What’s Cookin’ – Chocolate Covered Caramels with Sea Salt

When I was in Minnesota a few months ago, my brother-in-law bought me a special treat from their local specialty grocery store – a piece of caramel covered in dark chocolate and sprinkled with a little sea salt.  I only had one small piece, but it was so good that I have been dreaming about it ever since.

Let me state this for the record.  Making candy is not easy.  It requires precision and patience.  Patience is not one of my virtues.  And when I cook, I tend to continually adjust recipes for my personal taste and that of my family.  You know, a little of this and a little of that.  Not really precision at work.

An Anonymous Source (yes, I was given someone’s Grandma’s top-secret recipe and have sworn not to reveal my source) gave me a caramel recipe awhile ago.  It’s been sitting in my recipe box, untested, since the thought of making candy just gives me a headache.  After having the chocolate covered caramels, I decided to give this recipe a try.  And covering them in bittersweet chocolate.  And sprinkling them with a little sea salt.

First batch of caramels.  Epic fail.

Research ensued.

Followed advice and tested my candy thermometer by placing it in a sauce pan of boiling water for 10 minutes.  My thermometer was off by three degrees.  Okay, I adjusted for that.  Word to the wise – test your candy thermometer!

More research.

Those who  have success making caramel swear it is so easy, and many of them do not even use a candy thermometer!  I found another recipe on the Internet that was similar to the one that was given to my by my Anonymous Source.  The cooking times were slightly different so I made a few adjustments to the recipe supplied to me by Anonymous Source and tried again.

Second batch.  Success!

For the record, I made a third batch using a more traditional recipe with butter, sugar, and cream.  Another epic fail.

Oh well.  I decided to share the recipe that worked for me, and I hope it works for you, too; however, if you simply decide to go out and buy a bag of Kraft Caramels and coat them in chocolate and sprinkle them with a little sea salt, well, I’ll never tell.

Chocolate Covered Caramels with Sea Salt ingredients.

The picture is misleading since one ingredient is missing from the picture (the shortening used in the chocolate coating step).  Mise en place or everything in place is very important in candy making.  Everything you need should not only be out, but should also be measured and ready to go.  You will not have time to retrieve or measure anything once you get started!

Prepare your pan.

Again, this should be done first.  Many of the caramel recipes suggest lining with aluminum foil, but I always use parchment paper.  I have never tried using aluminum foil because I just feel that I wouldn’t be able to get it smooth enough.  I don’t want crinkly candy.

After you have everything in place, your pan prepped, then you are ready to go.  Melt the butter in a large (3 quart) heavy bottomed sauce pan on medium to medium low heat.  Add the brown sugar and salt and corn syrup.

 Stir in the corn syrup until well combined.

Slowly add the sweetened condensed milk while stirring continuously.

Cook and stir continuously over medium heat until your candy thermometer reaches the firm ball (248° F) stage.

This will take a long time (up to an hour), but be patient and do not under any circumstances increase the heat to try and hurry the process along.

It will take a while, but eventually the mixture will start to boil.  Keep stirring and keep an eye on the candy thermometer’s temperature.

Once you reach the desired temperature, immediately remove the pan from the heat, add the vanilla, and pour into the prepared pan.  Do NOT, under any circumstances, scrape the candy that has cooked onto the bottom of the sauce pan into your prepared pan.

When the caramel is cooled but still slightly warm, score, and cut into 64 pieces.

I tried various techniques that I read about during my research – using a pizza cutter, coating the knife with cooking spray, etc.  All I can say is to be patient and use a sharp knife and a little elbow grease.

Separate into pieces.  Once completely cooled, they are ready to wrap, as is, in waxed paper or coat in chocolate.

My best suggestion is to use a large tray and lay each piece on it in a single layer.  I did not do this and I had some that stuck together.  Ugh.  I refrigerated them overnight so that I could coat them the next day.  I did this so that the soft caramels wouldn’t spread.  Refrigerating them makes them very hard, but they soften right up again once they are at room temperature.

Melt 2 cups of bittersweet chocolate along with 2 TB of shortening in the microwave in 30 second intervals at 50% power.  Stir well between each cycle until completely smooth being careful not to overheat the chocolate.

Dip the caramels in the melted chocolate using a fork.  Tap on the edge of the bowl to drop off any excess before placing on a piece of waxed paper to cool.

Sprinkle with a tiny bit of sea salt and refrigerate until chocolate hardens about 15 minutes.  Store in a tightly covered container in a cool spot.

Chocolate Covered Caramels with Sea Salt – ready to eat.

Yummy.

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