If you were around me the week before Thanksgiving, you probably heard me complain about my candy making skills quite a bit. I was all set to show you how I can make candy like a pro (not that I've ever done it before, but I own a candy thermometer now, so look out world, here I come). I made a caramel base and poured it into a pan and waited for it to set. And set it did - like a freaking rock. Needless to say, I was crushed.
I tried to call it toffee and play it off (if I've learned anything from Top Chef, it's that you have to pretend that you meant to do whatever your dish ended up as all along - don't say "oh, I meant to do this but I failed." The judges hate that), but deep down, I knew that I had failed to made caramels successfully. They tasted like failure. Deep depressing failure. I tried to salvage them. I covered them in chocolate and nuts and broke it into pieces. But the pieces were too thick to happily bite through. I ended up smashing all the pieces with a hammer and baking them into cookies (which I called "failure cookies," but everyone seemed to like them anyways).
But if at first you don't succeed, try try again! So on Friday night, I decided to try again (I live a wild and crazy life here in New York City - I stay in on Friday nights and make caramels while I watch TV specials on Disney animation. I'm so cool). I made salted chocolate caramels - I found a recipe in an old issue of Gourmet magazine (RIP Gourmet). I figured that maybe the chocolate would help keep it from turning to bedrock. And it did!
Salted Chocolate Caramels - from Gourmet Magazine, 2006
2 cups heavy cream
10 1/2 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (no more than 60% cacao if marked), finely chopped (I used Ghiradelli chocolate chips - no chopping)
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 (Becky gave me some as a wedding present! Yay!)
Vegetable oil for greasing
Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch straight-sided square metal baking pan with 2 long sheets of crisscrossed parchment (I just used one big piece. I'm lazy and economical).
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 (my candy thermometer said I was only at 175 degrees, but last time I cooked caramel, it got to "245" but then set like a rock. So I didn't bother following the directions this time. I think my thermometer is defective). 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.
Note: The caramels are very very soft. I was so happy I could cut them but they were actually almost too soft. After the two hours, I put them in the freezer for awhile to get it to more of a cuttable consistency. They are still soft now, but tasty! Next time, maybe I'll try to bump up the temperature a little more.
But they worked! Here they all, all wrapped up next to my "Don't Mess with Texas" mug (a present from Meredith).
And here's one perfect little square.
Be prepared to get some of these for Xmas presents! I can't eat all these by myself.