Friday, December 7, 2007

Vanilla Bean Caramels with Fleur de Sel

My mom has a killer recipe for Vanilla Caramels. They're really easy to make, and your friends will be so impressed. I took her traditional recipe and punched it up a bit by steeping a vanilla bean in the cream (so the caramels would have those gorgeous little brown flecks in vanilla bean ice cream) and by replacing the standard iodized salt with Fleur de sel. Oh, and I swapped out vanilla extract for a jigger of rum or bourbon - either one (but not both!) add a really mellow richness to the candy. If you want to make the traditional version, skip steeping the cream (and the vanilla bean entirely, making this a MUCH cheaper recipe), and substitute with the ingredients indicated in parenthesis below.

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup white syrup
1/4 cup butter, cubed
1/4 tsp Fleur de sel (or 1/2 tsp standard iodized salt)
1 cup cream
1/2 of a long vanilla bean, split (or omit)
1 jigger of bourbon or rum (or 1 tsp of vanilla extract)
whole cashews, optional

In a small pan, bring cream just to simmer. Split the vanilla bean along its side and place in the cream. Cover and steep off heat for 20 minutes. Uncover and skim off any film that has formed on the cream. Remove the vanilla bean from the cream, and using a knife scrape the centers of each bean back into the cream, discarding the bean when done. Stir to spread the vanilla throughout the cream. Omit this entire step if making the traditional recipe.

Pour sugar, syrup, butter, Fleur de sel and cream into a medium saucepan. Cook, using a candy thermometer, to 248 degrees (firm ball stage), occasionally scraping down the sides of the pan with a wooden spoon - but resist the temptation to stir! Remove from heat and let cool slightly, 2-3 minutes. Slowly stir in bourbon/rum/vanilla. Pour into a buttered sheet pan for thin caramels or a 9x13 pan for thick caramels. Cool until starting to firm, 1-2 hrs. Cut into squares and wrap in waxed paper or candy wrappers. For a fun option, after cutting press a whole cashew into the caramel square and roll it into a delicious, cashew-centered ball of chewy goodness.

Chris Freeland
cfreeland27 (at)

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