Salted Butter Caramels

One of my favorite childhood memories – Sunday dinner at my grandparent’s house. And the best part about Sunday dinner at my grandparent’s house – the Werther’s candy I would eat by the handful. I would even stock up for the ride home…which lasted all of 15 minutes. It’s really surprising I wasn’t more of a chubster!
Anyways, the point is, I love anything that combines the 2 concepts “creamy” and “caramel”. Especially when it is homemade with only 4 simple but perfect ingredients: butter, cream, sugar and sea salt. Sorry Werther’s but when it comes to salted butter caramels, made from scratch no less, you don’t stand a chance!
I have made some really good, and some really bad caramel attempts in the past so I wasn’t sure what to expect from David Lebovitz’s recipe (although I will admit, my expectations were considerably high because he is a genius with anything sweet). I followed the instructions to a T, except for the ingredient list itself. I made the executive decision to omit the corn syrup (actually it was a pretty easy decision, it’s difficult to use something that you don’t have) and the vanilla (same reason). Instead I substituted the syrup for an extra 1/2 cup of sugar and about 1/4 cup of water. The only issue with this is that the corn syrup prevents the sugar from crystallizing. Basically it provides insurance that you won’t screw up. So why didn’t I use it again??? If you know anything about me and my candy-making escapades, I was truly destined for failure. Somehow though, I managed to not only succeed in making the caramels, they were easily the best I have ever created. Either I was amazingly lucky, or I am finally starting to get the hang of hot sugar and all of its finicky wickedness.

Salted butter caramels

Ingredients:

-3/4 cup (180 ml) heavy cream
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, bean paste, or powder (this isn’t crucial, if you don’t have it, don’t worry)
-rounded 1/2 teaspoon + 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt
-1/2 cup (160 g) light corn syrup, golden syrup or rice syrup
-1 cup (200 g) sugar (if you omit the corn syrup like I did, increase this amount to 1 1/2 cups in addition to 1/4 cup of water)
-4 tablespoons (60 g), total, salted butter, cubed, at room temperature

1. Line a pan with foil and spray the inside with cooking spray. Personally I used a mini pyrex dish, neglected to use the foil and opted to directly grease the pan instead. It worked, but it made the caramels harder to remove.
2. Heat the cream with 2 tablespoons of the butter in a small saucepan with the vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt until the mixture begins to boil. Remove from heat, cover, and keep warm while you cook the syrup.

Salted butter caramels

3. In a medium, heavy duty saucepan (make sure it is large enough, you don’t want the hot sugar to boil over!), fitted with a candy thermometer, heat the corn syrup, golden, or rice syrup with the sugar, and cook, stirring gently, to make sure the sugar melts smoothly. Once the mixture is melted together and the sugar is evenly moistened, only stir is as necessary to keep it from getting any hot spots.
If you are going to live on the edge and substitute the corn syrup for sugar, follow the exact same directions. Stirring too often will actually promote crystallization so resist the urge to do so. Chances are, the mixture will crystallize to some extent. Don’t freak out and chuck everything in the garbage (yes I have done this before, how did you guess?), it will sort itself out. DON’T touch it, don’t swirl it, nothing. Let it keep cooking and as the syrup changes color, becoming a rich, amber, the crystals will magically disappear. I have no idea why it happens, but in my experiences it just does, and that is all that matters! Actually now I am curious, I will probably go Google the answer…

Salted butter caramels
4. Cook until the syrup reaches 310ºF (155ºC). Again, it will change to an amber color. Just don’t leave it on the heat too long or it will burn and then all of your efforts were for nothing.
To get an accurate reading while the syrup is cooking, tilt the saucepan to make sure the bulb of the thermometer is fully submerged in the syrup, tilting the pan if necessary.
Salted butter caramels
As you can see it crystallized quite heavily along the outside edges but the rest still turned perfectly golden.
4. Turn off the heat and stir in the warm cream mixture, until smooth.
Salted butter caramels
5. Turn the heat back on and cook the mixture to 260F (127C). This is also known as the hard ball stage. Meaning that if you pour a few drips of the mixture into a glass of cold water, they will seize up and form hard little pearls.
Salted butter caramels
6. Remove the pan from the heat, lift out the thermometer, and stir in the cubes of butter, until it’s melted and the mixture smooth.
Salted butter caramels
Despite the fact that it was filled with burning hot sugar, I still managed to lick the bowl!
7. Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf pan and wait ten minutes, then sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon of the sea salt over the top. Set on a cool rack and let cool completely. Once cool, lift out the foil with the caramel, peel away the foil, and slice the bar of caramel with a long, sharp knife into squares or rectangles. It really helps if the knife is hot because this allows for clean, smooth cuts.
Salted butter caramels
I individually wrapped each candy in cling wrap so they are readily available for consumption! Plus they can keep for about a month (but there is no way mine are lasting that long!). Regardless, there will be no need to buy any Werther’s for a while!
Salted butter caramels
Salted butter caramels
Salted butter caramels

PS. Follow this link for ten tips to making caramel from David Lebovitz. This might help if you too rebelliously decide to forget about the corn syrup.

4 thoughts on “Salted Butter Caramels

  • October 17, 2011 at 4:27 am
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    I’ve been out of town for a few days and I’m catching up on my blog reading now. Fun stuff 🙂 These caramels actually made my mouth water! I love the substitution for the corn syrup. It’s completely unnecessary in many recipes and I’ve had great luck avoiding it with easy substitutions like yours.

    Reply
  • October 17, 2011 at 1:35 pm
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    Good job! I have little patience to make candy, but these look stellar.

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  • October 20, 2011 at 10:14 pm
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    Thanks everyone, judging by the nearly empty bowl that is now sitting in my fridge, I would agree that they are (were) quite tasty!

    Reply

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