The best of both worlds: Sweet and salty chocolate-dipped caramels recipe

Basic caramel sauce


1 cup sugar


6 tablespoons butter cut into pieces


1/2 cup heavy cream


Heat sugar on medium high heat in a heavy-bottomed 2-quart saucepan. As the sugar begins to melt, stir vigorously with a wooden spoon. As soon as the sugar comes to a boil, stop stirring. Swirl the pan a bit to promote even cooking. When the liquefied sugar turns an amber color remove from heat and stir in butter. When butter is melted slowly add the cream - the mixture will foam up considerably. Continue stirring until smooth. Store for up to two weeks in a glass container.


Here's a recipe for chocolate-dipped sea salt dusted caramels that will surely dismiss any doubts you may be having about salt on sweet candy. One taste and your palate will never be the same.


[image-1]Sea salt caramel candies with dark chocolate


I dipped half of the caramels in melted bitter sweet chocolate, but you may choose to douse them completely or omit the chocolate altogether (though I don’t know why you would want to do a silly thing like that).


1 1/3 cup heavy cream


2 cups granulated sugar


3/4 cup light corn syrup


6 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces


Pulp from 1 vanilla bean or 1 teaspoons vanilla extract


3 teaspoons coarse salt (Kosher or sea salt)


8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped


1. Line an 8 x 8-inch baking pan with foil and generously spray with non-stick spray.


2. In a large heavy-bottomed sauce pot, the sides lightly rubbed with cooking oil (to prevent the sugar from crystallizing), bring the cream to a boil over medium high heat. Stir in sugar and corn syrup and return to a boil.


3. Cook the sugar, stirring occasionally, until it reaches 250 degrees on a candy thermometer.


4. Remove the pan from the heat immediately and stir in the butter, vanilla, and 2 teaspoons of salt.


5. Pour into foil-lined pan and let set at room temperature for one hour, then in refrigerator, until firm enough to cut.


6. Lift the foil with the set caramel out of the pan and place on a cutting board. Cut the caramel into small squares with a sharp knife. A knife run under hot water makes cutting easier and cleaner.


7. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler (I use a metal bowl over a pot of simmering water). Dip the caramels in the chocolate one at a time and place them on a baking sheet covered with foil to set. While chocolate is still wet, sprinkle on the remaining salt and refrigerate until chocolate sets up. Store candies in refrigerator.

While many people have a sweet tooth, I seem to have a 'savory tooth' (if there is such a term). I covet buttery pastas, earthy whole grain bread, and spicy ethnic dishes like some people crave ice cream sundaes and chocolate cake. This is not to say that I don’t enjoy a sweet treat here and there, but I like to have a little something extra to balance out the sugar, like the addition of chili peppers. My favorite coffee drink is served at King Corona Cigars Cafe and Bar in Ybor. Their Cafe Corona is a cappuccino laced with cayenne caramel — spicy, sweet, bitter — and is delightfully warming to the stomach and the soul.

Salt is another great complement to sweet dishes. I like to use a finishing salt for flavor and texture. Finishing salt can be described as a coarse salt such as Kosher or sea salt, and you “finish” the dish by adding a sprinkle at the very end, just before serving. Unusual varieties of salt like Alder wood smoked or pink Himalayan can also add a unique touch to caramel or chocolate desserts.

Caramel seems to pop up a lot in my cooking. It has that certain balance of flavors that my palate yearns for – sweet, buttery, nutty, and yes, even salty. For a dinner I catered recently, I made shrimp and grits with bacon caramel to the bewilderment, and ultimately, the delight of my clients. A quick and easy salty-sweet treat to make is apple wedges drizzled with caramel and sprinkled with sea salt.

Here are recipes for basic caramel sauce and chocolate-dipped, sea salt dusted caramels that will surely dismiss any doubts you may be having about salt on sweet candy. One taste and your palate will never be the same.

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