This is it — this is the year that you’re going to make your Halloween treats at home instead of hurriedly picking up a jumbo bag of Tootsie Roll pops on your way home from work.
No excuse to be intimidated, either. One of our favorite New York–based artisan candy companies, Liddabit Sweets, has shared their simple recipe for sea salt caramels from their award-winning cookbook, The Liddabit Sweets Candy Cookbook: How to Make Truly Scrumptious Candy in Your Home Kitchen.
We’re longtime fans of Liz and Jen’s work. Edible Brooklyn profiled them last year as one of our standout local Edible entrepreneurs and earlier this year, we shared a recipe for their buttermints — just in case you want to diversify your D.I.Y. Halloween treat offerings!
Sea Salt Caramels
Makes about 120 one-inch pieces
Small (9- x 13-inch) rimmed baking sheet
Cutting board, lined with parchment or wax paper
Wax twisting papers
3½ tablespoons (50 g) unsalted butter, plus about 1 teaspoon for greasing the baking sheet
1¾ cups (350 g) granulated sugar
1½ cups (12 ounces/375 g) evaporated milk
⅔ cup (160 g) heavy (whipping) cream
1 vanilla bean, split open and seeds scraped out, pod reserved; ½ teaspoon vanilla paste; or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon (300 g) light corn syrup
1 tablespoon (20 g) coarse sea salt
Cooking spray or vegetable oil
1. Grease the baking sheet with the 1 teaspoon butter, and set it aside on a heatproof surface.
2. Combine the sugar, evaporated milk, heavy cream and vanilla bean and seeds (if using) in a large (6- to 8-quart) saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, uncovered and without stirring.
3. Once the mixture has come to a boil, insert the candy thermometer. Add the light corn syrup, and stir gently with the spatula until everything is mixed well. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often and making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot to keep the mixture from burning, until the mixture reaches 230°F/110°C (thread stage), about 30 minutes.
4. Add the 3½ tablespoons butter. If you used a vanilla bean, fish it out with a slotted spoon. Stirring continuously, cook the caramel until it reaches 241°F/116°C (soft-to-firm ball stage), 15 to 20 minutes; it will be a deep tawny color and have slow, rolling bubbles in the center. Remove it from the heat.
5. Stir in the salt and vanilla paste or extract (if using), making sure they’re distributed evenly. Put on oven mitts and carefully pour the caramel onto the prepared baking sheet. Allow it to cool completely until it’s firm to the touch, at least 3 hours, preferably overnight. (If it’s humid, cover the caramel tightly with plastic wrap and store it at cool room temperature until you can cut and wrap it in wax paper.)
6. Lightly oil a sharp chef’s knife with cooking spray, and run the tip around the edge of the baking sheet to release the caramel. Gently turn the caramel out onto the lined cutting board, and cut it into 1-inch squares. Wrap the pieces in wax twisting paper (to turn the squares into little logs, fold each piece over on itself, wrap the twisting paper around it and roll the wrapped caramel against the cutting board, then twist the ends of the paper shut).
Store the caramels in an airtight container, at cool room temperature for up to 4 weeks; they’ll last for up to 3 months in the refrigerator.
NOTE: We highly recommend a vanilla bean for this recipe. Boiling the scraped bean with the cream gives the vanilla flavor (yes, it is a flavor) a kick in the pants, and the crunchy little flecks add a certain something that you just can’t get with extract. Vanilla paste (see our book) is a good substitute if you can’t get your hands on a bean.