Dark Salty Caramels
Photo by Lynne CalamiaCoarse sea salt and soy sauce balance the bitterness in these buttery and chewy caramel candies. Invented by the French sometime after fire but before the airplane, the caramel has been married to salt for at least 400 years. Caramels are amorphous candies like brittles, toffees, and taffies, but there’s an extra challenge here, because the sugar is cooked to a point where many bitter compounds are created. Salt can tone down the bitterness while elevating the butter and coffee flavors the bitterness typically hides.Both U.S. standard and metric measurements are listed, but for deliciously consistent results, go metric.Note: Make sure to stir frequently in step 6 as you're watching the temperature of the caramel rise. Once you see the temperature hit 260°F for the first time, give the mixture a good stir and take its temperature again two more times to confirm it has indeed cooked to 260°F. Undercooking in this step will lead to soft, unsliceable (but still very delicious) caramels. If needed, take the mixture off the heat during these final temperature checks to prevent burning. This recipe first appeared in Season 14 of Good Eats.
ACTIVE TIME: 1 hour
TOTAL TIME: 2 hours 30 minutes
Yield: 64 (1-inch) caramels
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/3 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 cup heavy cream, at room temperature
- 2 teaspoons soy sauce
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon coarse or flaky sea salt
Line the bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, forming a sling. Grease the parchment with nonstick spray.
Combine the sugar, water, corn syrup, and cream of tartar in a heavy 4-quart saucepan and place over high heat. Stir occasionally until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture comes to a boil.
Meanwhile, combine the cream and soy sauce in a liquid measuring cup. Have this and the butter standing by.
Continue to boil the sugar syrup on high heat until it reaches 230ºF, then reduce the heat to medium and cook, without stirring, until the syrup is light golden and is approaching 300ºF, 7 to 10 minutes. At this point, there is less likelihood of crystallization, so gently swirl the pan to help break up any hot pockets.
Let the syrup continue to boil, occasionally swirling the pan, until it turns a deep amber and hits 350ºF, another 5 to 8 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, gently swirl again to break up hot pockets, and cool for 2 minutes.
Carefully pour in the cream mixture and add the butter. Stir to combine. Return the caramel to medium heat, stir until the butter is completely melted, and continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the mixture reaches 260ºF (see note), 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the heat and pour into the parchment-lined pan. Tap the pan gently on the counter to release air bubbles.
Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes, then sprinkle evenly with the salt. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill until set, about 1 hour.
Use the parchment sling to remove the caramel from the baking pan. Cut into 1-inch pieces and wrap each individually in parchment. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.