Making Earl Grey Sea Salt Caramels (First Attempt)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

(Long strips)
(Square Caramelitos)
B was raving about V's sea salt caramels and how good they were. Making sea salt caramels...As the idea stewed in my mind, I because obsessed with trying to make find Fleur de Sel de Guerande, which many of you know is crazy expensive outside of France.In the end, I placed an order on Amazon and paid $25 for 12 oz of salt. As my urgency couldn't wait until the salt arrived, B offered to share her Maldon sea salt with me (a very good alternative). Still I had to wait until the weekend to see her so I grabbed a jar of Sel Gris de Brittany from the gourmet aisle of TJ Max for $5 (cheap!), got a candy thermometer (crucial!) and all the remaining ingredients.
I scoured the web, viewed many many recipes from food bloggers David Lebovitz, Chez Pim, smittenkitchen etc.
In the end, I settled on notsohumblepie's recipe (she even had a trouble-shooting forum :)) and decided to infuse the caramels with my favorite Earl Grey tea from Whittard's of Chelsea. My own humble pics accompanied Ms. Humble's Instructions.

Not So Humble's Fleur de Sel Caramels:
Makes 60-70 large caramels*

2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoons salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon fleur de sel (Or gray/smoked sea salt if that is your preference)

Line a 9 x 9 cake pan with lightly buttered parchment and set aside.
In a heavy sauce pan (I use nonstick for this) over medium heat combine sugar, corn syrup, salt and one cup of the heavy cream. 
W: In this picture, I placed earl grey tea into one of those Japanese tea bags and plopped it in. Hot cream + tea = :D~~~

Stirring constantly with a silicon spatula or wooden spoon, bring the mixture to a boil. This will take some time. Don't be tempted to turn up the heat, this recipe requires patience.

Once the mixture boils add the remaining cup of cream in a slow trickle so that you do not cool your caramel mixture and it continues to boil uninterrupted.Reduce heat to medium-low and allow to boil for 5-6 minutes without stirring.

Add butter one tablespoon at a time, stirring after each melts. Clip on your candy thermometer and allow to boil over medium-low heat until the mixture just hits 250°F (Firm Ball stage) stirring occasionally. This should take about 30-40 minutes, if your temperature is climbing too quickly you might need to reduce heat all the way to low. By the same token, if you're not hitting 250°F by 40 minutes you might want to increase the heat a bit.

Once you've hit the right temperature, quickly remove from heat. Stir in the teaspoon of vanilla and pour into your prepared pan. To prevent any crystallization, don't scrape the pan as you pour, just allow what clings to the pan to remain in it. Set your dish of molten caramel carefully on a wire rack and allow to cool to room temperature.

Using the parchment, remove the cool caramel sheet from the pan and cut into pieces using a sharp buttered knife. Lightly press each piece onto a plate sprinkled with fleur de sel and wrap in cellophane, parchment or waxed paper.
(Looks pretty but way too salty. I had to pick salt out afterward. Limit 3-4 crystals per bite me thinks) 
(Cut into pieces with my kitchen scissors)
(Wrapped with Saran wrap into small pieces)

I found that the Sel Gris I had was a little too coarse and not flaky enough so I'll try it again with Fleur de Sel next time. I'm saying this because I over-salted the caramels and had to go back and pick some salt off.
Texture-wise, I also felt that my caramels were a little too soft. After cutting the strips into squares, they morphed into shapeless lumps at room temperature. The caramels also pooled butter on the plate continuously despite blotting. Will try to cut down on the butter and increase the temperature slightly. I didn't calibrate my candy thermometer so perhaps the temperature was an underestimate.
Taste-wise, they were really good! The Earl Grey added a nice touch to the creamy taste of the caramels.
Another sea salt caramel attempt to follow! I'll keep the Earl Grey and next time, I'll spike the mixture with my lavender-infused vodka (mellowing in my pantry at the moment) :)


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