Friday, January 5, 2018

Chewy Gooey Salted Caramels

Hey friends -  Happy New Year! I have decided to revive the blog and try to give this another go around now that my two little ones aren't quite as little (although they are still pretty little- 16 months and 3 3/4 as he loves to tell me). My time is slightly more flexible and I have decided to focus more on creative efforts this year. My hopes are to try a new recipe on the weekend, photograph it and then write a blog post some time during the week. One of the things that I struggled with in the last few months of my more active blogging times was that I didn't have the quality photos that I really wanted to strive for here. I was either lacking in natural light or I didn't have the time to use my DSLR camera and properly upload and edit the way I intended for this blog to be. My original goal when I started this blog was for it to be a place for me to put my favorite recipes to look back on later, to be inspired to try new recipes, and to document the way food influenced my life.
Another part of the reason that my posting fell off.....and by that I mean went on complete hiatus for uhhh too many months to count, was that I was feeling very uninspired. I could always write down the recipes but I couldn't find the right words to fill the blog posts. So if my time allows me, I am going to try this part a new way and see how it goes. My sister and her partner host a creative podcast/workshop weekly called Endless Beautiful in which they provide a 15 minute audio prompt to help others find inspiration for creative activities (writing, drawing, composing, etc). I have tried listening and freestyle writing a few times now and although I have come up with some ideas I don't find that I am really a writer in the traditional sense of sitting down and just creating a story or poem or anything really. I mostly just ended up coming out with a mind dumb of garbage that floats around in my brain and I didn't really feel happy to share that with anyone.  Today though, I stumbled upon this old draft chewy, gooey caramel post that contained nothing but photos and decided maybe I could try their creativity session another way. Maybe it can inspire me to write more in this blog.  I am also contemplating doing some video style food journals and may share those here as well.  So we will see how this goes. Here's to a new year and a new effort to be creative.  Please head over to their website, pick one of their podcasts to listen to and try something creative!   

I make these caramels every year around the holidays and share them as gifts with everyone that I know. I have gone back and forth about sharing this recipe because I sort of selfishly enjoy the idea of having a secret recipe that I keep for myself, but I have decided that in the end that really is no fun. It seems to me that these caramels bring happiness to anyone who eats them and that is what food is really all about to me - providing enjoyment and deliciousness. What better way to celebrate the joy of these caramels than to share the recipe so that anyone and everyone can try it for themselves.  It might seem intimidating at first to make candy at home but if you are careful and follow the directions, it will be worth your while! Please make sure to invest in a candy thermometer before trying this recipe because it will provide accuracy and helps the caramels turn out perfectly. They are fairly inexpensive and can be found in most grocery or retail stores that sell kitchenware or online.

Chewy Gooey Salted Caramels

3 cups white granulated sugar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup light corn syrup (optional)
2 cups heavy cream
10 tbsp salted butter
1 tsp vanilla paste or extract
1/2 tsp large flake sea salt, divided

1. Prepare a 9x13 pan by lining with aluminum foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray or line with a piece of parchment paper and set it aside on a heat proof surface or cooling rack.

2. In a large, heavy bottom pot with tall sides, add the sugar, water and corn syrup and stir together. The corn syrup helps give the caramels a chewier texture but can be left out if desired.

3. Run a pastry brush that has been dipped in water around the sides of the pot to wash down any sugar granules that are stuck to the side of the pot. These rouge sugar granules can cause the caramel to become grainy later if not removed.

4. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pot and turn the heat to medium high. Let the sugar cook without stirring until it begins to turn amber in color and begins to smell like caramel. This is usually around 330F on the candy thermometer for me but be sure to watch your pot carefully. Do not walk away, answer the phone, stop to change a diaper, play a game of hide and seek.....etc.

5.Once the sugar has caramelized to your liking, add the heavy cream, butter, and vanilla paste or extract. The mixture will begin to steam and bubble like crazy and it will look like the whole batch has split or gone funky. Don't worry, when everything begins to melt and come back up to temperature it will all recombine.

6. Begin stirring with a whisk or silicone spatula and stir constantly until the caramel reaches 245F to 246F on your candy thermometer. This is just slightly below the hardball stage 248F which is where caramels are normally cooked to. I like to go just under that stage because the caramels set nicely but they are left really gooey and chewy - almost creamy in consistency.

7. Remove your candy thermometer and pour the caramel into your prepared pan. Do NOT scrape the pot out, just pour out what you can and leave the residue.  Scraping the pot could cause your caramel to set with a grainy or unpleasant texture.  Wait about 10 minutes and sprinkle the sea salt over the top of the caramels, to your tastes.

8. Let the caramels set for at least 3 hours. If your house is hot, they may need to chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes before cutting. Turn the set caramels out onto a cutting board, peel back the parchment paper or aluminum foil and use a large knife or pizza wheel to cut into approximately 1" squares

9. Cut 3" wax paper squares and wrap each piece of caramel individually. Place the caramel in the center of the paper at the top edge, fold the paper around the caramel until it is enclosed and then twist each side of the paper around to seal.

10. This makes a ton of caramels - put them in baggies and give them to everyone that you know!


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