Friday, September 23, 2011

Salted Vanilla Bean Caramels

Up close and personal with sea salt. :)
Apparently I’m on a salted caramel kick this week. I came across this recipe on Brown Eyed Baker this week, but it was Foodie Bride who did it first. So, when I went to make them myself, I went to the original source. I was really nervous about making caramels, but I decided I owed it to the world to try since my Salted Caramel Brownies were so successful! :)

What really made want to try out this recipe were the vanilla beans. I’m sure that a normal kitchen does not have a stash of vanilla bean pods lying around, but that’s what makes me unique. Erin gave me vanilla beans last year for Christmas and it took me 9 months to find a recipe that was worthy of cracking them open! I think that you’ll agree this was a good one to start with. Erin had told me that when I use them, I need to make sure that the vanilla beans get to shine and be the star of the show. What that really means is that I probably shouldn’t waste them on something with chocolate.

Note: if you have never used vanilla bean pods before, there is some technique to getting the beans out of the pod. First, split the pod down the middle lengthwise (hotdog style for those of you who prefer elementary school terms) using a paring knife. Next, scrap the inside of the pod with the back of the paring knife. To do this, start in the middle of the pod and work your way to the skinny end. Repeat with the other side. The vanilla beans will collect on the blade of knife and you can scrap them in your bowl. Thank you for Erin for this great advice!
Close up on the vanilla bean pod after it has been split open with my paring knife.

I was quite successful scraping out the vanilla beans! :)
I was also nervous about capturing this recipe on camera because I know caramel can go from good to bad in seconds. I had to be skillful about stirring and snapping pictures at the same time. In the end, it appears I was bit too cautious and took the caramel off a bit early. Probably because the smoke detector was going off and I was nervous that I had spilled some caramel that I didn’t realize and was going to start a fire. Really, I was freaking out. I had to call my Mom and ask how to turn off the smoke detector. Her advice? Take out the battery. I felt a little silly that I hadn’t thought of that first…haha. Anyway, it looked like my candy thermometer read 248°F, but it was hard to tell. The result of slightly undercooked caramel? It’s gooey and a little runny. The solution? Keep it in the fridge and don’t care if it’s not as pretty you hoped. It’s still super tasty, and that’s really what matters!

Salted Vanilla Bean Caramels
1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 vanilla bean pod, split and scraped
1¼ teaspoons sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
1½ cups sugar
¼ cup light corn syrup
¼ cup water

Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, then lightly butter parchment.
This looks vaguely familiar...haven't I done this already this week? :)

Bring cream, butter, vanilla, vanilla beans, pods, and sea salt to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside.
Before the heat is turned on...
It  started to boil, so it came off the heat.
After sitting for a few minutes, it starts to settle and thicken up a bit.

Boil sugar, corn syrup, and water in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil, without stirring but gently swirling pan, until mixture is a light golden caramel. 
This is before it starts to heat up.

Coming to a boil...

And turning a light golden caramel color. Isn't it pretty?

Remove pods and carefully stir cream mixture into the caramel (mixture will bubble up) and simmer, stirring frequently, until caramel registers 248°F on your candy thermometer.
It was right around this time that the smoke detector started going off.
Tip: make sure your fan is on for this part!! :)

SO PRETTY! And probably could use another 30 seconds...I'll remember that for next time!

Pour into baking pan and cool 30 minutes. Sprinkle another pinch or two of salt over the top of the caramel for a nice salty crunch and let sit until completely cooled. Cut into 1-inch pieces using a buttered pizza cutter and wrap each piece in a 4-inch square of wax paper, twisting the two ends to close. Makes 64 candies.
I love the little flecks of vanilla bean!!

Using a buttered pizza cutter was an inspired idea from Foodie Bride!

My Salted Vanilla Bean Caramels!
They look like candy you might buy in a store! :)

Thanks for sticking around for my Salted Vanilla Bean Caramels‼

<3 Buttercup

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