It’s official – I am in the middle of the high anxiety holiday weeks that lead to much less sleep and thoughts of “why didn’t I start my projects much, much earlier?” Yet another weekend has come and gone, and I have carefully orchestrated what needs to get done. I still give a few things up here and there, but se la vie…
There are a couple things that I am really bad at when it comes to this blogging thing. I am REALLY bad about taking pictures to explain steps as I go, and there are very, very few times that I follow a recipe exactly. I cook by feel and instincts, and I almost need to schedule a post-cook wrap up meeting with myself so that I can take notes on what I did that worked (or didn’t work for that matter).
I stumbled across this recipe for Salted Chocolate Caramels a few weeks ago, and while I adore a sweet and salty collabo*, I just didn’t think it was right for the upcoming holiday season. What goes well with chocolate? Why peppermint, of course! And it is festive to boot!
I’ve made caramels before – not documented yet of course, but if you are looking for a failproof recipe, look no further. It is here. I’ve made it several times, and the caramels have turned out A-MAH-ZING every time. Once you get the hang of it, you can start to play around with the consistency. I made softer onces last Christmas and dipped them in chocolate, but taking the caramel recipe one step further and adding the chocolate into the caramel…game on!
The Salted Chocolate recipe mentioned above seemed straight-forward enough. I decided to follow that one more closely for my experiment today. I’ve updated my modified version below, but I am interested in experimenting with different flavors with either of the caramel recipes above in the future.
Chocolate Peppermint Caramels
modified from Salted Chocolate Caramel recipe at www.epicurious.com
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 10 1/2 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (no more than 60% cacao if marked), finely chopped
- 1 3/4 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces
- 1 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
- 3 candy canes, broken into small pieces (I put it in a quart ziploc and take my meat tenderizing hammer-thing to it)
- Vegetable oil for greasing
- Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch straight-sided square metal baking pan with 2 long sheets of crisscrossed parchment.
- Bring cream just to a boil in a 1- to 1 1/2-quart heavy saucepan over moderately high heat, then reduce heat to low and add chocolate. Let stand 1 minute, then stir until chocolate is completely melted. Remove from heat.
- Bring sugar, corn syrup, water, and salt to a boil in a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil, uncovered, without stirring but gently swirling pan occasionally, until sugar is deep golden, about 10 minutes. Tilt pan and carefully pour in chocolate mixture (mixture will bubble and steam vigorously). Continue to boil over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until mixture registers 255°F** on thermometer, about 15 minutes. Add butter and extract, stirring until completely melted, then immediately pour into lined baking pan (do not scrape any caramel clinging to bottom or side of saucepan). Let caramel stand 10 minutes, then sprinkle evenly with broken candy cane pieces. Cool completely in pan on a rack, about 2 hours.
- Carefully invert caramel onto a clean, dry cutting board, then peel off parchment. Turn caramel salt side up. Lightly oil blade of a large heavy knife and cut into 1-inch squares.
This recipe is a keeper in my book. There are not many dessert/sweets recipes that aren’t, but I like that the chocolate isn’t overpowering. The consistency of the candy melts in your mouth in that fun way that caramel should. I am still trying to figure out the best way to deliver these goods…I’m not into individually wrapping, but that is another story for another day.
*yes, I realize I am shortening the word collaboration. I use it way to much to pronounce the whole thing all the time.
**Make sure you are calibrating your candy thermometer before doing ANY candy-making. For those of us at higher altitude, water boils at a lower temperature and so does candy – meaning that if you blindly follow directions to bring it to 255°F, you are going to end up with candy that you can’t cut with a handsaw, let alone that oiled knife. Here is a really good tutorial on how to calibrate your thermometer, but it is as easy as figuring out at what temperature water boils for you and adjusting your instructions as necessary. Today, my water boiled right around 200°F instead of a normal 212°F. I took my caramel off the stove just after it hit 240°F…