This may surprise a few of you, but...I'm not really a cake person. Or a cookie person. I'd much, much rather have ice cream, or chocolate, or a chewy, caramel-y candy! I already knew that I like making ice cream, but I recently found that I really enjoy candy-making. There's something very satisfying about being able to turn simple ingredients like plain old sugar and cream into wonderfully chewy caramels.
I've had a multitude of baking projects going on lately - the largest of which is baking for charity! My husband is running the Boston Marathon next year with the Dana Farber team, and as part of our fundraising effort, we've been offering baked goods packages to our friends and family. One of the most popular items in our winter holiday dessert packages is our Vanilla Bean Fleur de Sel Caramel Turtles, and today, I'll be sharing the caramel recipe and turtle making technique with you. They do take a little bit of time to make, but there's still plenty of time to whip some of these up for your next holiday party!
Vanilla Bean Fleur de Sel Caramel TurtlesYield: about 64 turtles
- Candy thermometer: make sure that your thermometer is properly calculated - making candy requires precision. Caramels can go from soft and delightful to too hard fairly quickly!
- 8" square baking pan
- Baking sheet lined with parchment or silpat
- 3-4 quart heavy saucepan
- 1 batch Vanilla Bean Fleur de Sel Caramel (see below)
- Chopped or whole pecans (or, nuts of your choice - cashews, macadamias, almonds...)
- Tempered chocolate OR candy melts - I prefer using dark chocolate, to counter the sweetness of the caramels. If you don't want to temper chocolate, I suggest using Bada Bing Bada Boom Candy Melts from Chocoley.
- Flatten each caramel slightly with your palm, and gently press nuts into bottom.
- Spoon a small amount of chocolate onto prepared cookie sheet (I usually spoon ~8 dollops at a time).
- Place caramel/nut cluster on top of chocolate dollop, and press down very gently to ensure that the chocolate covers the base of the cluster. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until you've used up all of your caramels.
- Once chocolate has hardened, spoon some additional chocolate into a disposable piping bag. Cut a small opening in the tip of the bag with scissors. Drizzle chocolate over each candy. While drizzled chocolate is still wet, sprinkle fleur de sel over each candy (I like to pipe 6-8 at a time, to ensure that I can sprinkle salt over the candies while the chocolate is still wet - but modify this number according to your speed).
- Allow chocolate to harden completely, and enjoy, or store in an airtight container (good luck keeping them around for long!).
Vanilla Bean Fleur de Sel Caramels
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 vanilla bean pod, split and scraped
- 1 1/4 teaspoons fleur de sel, plus more for sprinkling
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 cup water
- Line 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, then lightly butter parchment. I like to use 2 sheets of parchment, overlapped, to ensure that all sides of the pan are covered.
- Bring cream, butter, vanilla, vanilla beans, pods, and fleur de sel to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside.
- Place sugar, corn syrup, and water in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Boil, WITHOUT STIRRING, gently swirling pan occasionally, until mixture is golden (~340F).
- Remove vanilla bean pods from cream mixture and carefully stir cream mixture into the caramel (be careful - the mixture will bubble up, and the steam is also very hot!). Simmer, stirring frequently (I like to use a spatula), until caramel registers 248F on thermometer.
- Once the caramel reaches temperature, quickly pour into prepared pan. DO NOT scrape all of the caramel out of the pot - simply pour what you can, and scrape the remainder into a separate pan or onto foil. Adding the caramel scraped from the bottom of the pan can cause hard spots to form in your caramel.
- If you'd like to individually wrap the caramels, let cool 15 minutes, and sprinkle a little bit of additional fleur de sel over the top of the caramel. Let cool completely, and cut into 64, 1-inch squares (a buttered pizza cutter is my tool of choice). Wrap each piece in a 4-inch square of parchment, wax paper, or decorative candy wrapping paper, twisting both ends in the same direction to close.
- If using caramels for turtles, allow to cool completely, and cut into 64, 1-inch squares(a buttered pizza cutter is my tool of choice).
Slightly adapted from Confections of a Foodie Bride