Last week in the midst of all my pre-holiday trying to get all the Christmas gifts bought/house cleaned/plants watered/leaves raked, before leaving for Toronto for 4 weeks, I managed to squeeze in some time to make some dark chocolate salted caramels as gifts. And then I put them on the counter and over the course of 3 days Brent and I managed to eat almost 3/4 of the batch ( I have NO SELF-CONTROL), and when you total that up, we're talking about a whole lotta sugar and a whole lot of calories, and I'm like, oh well, he has a fast metabolism and I am breastfeeding. And it kind of worked out perfect, because now I really have no desire to indulge in an obscene amount (like I do) of chocolate/cookies/sweets for the rest of the year.
So before we talk about these amazing salted caramels, let's talk about travel with a new baby. Better yet, packing with a new baby. Before Sebastian arrived, Brent and I had this whole packing thing down pat (an advantage of spending many consecutive months abroad). We have a whole process that involves carefully throwing as many things as we can think of into two backpacks at the very last minute. Unfortunately, this approach is really not possible with a baby. On Friday night, after we spent three hours frantically driving around the city trying to stock up on a few necessary food/related items we can't get in Canada (this, this, this, and this), we popped a frozen pizza into the oven, drank a glass of wine, and spent three hours packing, mostly for Sebastian. I vowed that I wasn't going to be one of those parents who traveled with every possible thing imaginable, but then I was like - he needs his bouncy chair, and what about the play arch that clips to his bouncy chair, and the travel crib, we need that. The stroller, the car seat, the diapers, the travel changing station, oh and don't forget the Nest cam and the Snuza, and then in a few short hours I turned into one of those people, whom from the other side I really didn't understand, but now I totally get.
But despite the insanely intense three hours of packing after a pretty full glass of wine, and the 4 am wake-up Saturday morning, Sebastian was a champ. This kid is a natural born traveler - no crying, no fussing, and he only pooped himself once, and when the pee from his diaper leaked all over my chest, he must have been well hydrated, because it smelt more like water than urine, and that was a bonus. He slept the whole 4 1/2 hours curled up on my chest while I tried to stomach my way through this movie, and then this one, and this one, while eating a veggie bagel and trying not to spill too many crumbs on his head. A total success.
These caramels!!! Now, I'm not going to take the claim to fame for inventing this caramel recipe, because it is a very slight adaptation from Ina Garten's fleur de sel caramel recipe, but I did come up with the idea to cover them in dark chocolate and top with some flaked sea salt, and that's got to mean something. If you've ever been to Theo Chocolate or had the opportunity to try their salted caramels, you'll know what I'm talking about when I say that they're amazing. My plan was to try and recreate a version of them. I made this recipe intended for Christmas gifts, because I have learned over the years that people loved receiving homemade (sweet) gifts, and there's no better way to impress your family than by making homemade salted caramels. After making this batch of 54 caramels for roughly 12 dollars, I'm not sure that I will ever need to splurge on Theo's caramels again. They are the perfect amount of sweet, with a thin layer of dark chocolate, topped with flaky salt. The chewiness is perfection, and they are probably the best caramels I have ever made. Guys, you need to make these. I promise you they won't disappoint.
DARK CHOCOLATE SALTED CARAMELS
recipe adapted from
makes 54 caramels
prep time: 30 minutes
cooking time: 20 minutes
1/2 tsp vegetable oil
1 cup heavy cream
5 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
6 oz dark chocolate (70% or higher), chopped
Maldon salt for sprinkling
Line a 9x5 inch loaf pan with parchment paper. Drape it over the long edges of the pan. Brush lightly with vegetable oil.
In a small saucepan, heat the cream, butter, and kosher salt until warm and the butter has melted. Remove from the heat and set to the side.
Place the granulated sugar, corn syrup, and water in a medium saucepan over medium-high. Give the mixture and stir, and then do not stir again until you add the cream, just swirl the pan with the handle. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then continue to boil until the sugar mixture turns golden brown. This is the most delicate stage because the sugar can very quickly turn from golden brown to burnt within seconds.
Once the sugar has turned a golden brown color, remove the pan from the heat and slowly add the warm cream mixture. Take care with this stage as the caramel with boil and sputter rapidly.
Stir in the vanilla extract.
Place the pan back on the stove on medium heat and cook the caramel until it reaches 248ºF. Remove from the stove and pour into the loaf pan. Place in the fridge to let cool completely.
Lift the caramel out of the loaf pan by the sides of the parchment paper and then remove the parchment paper. Cut the caramel lengthwise into 6 - 3/4 inch strips. Then cut the caramels into 1-inch pieces. To easily cut the chocolate, make sure the knife if extremely sharp and use a sawing motion. Also, grease the knife with vegetable oil.
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler, or a make-shift double boiler (glass bowl over simmering water, but not touching) until it reaches between 115 and 120°F. Remove the chocolate from the heat. At this stage you want to reduce the chocolate temperature to 81ºF. To do this, pour the chocolate onto a cool surface (marble or granite counter) and scrape it back and forth with a pastry scraper. Once it reaches 81ºF, pour the chocolate back into the double boiler and heat until it's between 88 - 90Fº. Try to keep the chocolate between 88 - 90ºF while stirring with a whisk for 5 minutes. This may mean that you need to remove the chocolate from the double boiler and then place it back when you need to increase the heat. To test if the chocolate has tempered, dip a knife into the chocolate and then place it into the fridge for about three minutes. If it comes out soft or it melts to the touch, it hasn't tempered correctly and you need to repeat the process. If the chocolate is streaky and semi-firm you will need to whisk a bit longer. The chocolate has tempered properly when it comes out hard and snaps.
Next, dip the caramels into the melted chocolate and then place them onto a piece of parchment paper. Wait a few minutes and then sprinkle with flaky Maldon salt. Don't salt when the chocolate is too warm, the salt will melt. Let the chocolate air dry completely before storing.
Can be stored in an airtight container for up to a month.