I am not a candy maker. Heck, I’m barely a candy eater. Stop laughing; what I mean is, I prefer truffles, buttery cookies and crumbly, fruity things. But for some reason this season, perhaps another foppish attempt at service journalism, I seem to have gotten myself fixated on candy-making. It makes little sense considering the innumerable fantastic confectioneries in this city, but I think that at least part of the appeal is the long shelf life of cooked sugar. I like the idea of that you can give these to someone over the holidays and, if kept properly, they should last through January. Of course, not if you’ve made them well.
This month’s Gourmet magazine’s recipe for Salted Chocolate Caramels did nothing to curb this desire. Alex and I fell head-over-heels in love with salted butter caramel when we went to Paris last spring and friend had told us to go to the Berhtillon glacier (ice cream shop) on Ile Saint-Louis for the express purpose of trying their marron glacee ice cream sold only in only the winter months. Quite shortly, we were informed that they were out of the marron, but I had barely any time to mourn it when the salted butter caramel ice cream caught my eye. Alex and I shared the most miniscule scoop of the most abundantly complex flavor ever to cross our apparently deprived palates; not salty per se, but bright enough to hit all the notes.
I almost fainted with joy when I saw an article in the New York Times Magazine last month about this very pairing. Apparently, like everything else we grow fixated with on this side of the pond, its old news in France as children in Brittany have long snacked on salted caramels. (Well la-dee-da, I say, it took us masters of excess to pair it with chocolate.) My near-fainting spell segued into a gasp for air when I read that Nicole Kaplan, the pastry chef at Eleven Madison Park discovered salted caramel at the very exact same location as Alex and I in Paris. Finally! Someone who could understand our longing.
Even better, the article included a recipe adapted from the lovely Fannie at Foodbeam, which Luisa gave a spin last month. Molly succumbed to Kaplan’s salted caramel ice cream, and oh, what I would have done for a taste. (I hear Kaplan has just left EMP; does this mean no more salted caramel goodness on the menu? I work close enough to “investigate.” More service journalism, indeed!)
From candy to Paris to the New York Times to the food blogosphere, I seem to have gotten off-track. I can’t help it — sea salt has that effect on me. What I meant to tell you was that I made Gourmet’s Salted Chocolate Caramels tonight but I can’t tell you a thing about them yet because they’re still cooling and it seems that they will be for ages. As you can infer from the nearly 500 words before this, I’ve got some mighty high hopes for them, and I hope they serve our memories proud. Until then, it’s bedtime, and our apartment smells like heaven.
Update: Panic! Stress! Help!
- They really didn’t get as hard as I thought they would. Then again, how hard should they be? This would be a terrible time for me to admit I have rarely even eaten caramel candies in my life. They’re like fudge right now, they hold their shape but feel too soft to wrap in pieces of waxed paper — doesn’t that seem a little sticky? I wholly confess to buying the cheapest candy thermometer on the planet last night. I was looking for that lovely OXO clip-on one and when Bowery Kitchen Supply didn’t have it (Isn’t OXO headquartered upstairs? Can’t they just call up for a refill? Hm, maybe not.) I just grabbed a $5 to hold me over until I found the better one. Makes sense, right? But, I haven’t used a candy thermometer before, and my pot was big enough that only the tip of the thermometer got covered with candy. It was supposed to take 15 minutes for the temp to get up to 225 degrees but it lingered and lingered at 150 while seemingly getting hotter. Finally, I angled it a little more sideways, splashed some caramel on it, and bam, it shot up to 225 and I took it off the heat immediately. Did I wrongly manipulate the thermometer? Am I an embarrassment of a candy-maker? (By the way, Mark Bittman says your caramel candies should register 236 degrees before you remove them; is 225 too low?)
- Ecch, that salt does not belong on top. Salt, as I have quickly learned, belongs in not on confections. Or, at least to please my tastes. It’s a shame, because they’re otherwise a tasty candy. A tasty sticky candy. Ugh, I’m going to brush my teeth now.
Update the Second: Not news, but I’m a moron.
255! Two-fifty-five. FIFTY. Not 225 degrees. I misread the recipe’s final caramel temperature. I have no doubt that with an additional 30 degrees, the caramels would hold their form much better. The recipe has been added, below. They are delicious, but consider yourself warned about the salt. Fin.
Salted Chocolate Caramels
Adapted from Gourmet December 2006
Makes about 64 caramels
2 cups heavy cream
10 1/2 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (no more than 60% cacao if marked), finely chopped [Deb note: my in-house options were Toll House chocolate chips or high-quality 72% chocolate. I went with the 72 percent. The slight extra bitterness is fantastic.]
1 3/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces
2 teaspoons flaky sea salt such as Maldon
Vegetable oil for greasing
Special equipment: parchment paper; a candy thermometer
Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch straight-sided square metal baking pan with 2 long sheets of crisscrossed parchment.
Bring cream just to a boil in a 1- to 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan over moderately high heat, then reduce heat to low and add chocolate. Let stand 1 minute, then stir until chocolate is completely melted. Remove from heat.
Bring sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt to a boil in a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil, uncovered, without stirring but gently swirling pan occasionally, until sugar is deep golden, about 10 minutes. Tilt pan and carefully pour in chocolate mixture (mixture will bubble and steam vigorously). Continue to boil over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until mixture registers 255°F on thermometer, about 15 minutes. Add butter, stirring until completely melted, then immediately pour into lined baking pan (do not scrape any caramel clinging to bottom or side of saucepan). Let caramel stand 10 minutes, then sprinkle evenly with sea salt. Cool completely in pan on a rack, about 2 hours.
Carefully invert caramel onto a clean, dry cutting board, then peel off parchment. Turn caramel salt side up. Lightly oil blade of a large heavy knife and cut into 1-inch squares. (If desired, additional sea salt can be pressed onto caramels after cutting.)
Caramels keep, layered between sheets of parchment or wax paper, in an airtight container at cool room temperature 2 weeks. To package them up pretty, the caramels can be wrapped in 4-inch squares of wax paper; twist ends to close.
80 comments on salted chocolate caramels
You tease you! Those look so yummy, please post the recipe if they are as good as they look!
can’t wait to hear how they taste. I had some salt caramel ice cream in Gainesville at an amazing ice cream shop. Mmmmm.
If you need a quick fix of salty caramel, try Fran’s (http://www.franschocolates.com/catalog/product.asp?cid=8) — she has caramel topped with grey salt and sea salt, and oh yeah – a coating of chocolate in between. Divine!!
Well, I trust the teeth came clean. Salt with sweet – hooray. But I can’t address the thermometer issue, my experience with candy has all been in the mouth not on the stove top.
Beautiful write up!
I know you do want to keep stirring, so the temperature remains constant. You should measure from the middle of the pot if you have concerns about your thermometer. Make sure it’s not touching the side or bottom, or that can affect the reading too.
I make margarita bars that have some salt on them, but I learned a little goes a long way. I use the flaked sea salt and just sprinkle the tiniest amount on. In the picture, your salt looks very fine, which could be the reason it tasted so strongly.
Anyway, these sound like they might be worth another shot! Yum.
I love you.
Those look amazing. I will probably try my hand at them. I made your mac & cheese by the way and am convinced it’s one of the best things I’ve ever cooked. Your website is amazing!
Interesting! I love salty and sweet together, but caramel and salt? Hmm. May be worth a try. :)
BTW…did you get the thermometer that clips on to the side of the pot? That’s what I have and it’s been quite accurate thus far.
Making caramels come out with consistent softness/hardness it difficult. For all of my childhood my mother made caramels every December. It was a family project to cut and wrap them. As I got older I was allowed to stir, but it was nerve wrentching. The candy could go from perfect, melt-on-the tongue firmness to crown-breaking rocks in the time it takes to say, “Mom, it’s ready.”
I didn’t mind the defective batches because we were allowed to eat those. Most of the perfect caramels were given as gifts and saved for X-mas eve.
I have been reading you since iVillage and absolutely love your blog. I can’t believe it took candy making for me to delurk. My mom has been making candy for Christmas for years – her fudge recipe is so finicky I have yet to attempt it, but I have taken over her almond roca recipe and am looking to tackle more, your caramel recipe sounds like a good start. What I know about candy thermometers and stirring etc… in relation to candy making is this: 1.) the thermometer can be clipped to the side of the pot, provided the tip isn’t actually touching the side, it should be submerged to about 1/2 inch off the bottom of the pot or so if possible. 2.) when candy making calls for a boil to be maintained you do NOT stir as it can re-crystalize the sugar and make for that horrible grainy, crumble texture instead of melt in your mouth smooth.
I am going to be a total geek here, but one thing I love about candy making is the chemistry behind it – the right heat, the right amount of stirring etc… getting all those little sugar and fat molecules to line up just right to create something so delectable!
Thanks for the constant inspiration to cook better!
Mmmmm…. I’m not a sweets person (as I’ve probably said before and you’ll probably hear me say again), but caramel is a weakness of mine. Especially good old-fashioned ones or chocolate covered…. drool. I’m loving it… sorry to hear about the salt, but at least you figured out why it wasn’t setting :)
I’ve been reading for a long time (inc. iVillage), but have never posted. Your website is one of two that consistently inspire me to get in the kitchen and cook and create new things, and for that I want to thank you!
I just have one query, do you think this recipe would still work if I omitted the chocolate? I was wanting to try a plain salted caramels recipe before jumping in and adding the chocolate.
this recipe comes just in time for my caramel class…
but I’d agree– salt in, not necessarily on. it’s just that few people understand balance. the owrd, but also how. you should see people’s faces when I tell them to taste their food AS they cook/bake, not just after!
I finally cut up the caramels, slivering off the salt layer (though a few flecks remain) and right from the fridge, they’re fantastic. Once they hit room temperature, they are too soft, but cold, the texture is perfect. I can’t underscore enough that if you are a dark chocolate fan, use the 72% stuff. You’ll be very glad you did.
Mk – Thanks for the head’s up. They sound delightful. Btw, I didn’t even like caramel before. It always tasted so bland. But, now that I’ve had it homemade I see its charms. I just don’t feel it for the Rolo’s variety. (My husband is appalled right now. He loves the Rolos.)
Liz – Thank you! Yes, that salt was way too fine. Basically, I have pretty beady sea salt we keep in a grinder so the full pieces were a non-option. But, the ground pieces were way too coating. I practically brined them. For shame. Margarita bars sound awesome.
Phc – You started this, you know! You and your request for candies. But seriously, watch the salt on these. Or, just use salted butter in them. There’s got to be some happy in-between.
Heather – Hooray for the Mac and Cheese! I’m glad it’s getting around.
Hilary – I did get the one that clips to the side of the pot, and frankly, it looks exactly like the Oxo one I was going to grab. It was my interest in sweet and salty, btw, that switched me to cooking with salted butter. (Which in addition, lasts extra weeks in the fridge beyond the unsalted variety.) I really like the way it heightens the flavor of baked goods.
Dodi – Thanks for sharing – that was lovely.
Genevieve – Thanks for the advice. I admit fascination with the chemistry, too, the ‘it will work if you do this way’ of it. Of course, this doesn’t help when I read 255 as 225, but still! They’re quite good.
Gisele, and also Yvo – Not sure if this would work without the chocolate, but here! Another recipe, this one from Mark Bittman is where I’d start for non-chocolate caramels. I’ve had a lot of luck with recipes from this book, but I haven’t tried this one yet. Let me know if you do.
Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick unsalted butter), plus some for greasing the pan
1 Ã‚Â½ cups heavy cream
2 cups sugar
Ã‚Â½ cup light corn syrup
1Ã‚Â½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan.
2. Combine all ingredients except vanilla in a small saucepan and turn the heat to low. Cook, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves, hen cook, stirring only occasionally, until the mixture measure 245 degrees (a small piece of it will form a firm ball when dropped into a glass of cold water, but the thermometer is an easier and surer test).
Stir in the vanilla and pour into the prepared pan. When the mixture has cooled to room temperature, remove the block of caramel from pan and use a sharp knife to cut it into small squares. Wrap each square in waxed paper or plastic wrap. These keep for weeks, but are best eaten fresh.
Shuna – Yes, balance is indeed the missing ingredient in the salt assault. Just a little would have done the trick. This amount is grimace inducing. (But they’re great once I slivered the salt off. TOO good! I don’t want to give them away anymore.)
I would still eat your salted chocolate caramels! I’ve only made truffles and fudge, so I salute you and your attempt at candy making. I know that lollipops are intricate suckers, so watching the temp is key…but that lesson has been learned. How is your arm doing?
TWO MORE POSTS until NaBloPloMo is DONE! Deb for Blog Queen!
Ooh! When I got my issue of Gourmet, I immediately bookmarked the salted chocolate caramels recipe to make as holiday gifts. It’ll be my first time making candy, so we’ll see how this goes.
Yum! These sound delicious. My candy making skills are very limited, but I love to eat the resulting confections! As for the thermometer, Alton Brown did a segment this week on candy making; he recommends a digital thermometer for the highest accuracy and success.
I recently had sea salt caramel ice cream (Bent Spoon, Princeton) and when I saw this yesterday, I decided to make them last night. I am so relieved you found them to be kind of soft too (and I cooked them to 255, still soft). I had images of packaging these up and sending them out for Christmas, but out of the fridge for 5 minutes, I couldn’t cut them. Now they are sitting in the fridge with a butter knife for instant snacking while the fridge door is open. Not my Christmas gift this year, but definitely a tasty bite with coffee in the morning.
How funny! I was just stopping by playing catching up…while waiting for my chocolate caramels to cool down. I am making a bunch of food gifts before we leave.
Thanks Deb! I’ll definitely try this recipe! Is there anything that can substitute corn syrup? I’m not sure if I can get that in my neck of the woods (New Zealand). I’ll do my best to find it though!
Just found your site! I saw this entry and was reminded of my caramel making experience last week. I made some Vanilla Caramels out of an older cookbook called Homemade Candy. My caramels ended up a little softer than I wanted too. I was havign problems getting the thermometer to stay in a spot to get and accurate measurement. Oh well, they taste good! I had to cute a couple rows out of the pan while keeping the rest in the fridge and found that to be a good way to keep them firm while wrapping. I am storing them in the fridge as well so that they stay the texture I was aiming for.
I made this tonight and it turned out even better than I thought it would! This was my very first attempt at candy making and I am so thrilled that I want to try more recipes.
I did a couple of things different, don’t know if they changed much.
I added a tsp of brandy vanilla to the chocolate-cream mixture and I used hawaiian black salt instead of fleur de sel.
My candy thermometer didn’t work very well so I heated it to I guess around 258 before I added the butter (just 2 TBSP.).
The caramels set up perfectly and saved me a trip to World Market. My hubby and son love these, thanks!!
Yum! Made these last night because I was not so foolish as to give up chocolate for Lent. In fact, I’ve been asked not to–a little chocolate a day makes me a nicer person. So when I saw this recipe, I bookmarked it, thinking it would be something to bridge my husband’s love of caramel (too sweet for me) and mine for chocolate.
I wasn’t wrong. I’m in love.
Everything went fine. I used 60% chips, because that’s what I had, and the slight bitterness and complexity of the flavor is amazing. I used about 1/2 tsp. sea salt in the sugar mixture to start, and just a pinch or two of sel gris on top for texture. They are beautiful–glossy and almost black in color. It was a challenge cutting them, but I can’t wait to pass a few around and see the looks on people’s faces. As for the rest, they’re staying with me, where they belong!
Just made a batch of these, and I think I must have messed up somewhere. It was my first candy-making experience, so I didn’t quite know what to expect at each stage. I think I might have overcooked the sugars before adding the chocolate, because it took much longer than 10 minutes to get “deep gold” in color. I cooked the chocolate caramel mixture to 255 degrees, and they wound up more like brittle than caramel! Literally crunchy. Not so good. I think I’ll try again, because my husband and I can’t eat all of these without breaking our teeth, and I certainly can’t give them away!
Julie — Very often, candy thermometers are off. Here’s a way to see if yours is.
I can vouch for the Bittman recipe above for not chocolate caramels. In his book, he says that you can make chocolate caramels by adding 4 oz of chocolate to his recipe, so take from that what you want.
His recipe also comes out a bit softer than the chocolate caramels. I changed the recipe a bit by steeping a dozen or so cardamon pods in the cream and then letting the mixture sit overnight before straining it and using it in the caramels. I then relatively heavily buttered a foil lined pan and patted the bottom of the pan with ground pistachios. After pouring the caramel into the pan, I covered it with ground pistachios. Before cutting, I pushed in the pistachios. I am quite pleased with the result.
i think i messed these up. i made them without the chocolate and then made a ganache and dipped the caramels in that… ganache doesn’t set, does it?
No, ganache doesn’t set, unless in the fridge, and even then, not totally firm.
i made these today. i was so excited, but they didn’t turn out as i’d hoped. the syrup took a very long time coming to temperature, and i’m sure i burnt the sugar/chocolate (and ruined my favorite pot) and now that they are cool, they are solid as a rock.
i’d probably try again sometime but not at 255 degrees (hard ball stage)
maybe 236 is where it’s at, a bit more than soft ball stage. i dunno.
pretty bummed out about wasting all those prime ingredients, so i’ll save it and use it as shavings for some other sweet thing.
I 100% agree! I made these tonight and wish I’d taken them off the heat well before 255. The flavors are delicious, but are pretty hard. Bummer.
These did not work for me. They came out hard as a rock. I was hoping to dip them in chocolate but I ended up having to trash them. I’m not sure where I went wrong. Expensive thermometer and all. I want to try again but I’m afraid of ruining another round of Sharffen Berger and that makes me sick. Bummer..
Deb I have a question for you. This recipe says to stir frequently until the mixture reaches 255. Other recipes that seem to have gotten good reveiws (Fler de Sel Caramels from Gourmet on Epicurious and Ina Garten’s Fleur de Sel caramels) say not to stir at all or to gently swirl. Is there a rule of thumb to follow – when to stir and when not to stir? When is gentle swirling okay?
In my attempt to make a recipe from the NYTimes, similar to the one on Epicurious, that called for NO stirring, I ended up with too-hard caramel on the bottom of the pot and caramel too-soft for cutting and wrapping on top (but still delicious for eating with a spoon!).
I made these last night, for the second time. Well, technically for the third time, but one of those involved a catastrophic burning-of-the-sugar that we shall not dwell upon. Anyway, I found the first time I made them that 255 was a bit TOO firm, especially for older people who might be concerned about their teeth. So yesterday I pulled them at 246 degrees, and that seems to be just about perfect.
As for the stirring–I stirred vigorously, all the way up to the point that I turned off the heat, and they came out fine.
This really is a great recipe. I stir Maldon salt into them right as I add the butter, and think this gives just the right amount of salt, even with the occasional slight crunch.
I have to agree with Dave J. 255 degrees is too firm (1st attempt) and 242 degrees is too soft (my 2nd attempt). I will have to try his idea at 246 degrees. I did check my candy thermometer and it registers 212 degrees at boiling. I have a Taylor Elite Candy/Oil Thermometer from Williams-Sonoma for $20. They also have a digital one for $35, but I’m not enough of a candy maker either. The “website” links to it.
P.S. – Speaking of caramel, your “Vanilla Roasted Pears” were outstanding. I’ve made them twice (with Bartlett and Bosc) and, in the spirit of being a fellow bourbon lover, replaced the water with bourbon. Fabulous!
Thanks for all of the comments. I forget that this time of year, recipes like this get dusted off! It’s been years since I attempted them but as you have all read, it was a (delicious) disaster, and I’m overdue to give them a spin again and different temperatures. I’ll update this soon. I’m sorry it’s been causing uneven results.
I decided to make these for my boyfriend for our bc his favorite confection is salted caramels. Namely those from Fran’s chocolates as well as the salted caramel milkshakes from Molly Moon’s. When I went to the store I bought enough ingredients for two batches just in case, and I’m glad I did. The first batch went well, but I cooked the final mixture to 255 and they ended up like werther’s original candies. Edible, but very hard. I made my second batch the next day and went with the 236 degrees Mark Bittman suggested. Much better! Soft and delicious. I used about 1 tsp. coarse sea salt from Morton’s, but think next time I’ll go with a little more. The salt really brings something to the caramels. I’ll definitely make them again, it’s all about getting the right temp.
I must say reading these comments was hysterical as yesterday I made my first batch of caramels ever. Not this recipe. I especially love the 900 “hard as a rock” laments. The one comment I found lacking was “It took me 2 hours to clean up the kitchen.” Anyway, thank you all for an entertaining Saturday morning!
I made these today and they were a huge hit with my friends. I talked to a scientist at work who got her degree in candy (I’m a food scientist too), and she suggested melting butter in with the cream/chocolate mix. It will help emuslify better and not be greasy in end. I also added my salt to the cream stage. Personally, I would try a bit softer, so maybe decrease from 255. Some of my caramels came out firm like a Reisen candy and a few bits were brittle like Toffee. I think softer caramels are a bit nicer (and don’t pull out fillings), so perhaps the soft-ball stage would be best. And, stir stir stir–that was my trick. And snipping with a scissors seemed to work nicer than a knife. And, if they are a bit too firm, I zap them in microwave for a few seconds before I devour them!
Oh, and Deb— I LOVE EVERYTHING YOU DO. I have made so many recipes from you that I now check your site before I look any where else. Thank you very much.
I made these last night, and to my surprise (given that it was my first time making candy), they turned out perfectly. The only things I changed were adding the salt to the cream/chocolate mixture and cooking the caramel to 240 degrees. I read online that the “firm ball” stage is what is used for caramels, and its 245-250 degrees. I took mine off early because I was afraid something was starting to burn, but I may give it the extra 5 degrees next time for a slightly firmer caramel at room temperature. I also think that for a true salted caramel, the salt on top is necessary, but my sea salt is a rock salt and I used it very sparingly.
And for those wondering “how do I get that hard chocolate caramel off the bottom of my good pot?” I had success with putting some water back in the pot and heating it on the stove and stirring until everything came off the bottom. No scrubbing!
I made these today, and have learned 2 key things since:
1) One should not attempt caramel-making on a rainy day, EVEN if the rainy day is a week before christmas. Apparently the humidity in the air prevents the caramel from setting properly. Bummer, cause it’s raining cats and dogs and it will be for the rest of the week. and I live in CANADA. so much for the planet.
2) the boiling sugar part – A reviewer of this same recipe on epicurious says that you need to cook the sugar to about 340 degrees. This would have been handy to know because “until sugar is deep golden” is too subjective for me when it comes to candy-making. I don’t think my sugar was golden enough, in retrospect.
3) OK, I learned 3 things: you can re-heat caramel if it’s too soft, slowly bringing it back to temperature and then increase the temp by 5 degrees. I’m going to try this tomorrow, even though it will still be raining. I’ll update with results.
OK I did it, despite the ridiculous amount of precipitation. First, I think I found the problem: my candy thermometer, when suspended from the side of the pan, measures a lot hotter (almost 10 degrees) than it does when it’s in the middle of the candy. So I think I must have taken it off the heat too soon. I re-heated the caramel, and relied not only on the thermometer but also on the cold-water test which was very helpful. I went to about 255 degrees this time. The caramel has set up nicely BUT the butter is weeping out. It was doing this during cooking and I tried to whisk it lots to incorporate it back in but it would not go. So now I am going to blot the caramel with a towel and get the butter off the surface. I might roll them in cocoa if they are too greasy. The texture is great, good chew and they hold their shape. I LOVE the salt on top. They are kinda like gourmet tootsie rolls. Yum.
It took me three tries – I was not going to let a caramel recipe defeat me! – but I finally got these to work. The first try tasted great but the fat separated and each piece required quite a bit of wiping off before consuming (therefore not suitable for gift giving…) The second batch burnt! Took two hours to save the pan… the third batch worked. Things I’ve learned:
– the fat will separate if there are quick changes in temperature. In my case, the temperature jumped in the last stage (when approaching 255). Research confirmed that at this stage, it is too late and it cannot be saved. Slow and steady is the key when working with boiling sugar. Moderate – not high – heat is the key.
– 255 is too high, it’s hard ball stage, therefore it can yield a caramel that is a hard candy, not soft. So, remove at 246 – they will be perfect.
Would you do up a favor and take this down? The recipe is wrong; the original is too soft the suggested 255 makes it completely hard. I wasted expensive ingredients making this only to find out your going to “get back to this”. It’s really disappointing.
Sorry you had trouble. I think the correct temperature should be 252, not 255, but it’s not enough of a difference that it would make your caramels rock hard. I had trouble not because it is a poor recipe (Epicurious reviewers seem to like it, except the ones who used table salt) but because I misread it when I made them. Have you tested your thermometer? If you’re at sea level, it should read 212 just as water hits boiling. I cannot tell you how many thermometers I have bought that didn’t pass this simple test.
I’m a food science student who recently to a class on confections. We learned that fat and protein are the two structuring elements to caramels. I’ve noticed that all of the dairy in your recipe comes from heavy cream, which is very high in fat, but not in protein. The fats in heavy cream don’t like to be solid at room temperature and need some help keeping the caramel standing up. Swapping out some of the cream and sugar for sweetened condensed milk might help a bit.
Very interesting. There are literally thousands (and more) caramel recipes on the web and in cookbooks that use both butter and cream. Are you saying they’re not structurally sound?
I’ve too noticed that a lot of people in the food blog community use all heavy cream and butter. I’ve been able to get it to work like that, so long as you cook out a lot of moisture, and if you’re just cutting and serving right away they still turn out pretty delicious (as I’m sure you’ve found. All that fat doesn’t go unnoticed when they just melt in your mouth like that..mmm…).
But I think where the extra protein would help out a lot is if you wanted to prevent cold flow (our geeky industry term for the edges losing shape) for a really long time or dip them in chocolate.
Candy is a lot of fun, but tough to do on a kitchen-scale. In the lab period of my class we had batches of things that didn’t turn out quite as expected, even though our professor had carefully formulated the recipes. But it’s so rewarding once you get it right.
Anyhow, thanks for letting me indulge my inner food sci nerd here :) I absolutely love your blog and have been addicted to it for about two years now – keep it up!
Deb, I made these without chocolate and they were fantastic. PErfectly chewy and delish. Candy making is sometimes difficult for those not as handy in the kitchen. Don’t get discouraged by a few bad reviews…especially seeing how you have THOUSANDS of other fantastic comments on your equally as fantastic recipe collection :)
I made these and they’re just lovely… Dark, smooth and chewy. 255 works fine for me, after I adjusted for my screwy thermometer.
Though if you scraped the sides, or bottom of the pan as I did, there will be flecks of burnt bitter caramel in the caramel and they will make you a little bit sad and regretful of your greediness. Is there any way to prevent the bottom from burning?
It helps to cut the caramels with a quick sawing motion. Do not let the blade stop moving whilst in contact with the caramel, or it will cling on with much determination!
The butter added in at the end didn’t fully incorporate with the caramel, so the caramel slab had little pools of unmixed butter on top which helped with the cutting. Is that the purpose of the butter?
Yum! Made some adjustments based on previous reviews and had great results. Waited for a dry day, used salted butter in place of 1/2 the salt, cooked to firm ball stage (this yielded a consistentsy similar to a Now and Later or Sugar Daddy sucker), mixed the butter in with the cream and chocolate mixture, still put a little salt on top but was sparing. Turned out just right. Might cut the pieces in half next time. The current size is definitely a mouth-full. Gotta go. My 5 yr old is stealing mommy’s caramel again!
I ended up giving these away as xmas gifts and they were a ridiculous hit. “you could sell these for 10$ a jar!” said my sister. Well, true, she’s family – but they were really , really good. I was hoping to keep some but I had to keep replenishing her jar. When I got home I was so happy to see 2 escapees waiting for me in the kitchen!
Wow! It looks delicious! Cant wait to try making it myself!
this sounds amazing! can’t wait to try it!
first, i absolutely love,love,love your website! second, just wanna ask, what will happen to the consistency and end product if i omit the chocolate?
they look amazing and I would like to try making them but where I live we don’t have double cream – the cream with the highest % of fat is 33 % whipped cream. Do you think it would still work as long as the temperatures are adhered to? Thank you :)
I just made these and they turned out delicious!! I was pretty conservative on the salt at the end but I actually really like the complement of salt to the caramel. the only problem I had was the wax paper sticking to the caramels, so much so I had to cut off the paper which wasted some of the candy :(. Do you have any suggestions to overcoming this for next time. Other than that one snag I really enjoyed this recipe and thank you for sharing it.
Another hit, thanks Deb. Absolutely delicious. I cooked until 255 but it took nerves of steel as I desparately wanted to take it off in case it burned. So happy I didn’t :)
Just found this and must try. The store I work for carries Maison Bouche fleur de sel caramels and these are like candy crack, so if I can duplicate this somehow at home it would be fabulous. Well, perhaps not for my waistline.
I found out a way to get a good reading from a candy thermometer from the center of the pot, and that is to slide a wooden soon thru the clip on portion of the thermometer and balance the spoon over the center of the pot. It seems like caramel making is a waiting game, but so worth it!
I just made these two nights ago. They are delicious – but then again, I love chocolate, caramel, AND salt. That’s probably why I made them though.
I added a 1/4 teaspoon of fleur de sel when I added the butter and then a pinch or two of salt sprinkled over the top at the end. They are a teeny too soft for my liking. Fudge like, as described in the post. But I know I went to 255… I think where I must have gone wrong is at the “golden” colored syrup part… I added the chocolate well before my 10 minutes were up, merely because of the color of the syrup. Now I see someone’s recommended a specific temperature of 340 – so when I try this again, I’m going to use a thermometer for that part too.
just fyi, i always cook my caramel to 265 degrees F. i like them not soft, but firm/chewy. The most helpful thing about your recipe is that you took the chance and used 72% dark choc. This is a tremendous help because i had thought that it wouldn’t work because of the original note about 60%. I also like to add 2T. or more finely ground cardamom seeds and pour this caramel over pistachios spread out in the bottom of the pan. i also have developed a recipe for Coffee Caramel Turtles that you might find of interest:
I just made these for my family as a Christmas present. They loved it! I wrapped them individually in wax paper like you suggested. The 2 pieces of advice I give if making these is to put 1/2 the amount of salt directly in the chocolate and lightly salt the top, pressing it in a little. I did not rely on my thermometer for the final temp. I dropped a little caramel into a glass of ice cold water to test the firmness. They came out perfect.
i have had two spectacular failures with this recipe and have spent so much time trying to figure out what went wrong. i am using 72% caillebaut. each time the butterfat has separated out and will not reintegrate, no matter how much whisking.i both times i have doubled the recipe. i am soon to try it again, adding in the butter with the choc and cream, and adding some cream of tartar to combat crystallization.
You have used 72%, yes? i have had no prob with making previous non-choc caramels. What a pain when things don’t go right and I can’t find help because the chemistry foundation knowledge is just not out there in the general populace! sigh.
Made them for my wedding shower last weekend and ZOMG they turned out amazingly good.
Thanks for sharing the recipe!
Deb, is there a way to make caramels without corn syrup? I would welcome such a recipe, if it exists and has your seal of approval. Hope you can test that out sometime soon. Thanks!
Hi Shelly — You can try to use golden syrup, if you can find it. Sometimes honey works as well. Sadly, I haven’t tested this recipe with either, but it’s worth giving it a go. Good luck.
i am going to give these a try for christmas this year – has anyone tried to double the recipe? i know that not all baking recipes can be doubled in the same bowl with the same results – are candies/caramels the same or am i safe straight up doubling everything?
I had the same problem with the butter separating, and I’m using 70% Scharffen Berger… opinionatedchef, did you try adding the butter to the chocolate and cream instead? How did that work out?
I just made these and the chocolate tastes a little burnt and they are extremely greasy. Maybe I had the same problem as others did with the butter separating? The texture is good, though I wimped out at 245 degrees because the chocolate smelled so burnt.
I’ve made these several times – I started last year because I wanted to find something nice and homemade to give as gifts for the holidays. They are a hit, btw. I get requests to make them for just about every holiday now. I’ve only had one instance when they didn’t turn out (they were ROCK HARD) and that was after my genius fiance put the thermometer in the dishwasher without telling me. AFTER replacing said thermometer, I have continued to have success.
A couple things – I take them off the heat and dump the butter in immediately at around 248 degrees (with a calibrated digital thermometer taken in the middle of the pot, stirring constantly) and they are a very nice consistency… not too hard (as they were slightly the first batch) but firm enough to hold their shape at room temp after cutting them.
I also do get a bit of separation of the butter after putting them into the pan, and it tends to soak into the salt; next time I make them I’ll try adding the butter with the chocolate/cream mixture as another person had mentioned and see if that helps. I’ve never really had any problems with crystallization. Might try the butter thing tomorrow as I have a ton of extra chocolate laying around. Deb, you’re awesome. Thanks for the ever-growing “to-do” list for my kitchen.
I made these today and they are lovely. I heated them to just over 236 degrees and they are a little soft. Next time I would be more patient and continue heating to 255.
I used sea salt flakes judiciously and they taste amazing.
Hello. I just made these last night. The very outside is hard like candy, the closer inside is like caramel and the middle is like fudge! What did I do wrong?
Could you substitute agave nectar for corn syrup. The trouble is I love making homemade Carmel’s but my allergist says I am allergic to GMO corn! So for syrup is out! Love the apple cider Carmel’s in the smitten kitchen cookbook because no corn syrup but my family isn’t as taken and want ” the real thing” as well as chocolate Carmel’s!
I haven’t used agave nectar in caramels, but see if you can find golden syrup. It’s delicious and works well. Honey often does too.
All of my beginning candy attempts were disasters until I learned that you have to adjust the temperature for altitude. I live in the mountains in Colorado at high altitude. Here is a nice guide for how to adjust for altitude that solved all my candy making problems: http://candy.about.com/od/candybasics/qt/Adjusting-Candy-Temperatures-For-High-Altitude-Cooking.htm
DELISH!!!!! I have a great pot, but a crappy stove, so everything took basically double-and-a-half the amount of time stated in the recipe. Still fantastic! Also, I did a taste test as they were getting close to 255 and found the chocolate flavor to be so deep and rich that I opted to skip the salt completely. I like the salt effect better with milk chocolate, which usually seems to need a little oomph to leave an impression… I was going to add a couple of teaspoons of coffee extract at the last minute, but even my husband couldn’t get the bottle open, so it didn’t happen. Maybe next time. Anyway, THANK YOU, these are perfect! Next up: apple cider caramels …
I had such high hopes for these – I always have trouble with caramel and I though this would be the perfect thing for holiday gifts. Every recipe I’ve ever made of yours is flawless! This one turned out terrible :( :( :( Smells and tastes super burned – I didn’t even boil the sugar for 10 minutes because it seemed to be golden at 8, but then it took about 17-18 mins to get to 255 and there was just smoke everywhere. Sniffle.
How long do these last in the fridge? Can they be put in the freezer? Thank you!
It looks delicious! I also am not fond of salt in caramels. I wonder how this would turn out if you just left out the salt….?