Chocolate Caramels with Sea Salt

February 5, 2019

In partnership with ThermoWorks, I’m going to walk you through my Chocolate Caramels with Sea Salt with helpful hints to make it successful. All opinions expressed here are my own.

THE RETURN OF MY SWEET TOOTH

Has your sweet tooth returned after the holidays? Mine sure has – just in time for Valentines Day! I took a break from all of the sweets post-holidays, but I’m ready to dive back into chocolate, caramel, and frosted sugar cookies. I like using Valentine’s Day as an excuse to make homemade candy and caramels. In the past, I’ve been really adventurous with Homemade Candy Bars and Pomegranate Lime Lollipops, but the one recipe I always return to is my Chocolate Caramels.

TEMPERATURE TIPS

Caramels can be finicky and even a bit daunting when making them at home. They’re either too soft and won’t hold their shape, or too hard and pull out your fillings. The secret is to nail the sugar cooking temperature with absolute precision – to do this you need the right tools.

Having a good thermometer like a Thermapen is critical when you’re wanting to embrace your inner Willy Wonka at home. A perfect batch of caramel hangs on reaching the right temperature before removing from the heat. The faster and more accurate your thermometer, the better the candy. I love the Thermapen for many reasons, but its versatility is at the top of my list. This product is reliable for the temperature of the pork loin I’m roasting and every bit as reliable for the candy I’m making at home.

There are different sugar cooking stages that are represented by temperature ranges. When the temperature rises, the amount of water decreases and the sugar begins to concentrate. The highest temperature reached during cooking determines how hard or soft it will be when it cools.

At each temperature range, the sugar will have a different level of sugar concentration and hardness. In this recipe the sugar is first cooked to the firm ball stage: 245-250°F (118-120°C) and then eventually to the hardball stage: 251-265°F (121-130°C).

NO THERMOMETER? NO PROBLEM!

If you don’t have a reliable digital thermometer on hand, you can still use the old-fashioned cold water test. You’ll know you’ve reached the firm ball stage when a very small amount of sugar syrup is dropped into very cold water and forms a ball that holds its shape but is still very sticky when pressed with your fingers. You’ve reached the hardball stage when the ball that’s formed holds its shape but is pliable.

There’s no question that I love all of the ThermoWorks products, but the super fast and accurate Thermapen is particularly great for candy making to monitor temperature control.  There’s a reason these products are consistently top-rated by Cook’s Illustrated and America’s Test Kitchen. With the thorough yet easy to read display, you can easily observe temperature with speed and accuracy – two incredibly important things when working with sugar.

FINISHING TOUCH

Candy making can be intimidating, but using the right tools for accurate temperature tracking takes all the guesswork out of it, making it possible make perfect caramels or candies every time. I’ve set you up for success – a simple recipe, simple product recommendation, and hopefully enough confidence that you can pull these off with perfection!

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Chocolate Caramels with Sea Salt


  • Author: Kelsey Nixon
  • Yield: 5 dozen caramels 1x

Description

Caramels can be finicky and even a bit daunting when making them at home. They’re either too soft and won’t hold their shape, or too hard and pull out your fillings. The secret is to nail the sugar cooking temperature with absolute precision – to do this you need the right tools.


Ingredients

Scale
  • ⅔ cup lightly salted pepitas (toasted)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 10 oz. good-quality semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • ½ cup light corn syrup
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons Maldon Sea Salt
  • Vegetable oil for greasing

Instructions

Using an 8-inch square baking pan, line with 2 sheets of parchment paper overlapping one another. Evenly sprinkle the toasted pepitas on the bottom of the pan. Set aside until ready to use.

In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring heavy cream to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to low and add chocolate. Let stand 1 minute, then stir until chocolate is completely melted. Remove from heat.

In a separate heavy pot, bring corn syrup, sugar, water, and salt to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Continue to boil without stirring until sugar is a deep golden color, about 10 minutes. Tilt pan and carefully pour in chocolate mixture. Continue to boil over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until mixture registers 247°F on thermometer, about 15 minutes. Add butter, stirring until completely melted and temperature reaches 255°F then immediately pour into lined baking pan. Let caramel stand 10 minutes, then sprinkle evenly with flaky sea salt. Cool completely, 1-2 hrs.

Carefully remove caramel onto a clean surface then peel off parchment. On a cutting board cut caramels into 1-inch squares with a well-oiled knife.