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Thursday, February 1, 2007

Candy for Christmas

As you can probably tell from the previous entry, I am aware of—and responsive to—food trends. So, when I received a container of lavender sea salt for Christmas from my sister Sara, the first place my mind went was to salt-topped candies, which are all the rage these days. Minimal searching online led to this recipe on Epicurious, which I decided to use. Originally, I was planning either to use a chocolate truffle recipe or a caramel one, but when I saw the Chocolate Caramel recipe, it seemed like a nice compromise. This was the inaugural use of my new Le Creuset 5 1/2-qt. French Oven, and it performed perfectly. It was especially nice to have a pan with a light-colored interior, because it was so simple to keep an eye on the color of the sugar syrup as it cooked. I don’t have a candy thermometer, so I made a sort of ghetto version of one with my digital remote thermometer by using a clothespin to attach the probe to the side of the pan.

the caramel cooking

I made these as a present for a coworker at our holiday gift exchange. I went shopping for wax candy wrappers, as the recipe suggested, but I found only foil ones, which actually turned out to be a good thing as the candy ended up sticking to wax paper and parchment. I also found an inexpensive candy box at the same store (my favorite restaurant supply store in LA) that fit 24 wrapped candies. Paired with a gift card to the trendy frozen yogurt store that keeps popping up all around town, I thought it made a great gift (and apologies for sounding self-satisfied—a big pet peeve of mine).

Lavender Sea Salt Chocolate Caramels
very slightly adapted from

-2 cups heavy cream
-10 1/2 oz. fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (no more than 60% cacao, if marked), finely chopped*
-1 3/4 cup sugar
-1/2 cup light corn syrup
-1/4 cup water
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-3 tablespoons flaky sea salt, such as Maldon*
-vegetable oil for greasing

Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch straight-sided 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 remove from heat and add chocolate. Let stand 1 minute, then stir until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth.

the ganache

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. Carefully pour in chocolate mixture (syrup will bubble and steam vigorously—stand back). Continue to boil over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until mixture registers 255° on thermometer, about 15 minutes. Add butter, stirring until completely melted, then immediately pour into lined baking pan (do not scrape any caramel clinging to bottom or side of pan). Let caramel stand for 10 minutes, then sprinkle evenly with sea salt. Cool completely in pan on 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.

before cutting

*I bought, both for this occasion and for general use, a 4-lb box of Valrhona 55% Chocolate Bâtons. I can’t tell whether or not there are any stabilizers, because the ingredient list is in French, but they melted up beautifully.
*I used Lavender Sea Salt, but that is obviously up to you. You could use another herb, or just plain sea salt. The brand of mine is the girl & the fig.


Amanda said...

I love this recipe. I have an affinity for salty and sweet at the same time, so this was a perfect fix. Did you know there is a lavender festival in Sequim, Washington? I saw it on Taste for America the other night. For some reason, the cable provider has stopped Travel Channel service in LA. BOO. But these were yummy.

Megan said...

Unrelated-- I am SO sorry that I missed you on the Disneyland trip! I had no idea that you had an annual pass, otherwise you would have been first on the list of invitees. Also, DWINDLING friendship? Say it isn't so! The point is, I miss you.