If there’s anything I’m a connoisseur of, it’s likely caramels. It’s my favorite flavor of anything and everything, anywhere. I will without a doubt always order the caramel-flavored whatever it is.
A couple of years ago, I discovered that I could make caramel… and I got really good at it. I make the best salted caramel sauce, the best salted caramel buttercream frosting, and the best salted honey caramels. I don’t even feel bad about being so smug! Caramel is my love language.
These honey caramels are super soft but still hold their shape… and they don’t stick to your teeth badly! They are buttery, salty, creamy, and wonderful.
I’ve learned a few things about honey and caramel. While you can make a killer caramel sauce with only honey, caramel candies really need another type of sugar to make them hold their shape and not melt into a puddle at room temperature.
At first I was disappointed with this, as I wanted to make an all-honey caramel candy. Then I thought about it more and came to the following conclusion: I’m cooking the snot out of it, which is destroying a lot of the beneficial properties of honey which make it a healthier sweetener in the first place. So, I’m really just using honey for the flavor, and because I have it.
I’d rather use part cane sugar and part honey to achieve a wonderfully textured candy that holds up well but still tastes like honey. It’s a great compromise… especially since it isn’t something we have often, and certainly don’t think of it as a health food in any way. They are incredible, and that’s good for the soul…
Salted Honey Caramels
1 2/3 cups heavy cream
1 vanilla bean pod (or 2 tsp vanilla extract)
1 Tbs warm water
1 1/2 cups pure cane sugar
1/2 cup good quality honey
2 tsp sea salt, divided
3 Tbs salted butter, cut into small pieces
1 tsp Fleur de Sel, or other finishing salt
candy or meat thermometer
wax paper, for wrapping
First things first: lightly spray an 8X8 baking pan with cooking spray (or lightly butter it). Cut two pieces of parchment paper that fit exactly the width of the pan but that are long enough to hang up and out the sides of the pan; place one each direction and try to get them to fit to the bottom and side of the pan. In simple terms: line the pan with parchment paper however you can.
In a small saucepan, heat the heavy cream and seeds scraped from inside the vanilla bean pod or vanilla extract on the lowest possible heat setting.
In a large, heavy-bottomed pan combine the water, pure cane sugar, and honey. Be careful and try to get as little sugar up the sides of the pan as possible during this process. Heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is combined and just starts to boil. This is important: STOP STIRRING NOW. Do not stir again until the cream is added later!
Use a pastry brush dipped in water to push down and dissolve any sugar crystals that are on the sides of the pan. Also, wash or use a new stirring utensil without sugar crystals on it from here on out.
Boil the mixture over medium heat until it reaches a temperature of 307F. This will take only a few minutes, so watch it carefully. Leave your thermometer in the mixture (you can use a candy or a digital meat thermometer) so you can monitor the temperature, because it will go from perfect to burnt quickly.
As soon as it gets up to temperature, slowly pour in the warmed cream. NOW YOU MAY STIR AGAIN. It will bubble violently, but keep adding the cream and whisking. After the cream is in, stir in the butter and one teaspoon of sea salt.
Stirring frequently (just a gentle stir is fine), bring the mixture back up to a temperature of 250F, which will take about 15-20 minutes. Once this temperature is reached, turn off the heat and carefully pour the caramel into your prepared pan. DO NOT SCRAPE THE PAN. The caramel in the bottom of the pan tends to be hotter, and therefore will become harder (and kind of unpleasant) when cooled. If you’d like, prepare an extra sheet of parchment on a pan and scrape the leftover caramel from the pan onto that.
Let the caramel cool for exactly three minutes and then sprinkle the top of the caramel evenly with one teaspoon of finishing salt (Fleur de Sel is perfect for this).
Set the pan on a heat-proof surface (a cutting board works well) and allow it to cool completely at room temperature, about 4-5 hours. If I am not ready to cut and wrap the caramels at this point, I remove the whole slab of caramel, along with it’s parchment paper and slide it into a ziptop bag.
Leave the caramel slab on the parchment paper and slide the whole thing on to a cutting board. Use a sharp knife to cut the caramels into whatever size you’d like. I prefer my pieces to be about the size and shape of little Tootise rolls- this makes for easy wrapping and is a nice 2-bite caramel. If these are for a really special occasion, consider using pre-made candy wrappers. Otherwise, cut pieces of wax paper to wrap them. I put a piece of caramel on a piece of wax paper, roll it up, and then twist the ends (see picture at the top).
My best advice is to cut the caramels to a size you like, then cut a few wax papers to make sure they fit… and then go ahead and cut the rest. For my Tootsie Roll shape, I get about 75 caramels from this batch.
These caramels will store at room temperature for a couple weeks. Keep them in an air-tight container to avoid them sucking in moisture and getting gummy on the outside.
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