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.