped in the Ferry Building along the Embarcadero. It was around 11:00 a.m. and, even though had lunch plans in an hour, we thought it would be fun to wander through the marketplace. We shared a sorbet from the Ciao Bella stand and then went across the hall to a small food store to find (something else) to hold me over until lunch.
At the checkout stand, there was a tin bin, filled with several varieties of caramels. I can’t remember the different kinds, but I do know that we grabbed two or three to have “later.”
When we had gone to Santa Fe, I posted a cornbread recipe inspired by that trip. After sampling the sourdough at Boudin Bakery, I thought it would be fun to try to make my own sourdough. Unfortunately, creating the sourdough starter seemed a little intimidating. So, subsequent thoughts turned towards our trip through the Ferry Building. And that’s when I settled on these caramels.
These caramels were really easy to make and turned out so well. They turned out so well, in fact, that I decided it was not safe to keep all twenty of them in my apartment. The morning I rolled them, I promptly went to the Post Office and mailed Caitlin half of them, knowing that her will-power vastly exceeded my own!
Homemade sea salt caramels
PREP TIME: Requires a few hours of cooling
COOK TIME: 20 minutes
YIELD: 16 to 20 Caramels
WHAT TO GRAB:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
HOW YOU DO IT:
1. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper. Lightly brush the paper with the vegetable oil.
2. In a small pot, bring the cream, butter, and one teaspoon of the sea salt to a simmer, over medium heat. Do not let it boil. Once it has reached a simmer, turn off the heat, and set it aside.
3. In a deep saucepan, combine the water, corn syrup, and sugar. Over medium-high heat, stir only until the sugar has dissolved. Then allow the mixture to boil, without stirring, until the mixture is a warm, golden brown. Watch very carefully, as the caramel can burn quickly toward the end. (It can be helpful to use a wooden spoon and drip some of the caramel onto a white plate to gauge the exact color).
4. When the sugar mixture is done, remove it from the heat and slowly add the cream mixture to the sugar mixture. Be careful because it will bubble up violently. Stir in the vanilla.
5. Return the mixture to the heat and cook over medium heat until a candy thermometer reads 248 degrees (firm ball), about 10 minutes. Pour the caramel into the prepared pan. (Don’t scrape the pot). Refrigerate for a few hours, until firm.
6. Remove the caramel from the refrigerator and allow it to come close to room temperature. Pry the caramel from the pan. On a cutting board, cut the square in half. Using parchment paper, roll each piece of caramel into a tight 8- to 10-inch log. Sprinkle the logs with sea salt. Cut each log into 3/4-inch or 1-inch pieces. Individually wrap each caramel in glassine or parchment paper, twisting the ends. Store in the refrigerator or in an air-tight container.