If I had to choose one accomplishment in the kitchen that I was most proud of this year, it would definitely be caramel. I remember being so terrified of it, for years, before I finally tried my hand at it. I’m so glad that I overcame that fear, because the results are SO rewarding.
It’s amazing what a few ingredients put together can transform into. It’s also amazing how 2 degrees can make or break said transformed item. Luckily, sugar and cream are relatively inexpensive – so a bum batch isn’t going to break the bank. Some people swear that they can eyeball color and temperatures, which you can, for some things like caramel sauce. However, a candy thermometer is very important for this recipe. If you don’t have one, go ahead and invest in one. I’m using mine more and more these days!
These caramels are rich and chewy, yet melt in your mouth at the same. The use of the vanilla beans adds beautiful flecks throughout the candy, and adds a tremendous depth of flavor. To make them extra special, sprinkle a little coarse sea salt on top before cutting. Truly amazing.
Vanilla Bean Caramels
1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 vanilla bean pod, split and scraped
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, then lightly butter the parchment.
Bring cream, butter, vanilla, vanilla beans, pods, and sea salt to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside.
Boil sugar, corn syrup, and water in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil, without stirring but gently swirling pan, until mixture is a light golden caramel.
Remove pods and carefully stir cream mixture into the caramel (mixture will bubble up) and simmer, stirring frequently, until caramel registers 246-248 on thermometer. 246 will give you a softer caramel that will stretch when you bite it but is easily squished or flattened, especially in a warm house. 248 will give you a firmer, still chewy caramel. Pour into baking pan and cool 30 minutes. If you’d like, sprinkle a pinch or two of salt over the top of the caramel . Cut into 1-inch pieces (I buttered a pizza cutter), and then wrap each piece in a 4-inch square of wax paper, twisting 2 ends to close.
Source: slightly adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride