I made fleur de sel caramels to give away as Christmas gifts a few years ago, and now no one will let me stop. They make great gifts, wrapped individually in parchment or cellophane and packed into a small gift bag or jar, and don’t go stale quickly like other baked goods can. You’re not limited to fleur de sel — with all the flaky, fancy gourmet salts out there, you could use grey salt, pink Himilayan salt — whatever suits your taste. Use it sparingly, and its saltiness and crunch will perfectly compliment the rich, chewy caramel beneath.
Fleur de Sel Caramels
Adapted from Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich. For nutmeg caramels, omit the fleur de sel and grate about 1/2 tsp. of fresh nutmeg into the cream before heating it.
1 cup golden syrup (i.e. Roger’s or Lyle’s)
2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
2 cups whipping (heavy) cream
2 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
fleur de sel or flaky sea salt (such as Muldon)
Line the bottom and sides of a 9″x9″ baking pan with aluminum foil and lightly grease the foil. Combine the syrup, sugar and salt in a heavy saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves completely and the mixture begins to simmer around the edges. (If you like, add a couple drops of lemon juice to prevent crystallization.) Wash any sugar and syrup from the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water. Cover and cook for about 3 minutes. Uncover the pan and wash down the sides once more if it needs it. Attach a candy thermometer to the pan, without letting it touch the bottom of the pan, and cook uncovered, without stirring, until the mixture reaches 305°F. Meanwhile, bring the cream to a simmer in a small saucepan (add grated nutmeg first if you’re making the nutmeg version); turn off the heat and set aside.
When the sugar mixture reaches 305°F, turn off the heat and stir in the butter. Gradually stir in the hot cream; it will bubble up and steam dramatically, so be careful. Turn the burner back on and adjust it so that the mixture boils energetically but not violently. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally at the beginning to more frequently at the end, until the mixture reaches 260°F for soft, chewy caramels or 265°F for firmer, chewy caramels.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vanilla extract, if using it. Pour the caramel into the lined pan. Let set for an hour or so, until slightly firm but still tacky. Sprinkle the surface lightly with flaky salt, pressing gently to help it adhere if you need to. Leave for another 3-4 hours, or until firm.
Invert the sheet of caramel onto a dry cutting board or sheet of parchment paper. Peel off the foil and if you like, sprinkle the other side with more salt. Cut the caramels with a large, sharp knife. Wrap each caramel individually in wax paper or cellophane.