After posting these sea salt caramels to my instagram feed, I received countless e-mails asking where to find the recipe on the blog! Thank you for your enthusiasm (and your patience) while we worked on putting this post together. These sea salt caramels are the perfect little treat to gift to friends during the holiday season. The best part about this recipe, beyond how good they taste, is how simple they are to make. There are very few ingredients used and just a few key steps to follow in order to successfully make these little pieces of candy. Below are a few tips to help you along the way.
Before you begin measuring any ingredients, it is important to prepare your pan. I line my pan with natural parchment paper so that I can lift the caramels right out of the pan once they have cooled. This makes cutting the caramels much easier than attempting to cut them in the pan.
To line the pan with parchment paper, first butter the actual pan lightly so that the parchment will be able to stick to the pan itself without slipping around.
Cut down the parchment paper to size, but make sure that you leave a couple inches on each of the long sides of the pan. This extra length will be what you use to lift the batch of caramel out of the pan.
Once the pan is lined with the parchment paper make sure to generously coat everything with butter so that the paper will not stick to the caramel mixture.
Before melting your butter, it is a good idea to measure out the sugar, corn syrup, condensed milk and the salt into a separate bowl so that it will be ready to pour into the pan once the butter has melted.
Turn on the Christmas tunes and settle in. Cooking caramels takes a bit of time…. this is not a ten minute project. Depending on your stove, you could be stirring for about 30-45 minutes. You will want to make sure you are stirring the entire time… if you let this just sit on the stove the sugar and milk mixture can quickly and easily burn.
You will know your mixture is boiling when it starts to bubble. This is when you want to reduce the heat and add a candy thermometer.
Don’t try to speed up the process by continuing to cook at a higher temperature. Cooking it slow allows the caramel flavor to develop to a richer taste.
Make sure to use a candy thermometer. A few years back I thought I would avoid purchasing a candy thermometer and so I used a meat thermometer instead. Big mistake. Totally not the same thing at all. My caramel turned into a brick and it had to be thrown out. It was a sad day in my kitchen!
The candy thermometer will help you regulate the temperature of your mixture so you do not cook your caramel for too long. The higher the temperature you cook your caramel to, the harder your caramel will become. I like to cook mine to a “firm ball” stage. This means that the mixture is cooked to about 245 degrees F. This will give you a taffy like caramel that is easy to eat. The good thing about a candy thermometer is that all you do is set it to “firm ball” stage, and it will beep at you when it is set.
Once your caramel has reached the desired temperature remove from the heat immediately and set your pan on an unheated burner on the stove. Have your vanilla and measuring spoon next to the stove ready to go so you can quickly pour in this final ingredient. Work fast so you can incorporate the vanilla before the mixture begins to cool down.
Just pour the caramel mixture into your prepared pan and it will naturally spread evenly throughout the pan. Then it just becomes a waiting game as you allow your caramel to cool and firm up. I like to allow mine to cool at least three to four hours.
Once the caramel has cooled, gently lift it out of the pan using the paper flaps you created when you prepared the pan. Set the caramel on a flat surface and using a sharp knife, make firm cuts and slice your caramels into small rectangular or square pieces. It is important that your cuts are firm and direct. Clean cut caramels are easier to wrap.
I like to use natural, unbleached waxed paper to wrap up my caramels. There is something that feels nostalgic about the look of this paper, and it enhances the natural color of the caramel. You can find this at natural grocery stores like Whole Foods or you can purchase it here.
This is the perfect inexpensive and easy gift to give to friends, especially when packaged up in little linen bags or craft paper boxes. You can download our sea salt caramel recipe or just use the recipe card below! We hope you enjoy these as much as we do!
photography: Matthew Land Studios