My friend Nancy Kajiyama is one of the most talented pastry chefs I've ever met. You've probably sampled her wares over at Miette, where she runs a lot of the behind the scenes magic. I get to work with her from time to time on special events, which is how I know she's one of the most incredible candy and chocolate makers around.
This is her FANTASTIC recipe for caramels, with a few little tweaks from me. I'll never use another recipe for caramel candies again. Add an obscene amount of gold leaf to the top like I did, and call them million dollar caramels.
The caramels will cut much more easily if you let them cure overnight (or over two nights, even). Make them today or tomorrow and ring in the New Year in millionaire style.
Million Dollar Caramels
- 6 cups organic sugar (Nancy said it HAS to be organic)
- 1 cup corn syrup
- 6 cups heavy cream
- 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons sea salt, plus more for garnish
- GOLD LEAF
Line a 13" x 18" baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Combine sugar and corn syrup in a large, deep, heavy-bottomed pot with 1/2 cup of water. Set over high heat. Use a brush dipped in water to dissolve any sugar crystals that may have stuck to the inside walls of the pot. Refrain from stirring the caramel, and let it cook to your desired color. I like to take it as far as I can to develop the complex flavors of dark caramel, about 395°F, but if you are uncomfortable going as far, feel free to stop things earlier.
Anticipate the moment the caramel will reach your desired point and stand at the ready with the cream and butter. As soon as it hits the right color, carefully add the cream and butter. Be prepared for the caramel to bubble up furiously and make sure there are no children around. Once it calms down, whisk in the vanilla and sea salt and let the caramel return to 245°F. This will take a little while, so don't stress when the thermometer gets stuck around 220°F.
When the caramel has reached 245°F, VERY CAREFULLY pour it out into your prepared baking sheet. Let it cool for about 25 minutes, then sprinkle a generous amount of sel gris or other coarse sea salt all over the top.
If it's humid or rainy, wrap the tray with plastic once it's completely cooled. Otherwise, leave it out, uncovered, for one or two nights to set.
When you're ready to cut and wrap the caramels, slip the tray into the freezer for 15 minutes.
Remove the caramel from the baking sheet, and carefully peel away the parchment. Use a pizza cutter to slice the block into strips, and then use a sharp, heavy knife to cut the strips into one- or two-bite sized caramels. Place the cut candies onto another baking sheet.
Gold leaf is super expensive, and it can be tricky to work with. If you get a whole book, take just one leaf out at a time. Try not to breathe on it, because your breath will cause it to rumple up and stick to itself. Use a dry paintbrush (or lacking that, a wooden skewer) and an xacto knife to gently pick up a tiny bit of gold leaf at a time and dab it onto each candy.
Wrap with clear cellophane wrappers to show off the gold! Make sure, while you're wrapping, to twist both ends of each candy in the same direction (this was the hardest part of the whole operation for me to master!) so that they'll open up without strife.
Depending on how you cut the caramels, this will yield about 150-200 pieces. This recipe will halve easily, but make sure to pour caramel into a quarter sheet pan or 9" x 13" cake pan instead of a baking sheet to ensure proper depth.
Supplies you may need:
- Gold Leaf
- Sel Gris
- Cellophane for wrapping
- My favorite Instaread Thermometer
- Organic Sugar
- Organic Corn Syrup
- Parchment Paper
- Paint Brushes
- Xacto Knife