We set out this weekend to make a few caramels for Valentine’s Day. When it became apparent the first batch was probably going to crystallize, I remembered a trick I learned the previous weekend at a candy making class. I added about 1/3 of cup of cold, heavy cream to the simmering mixture and the caramel snapped right out of its downward spiral! Not 100% convinced it was going to be ok, we made a second batch. They were both perfect! Feeling extra brave, fresh off the newly learned caramel save, I decided we would dip half the caramels in melted chocolate, since I had also learned to temper chocolate at last weeks class. (The class http://thepantryatdelancey.com/, taught by Ashley Rodriguez http://notwithoutsalt.com/.) Nearly done with the salted and chocolate coated caramels, I still had a lot of melted chocolate on hand. I remembered the candy mold I had bought awhile ago, and I thought WHY NOT Peanut Butter Cups! The mold was a silicone mold and I hated it. I will purchase solid molds prior to ever doing molded chocolates again.
For the Fleur de Sel Caramels (Ina Garten’s recipe, which I tripled to make 120 caramels – a 10″ x 15″ pan)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup of water
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 cup heavy whipping cream
5 tablespoons butter, unsalted
1 teaspoon fine fleur de sel, plus extra for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Butter an 8″ square baking pan, set aside.
In a deep, heavy saucepan combine 1/4 cup water, the sugar and white corn syrup, mixing very well. Take the pan over to the sink. Dampen your hand with cold water and “wash down” the sides of the pan to ensure NOT ONE single grain of sugar is on the side of the pan! Repeat all away around the pan until no sugar crystals are stuck to the side.
Move the pan to the stove and bring the sugar mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil until the mixture is a warm golden brown. Don’t stir — just swirl the pan. Very important to prevent the formation of crystals.
While the sugar syrup is cooking, in a small pot, bring the cream, butter and 1 teaspoon of fleur de sel to a simmer over medium heat. Turn off the heat and set aside.
When the sugar mixture is done, turn off the heat and slowly add the cream mixture to the sugar mixture. Be careful — it will bubble up violently. Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon.
Cook over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, until the mixture reaches 248 degrees F (firm ball) on a high quality, reliable digital thermometer.
Very carefully (it’s hot!) pour the caramel into the prepared pan. Sprinkle with fleur de sel. (DO NOT SALT THE CARAMELS YOU INTEND TO ENROBE IN CHOCOLATE.) Cool until firm, overnight or in the fridge for a few hours.
When the caramel is firm, pry it from the baking pan. Cut into strips and then cut into squares on a cutting board. Wrap the candies.
For the Caramels Wrapped In Chocolate
About two pounds great quality chocolate – I used a combination of Divine 70% Bittersweet Baking Bars (3 x 5.3 ounce) and Ghirardelli Premium Baking Bar 60% (4 x 4 ounce) – chopped
Additional chocolate, about 1 pound as “seed” chocolate for tempering – chopped
Melt the two pounds of the chopped chocolate in a bowl over a double boiler, over a low simmer. Make sure the water is not touching the bottom of the bowl. Bring the chocolate to a temperature in the range of 114′-120′.
Remove the bowl from the double boiler. Add about 1/4 of the remaining chopped chocolate. You are going to reduce the temperature of the chocolate to 88′-91′, by adding the cold chocolate and stirring.
(The temperature is reduced by the addition of chocolate….not by the ambient temperature.) Continue adding the “seed” chocolate, stirring and taking the temperature. Once the desired temperature is reached (88′-91′), your melted chocolate is ready to use.
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Have the cut caramels ready to go. Using a chocolate dipping fork or two dinner forks, roll the caramel in the melted chocolate. Remove the caramel, tap the fork on the side of the bowl to remove the excess chocolate. Place the tip of the fork on the pan, and push the caramel off with the second fork.
For the Peanut Butter Cups
Check the temperature of your chocolate. You may need to repeat the tempering process, if it is too cool.
Coat a candy mold with tempered chocolate. Swirl, invert the mold over a bowl to remove the excess chocolate. Scape the mold to remove the extra chocolate from the edges. You may need to repeat the “chocolate rain” (letting the excess drip into a bowl) one more time. Once the mold is covered evenly, add the peanut butter filling. Place peanut butter in a pastry or zip lock bag. Cut a tiny hole and pipe the peanut butter into the center of the chocolates. You will need to remove any excess that is too close to the top.
Cover the mold with the tempered chocolate, scraping away the excess with a pastry scraper or spatula. Chill until set, about 30 minutes. Remove candy from mold. Keep cold until ready to serve. Place in candy cups.