Wednesday, June 28, 2006

fleur de sel caramels

fleur de sel caramels Joy made fleur de sel caramels today, and she was kind enough to prepare a package for Lisette and me. Thanks Joy! Even better than Joy’s legendary toffee, the caramels have a perfect balance of sea salt, delicious caramel and delicate chocolate. Joy suggests, “they really aren’t too hard to make.” I don’t believe her, but here is her recipe. Joy writes:

Fleur de Sel Caramels
from "Chocolate Obsession", by Michael Recchiuti & Fran Gage

flavorless vegetable oil for the pan
1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 oz) granulated cane sugar
1/2 Tahitian vanilla bean, split horizontally
1 cup (8 oz) heavy whipping cream
2 T (1 1/3 oz by weight) light corn syrup
1 T (1/2 oz) unsalted 82% butterfat butter, chilled
1/2 t fleur de sel in fine grains
tempered 61%-70% chocolate
fleur de sel for finishing

Line the bottom and sides of an 8" square baking pan with lightly oiled parchment paper.

Put the sugar in a medium heavy-bottomed pot and scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the pot. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar melts. Continue to cook without stirring until the sugar turns dark amber, 5-6 minutes.

Meanwhile, bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. When the sugar is the correct shade, stir in the corn syrup. Remove the pot from the heat and slowly pour the hot cream into the sugar a little at a time. The mixture will sputter and foam. When the bubbling subsides, return the pan to medium heat and cook undisturbed until the mixture registers 252F on a candy thermometer, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, immediately add the butter, and stir with a wooden spoon. Add the salt and stir until evenly distributed. Pour the caramel into the prepared pan and let cool at room temperature.

Prepare a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Invert the pan of cooled caramel onto a work surface. Peel off the parchment paper. Using a ruler as a guide, cut the caramel into 1" squares with a lightly oiled knife. Temper the chocolate and dip the squares. Place them on the prepared sheet pan. Sprinkle each square with a few grains of fleur de sel before the chocolate sets.

Store the caramels in a cool, dry place, not in the refrigerator.

Some tips: this recipe produces a luscious, soft caramel that is unfortunately rather difficult to cut cleanly. Although the instructions seem to advise against refrigeration, chilling the caramel briefly just before cutting yields neater squares with sharp edges. However, it's best to dip the individual pieces when they are at room temperature; cold caramels tend to harden the melted chocolate too fast and can ruin the tempered chocolate coat.

Because the caramels are quite rich, I like mine in 3/4" squares, coated in bitter chocolate. The fleur de sel finish is important for more than just aesthetics: the crunchy grains of salt help counterbalance the sweetness of the candy and add textural interest to the silky caramel filling.

Oh, one more tip: the dipping chocolate should be completely liquid but not at all warm to the touch; otherwise, the chocolate will melt the caramel and you'll be left with a squishy puddle where your beautiful square once was. I definitely had a few of those.


At 9:18 PM, Anonymous Julie Jules said...

For those of us back-of-the-box-bakers, where would one find ingredients such as fleur de sel in fine grains and tempered chocolate? Me thinks my local S store does not have these. Nor would the friendly service people know what I'm asking about.

At 2:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

These are not "sooooooooooooo easy" to make (as joy says), but are definitely manageable! After all, how can one go wrong with burnt sugar, vanilla bean, fleur de sel crystals, butter and cream? The most difficult part is indeed managing the temperature of both the caramels and chocolate-- how best to balance firmness of the caramel (so you can lift it easily with a dipping utensil, and get it off) with a thin-enough coat of chocolate? Thanks Joy! These are delicious. --Elaine

At 6:22 PM, Anonymous joy said...

hi Julie! fleur de sel is available at places like williams-sonoma & sur la table, as well as at "gourmet" grocery stores (whole foods, draegers, piazza's, bi-rite, etc). for some reason, exotic salts have become really popular lately -- in the last month or so, i've started seeing all kinds of special salt cropping up in prominent displays at whole foods & piazza's.

as for tempered chocolate -- i'm really lazy, so i don't bother to temper my chocolate before dipping. :) i think it turns out ok if you start with tempered chocolate and treat it gently -- no drastic temperature changes. melt it slowly and don't cool it too quickly by, say, putting it in the freezer while it's still hot (as i'm always tempted to do when trying to speed things up :p). any chocolate bar you buy should come already tempered. sometimes you can also find "couverture chocolate", which is nice for dipping: its higher percentage of cocoa butter makes it very fluid & smooth when melted, and gives it a nice sheen when solid.

At 4:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you have that toffee recipe listed above? The link is not working.

At 1:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have 2 questions for anyone who may have experience and/or tried the above recipe:
1: I attempted this and was very suprised at how quick my caramel turned to the desired deep amber. I'm afraid I might have burnt it? How can you gauge this since it happens so fast?
2: My caramel looks a little grainy. Did I stir it too much? Any rec would be appreciated it!

At 7:23 PM, Anonymous joy said...

sorry about the broken toffee link :) i used david lebovitz's toffee recipe, which can be found on his blog here:

if you try it, let us know how it turns out!


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