This recipe was in the Star Tribune last year, but I couldn’t find it in the online recipe archive this year. Fortunately I had a copy saved. Like the almond bark, this is not particularly healthy, sustainable, or local. That’s what New Year’s is for, right? At least these are relatively cheap to make, and are great for gifts.
Vanilla Sea Salt Caramels
– 3/4 c. unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
– 3 1/2 c. sugar
– 1 1/2 c. light corn syrup or brown rice syrup
– 1 1/2 c. heavy cream
– 3/4 c. water
– 3 1/3 tsp. sea salt
– 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped out, or 1 1/2 T. vanilla extract
1. Generously butter the sides and bottom of an approx. 9 in. x 11 in. disposable foil cake pan.
2. In a large pot over medium-low heat, stir together butter, sugar, corn or rice syrup, cream, water, salt and the vanilla bean and seeds until sugar is dissolved and butter is melted (if using vanilla extract, don’t add yet).
3. Increase heat and bring the mixture to a low boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches about 250 degrees on a candy or kitchen thermometer. This takes around 20 minutes — it will get up to 220 really fast and then take seemingly forever to get from 220 to 250. I have no idea why.
4. Remove from heat. At this point, add the vanilla extract, if you are using that. Remove the vanilla bean shell, if you went that route.
5. Pour caramel into prepared pan. Let stand at room temperature for a good 20 min., then refrigerate until firm, about 2 1/2 hours or overnight.
6. Get it out of the refrigerator and let it warm up to just under room temperature (about an hour), then turn it upside down and bend the sides of the pan to get it out. Cut it up with a really sharp knife into whatever size caramels you like. I think we got around 100, but I didn’t count them.
7. Wrap each piece in a 3 or 4-inch square of parchment paper, or plastic wrap, or old saved butter wrappers (these work especially well, and I really like how they look). They keep best in the refrigerator. The recipe says they only keep for up to two weeks, but when we made them last year we had a couple that we didn’t get to until mid-January and they were just fine.
Last year when we made these, we used the corn syrup and the vanilla extract. This year, we used brown rice syrup and a real vanilla bean. They turned out great both times, but I think this year was slightly better. I also like that you can see the tiny specs of vanilla in the caramels.