By Katie Goodman
Caramels are another fun and delicious treat to make for gifting this time of year, though they can be tricky. You will rely heavily on a candy thermometer, so make sure that is working before you start. You will need to monitor the temperature closely. You can go from soft caramels to hard candy very quickly, so choose a time to make these when you won’t be distracted. In other words, don’t make these when you’ve got two kids playing loudly in the background or you might have to make a second batch. Just sayin’, not that I would know anything about that.
Before you start this project you will also need find out what your elevation is and adjust the temperatures accordingly. For every 1,000 feet above sea level, you will need to subtract 2 degrees. For example, I live at 5,000 ft. above sea level, so I subtract a total of 10 degrees from each of the indicated temperatures.
If you would like a stronger orange flavor, adjust the extract accordingly. These aren’t meant to be orange caramels, but just have a small hint of flavor in the background.
Salted Caramels with Orange Scented Sugar
Adapted from Helen of Tartelette
1 1/4 cup light corn syrup (honey may be substituted)
2 1/4 cups sugar
2 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling on top
2 cups heavy cream
Zest of one large orange
1/8 teaspoon orange extract
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into chunks
Line the bottom and sides of a metal 9×13 inch pan with foil. Grease the foil. Set aside.
Zest the orange and combine it with the sugar. Run through a food processor until the zest is very fine and the sugar is fragrant.
In a heavy 3 1/2-quart sauce pan combine the corn syrup, sugar, and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon or head resistant spatula until the mixture starts to bubble around the edges, stirring regularly. Add the butter and stir in until melted.
Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan – careful not to let it touch the bottom of the pan — and cook, without stirring, until the sugar mixture reaches 305 degrees F.
Meanwhile, warm the cream in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Once simmering, turn heat off and set aside.
After the sugar mixture has reached 305 degrees F, turn the burner off. Slowly stir in the cream, about 1/3 of it at a time. The mixture will bubble wildly, so be carefully not to burn yourself or overflow the pan.
After you’ve whisked in all of the cream, return to medium-high heat and allow the mixture to boil rapidly. Stir until mixture is smooth. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, to 245 degrees F. Then cook, stirring constantly to 260 degrees for soft, chewy caramels or 265 degrees F for firmer caramels.
Turn the heat off and stir in the orange extract. Pour the caramel into the prepared pan. After about 5 minutes, sprinkle the top with a dusting of fine sea salt. Allow the caramels to sit for 5 hours, or until firm.
Remove the caramel from the pan and peel away the foil. Spray a plastic cutting board with cooking spray and place the caramel on top. Then, spray your knife with cooking spray.
Cut the caramels into bite sized pieces. A good size is a 1×1 inch cube or a 1/2 inch x 1 inch rectangle. Individually wrap the caramels with wax paper. Makes approximately 70-80 caramels, depending on the size.
Note: The best way to test the consistency of your caramels once the thermometer starts to read close to the goal temperature is to drop a spoonful into a bowl of cold water. Then, pull the caramel out with your finger to test. If it is just right, you can stop cooking. If it is not yet firm enough, keep cooking and test again every couple of degrees.
About the Author:
Katie Goodman resides in New Mexico with her husband and two children. Learning in the kitchen, eating, trying new recipes, and sharing them with friends and loved ones are some of Katie’s favorite things to do. She wholeheartedly believes that part of the goodness in life is enjoying good food with good friends and family, and Good Life Eats is a place for her to share what she finds good in the kitchen.