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Friday, July 01, 2011
Sea Salt Caramels
These days I find myself gravitating towards the kitchen when things get a bit crazy and hectic.
With my mind heavy and slightly schizophrenic thinking about the "big questions" and issues in life, it's nice to take a break and do something therapeutic. Something that takes concentration and discipline but at the end you can (hopefully) enjoy. Something creative and fun, not heavy and serious.
And if it doesn't work out and you break down in tears because your cookies fall flat or you burn the sugar...it's OK.
It's just baking.
Inevitably when I start to bake (or even think about baking) my mind wanders back to the days when I worked in a coffee and candy shop during high school and college (next time you find yourself in Skaneateles, stop by Vermont Green Mountain and pay Kay a visit).
That, really, was the life. All I had to worry about was making this guys non-fat double mocha latte and getting that womans box of jelly slices and truffles packaged up nice and neat. Oh sure, at times it did get stressful - don't talk to me about a Christmas rush or summer tourist crowds until you have worked in the one and only coffee and candy shop in town. And yeah, there were boy problems and school exams and all the very crazy-over-dramatic stress that comes with being in that weird not-a-kid-yet-not-an-adult phase of life (I'm starting to sound like a bad Britney Spears song so I'll wrap this up).
But really...that was the life.
So for now, I'm just going to bake. I'll save those other heavy, adult problems for another day.
Today, I'm making candy.
And you should to. No really, you totally should. It's way easy and oh-so-rewarding. Just don't daydream too long about the good ol' days and burn your sugar like I did.
But hey, life goes on.
Sea Salt Caramels
Adapted from Gifts from the Kitchen by Annie Rigg
150g caster sugar (aka super fine sugar)
150g light muscovado sugar (aka light brown sugar)
100g unsalted butter
200ml double cream
3 tablespoons golden syrup (I used maple syrup but I think clear honey would work well too)
1 tsp sea salt flakes, plus more for sprinkling
- Grease an 8x8 square pan lightly with oil. It would probably be better if you also lined the pan with parchment paper with the ends hanging over the side, and grease the parchment paper too. This should make getting the caramels out of the pan easier.
- Place the caster sugar in a deep, heavy pan fit with a candy thermometer. Add 2 tablespoons of cold water and heat until the sugar melts, then bring the mixture to a boil and continue to cook until the sugar has turned a deep amber colored caramel. Keep your eye on it - it turns from golden amber to chocolate brown verryyy quickly! Remove the pan from the heat and immediately add the remaining ingredients and stir until smooth.
- Return the pan to the heat and bring back to a boil. Cook the caramel until it reaches 250*F on the candy thermometer. Remove from the heat and leave to settle for 30-60 seconds.
- Pour into the prepared tin and leave until cold and set (I left mine overnight and it worked just swell). Turn out the cooled caramel onto a cutting board and with a sharp knife cut into desired squares. I wanted these a little extra salty so i sprinkled a few small flakes in the middle of each caramel square. It adds a little more savory to the super sweet caramels and makes them look extra super cute. If you want to make things REALLY fancy I suggest getting your hands on some parchment paper, cutting it into rectangles just big enough to wrap around each caramel bite and twist the ends closed.
Caramels will last for 4-5 days wrapped, but I've got five bucks that says they don't last longer than a day.