That said, I've also been making caramel . . . and receiving various "I hate you!" comments on Facebook when I post my innocuous comments like:
Mmmmm . . . making Dark Chocolate Whiskey caramels . . . with sea salt . . .
How is it my fault that everyone starts drooling?
Originally, I found this recipe on Epicurious.com, but as y'all know me, I made a few changes. Most of the time I like to look at recipes for the 'backbone' ingredients and then I mess with it.
Dark Chocolate Whiskey Caramels with Sea Salt
2 cups heavy cream
11 oz. bitter- or semi-sweet chocolate (I used a mixture of Ghiradelli and Nestles morsels)
1 3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup honey (corn syrup)
1/4 cup Devil's Cut whiskey (water)
1/4 tsp. salt
3 Tbls. butter, cut into cubes
Flaky sea salt
Press parchment into 8-inch square pan, folding excess in the corners. Spray with cooking spray, set aside.
In small saucepan (2 quart size), heat cream until simmering, turn off and add chopped chocolate. Let stand a minute for the chocolate to melt, then stir to incorporate.
In a very large saucepan (4 quart), bring sugar, honey, whiskey, and salt to a boil over medium-high heat until the mixture reaches 255 degrees on a candy thermometer, or until it becomes a nice golden brown, stirring occasionally to incorporate the sugar on the sides of the pan, about 15 minutes.
Slowly add the chocolate/cream mixture to the caramelized sugar, mixture will bubble vigorously. Cook, and stir often until mixture reaches 255 degrees on a candy thermometer (15-30 minutes). Add butter, stir until melted. Pour into prepared pan.
After cooling 10 minutes, sprinkle sea salt on surface. Allow to cool until solid, 4-6 hours.
Tips & Tricks:
- You can use corn syrup instead of honey, actually corn syrup was called for in the recipe. I prefer honey because it adds an additional level of flavor to the end product
- I used the whiskey instead of the water. I don't think there was much of an enhancement, so I might double the whiskey next time. The excess liquid will evaporate leaving more of a flavor punch
- I followed the two pan method the first time I cooked this recipe, but I want to make it using only one pan. I'll have to let you know how it goes.
- I probably won't use the Nestles morsels again. They didn't really melt into the cream and it wasn't until the temperature became really hot did they actually melt. Something about the way Nestles' processes them to keep their integrity while baking in cookies.
- Of course, they suggest 'fine-quality', but we all know that's hokum. You don't have to spend a ton of money just to make caramel! I happen to have the Ghirardelli for my fillings, but try Baker's chocolate or another comparable product.
- I did use parchment paper in my 8-inch square pan, but you can use foil. Try to get a heavier gauge of foil as it makes peeling it off the caramel easier.
- No matter what you use to line your pan--butter it or spray it with PAM or something of this kind to make it easier to remove.
- I 'know' how other recipes tell you to use a wet pastry brush to brush down the sides of the pan, or do not scrape--THIS IS CRAP! You do NOT have to do this if you stir to incorporate the sugar that forms on the sides as you heat the mixture. I always scrape down the sides as I cook and I haven't had a crystallization problem yet. You just have to keep doing it throughout the cooking process.
- When bringing the caramel up to temperature, the texture will change from loose open bubbles to lava burping. Keep stirring to keep it from burning.
- Be careful: Caramel at this stage is like napalm when it hits your skin--it will attach and keep burning. If you get spattered by caramel, place under cold water to melt the sugar off. Do not try to 'peel' the caramel from your skin . . . been there, done that!
- I just used my salt grinder, which has sea salt in it, to evenly add a little salt to the top of the candy
- I tend to make my caramels and then freeze them until I'm ready to dip them. So, 1) remove from pan, 2) sample a small corner as you 'square' it up, 3) if the texture is right--firm, but still chewy, then tightly wrap in plastic and place in freezer bag, 4) place in freezer. When you are ready to make the candy, thaw overnight on counter.