Making sea salt caramel is easier than you think! These caramels are a combination of smooth and sweet. The sea salt adds a level of perfection that will have you immediately reaching for another one.
I have to admit; I was afraid the first time I made sea salt caramel. I knew that caramel had to be precise, made at a high temperature, and could quickly go wrong. While all that is true, it’s not nearly as hard as I thought. It’s straightforward to make and very affordable (bonus). The trick is to read the recipe a few times, have everything measured out and add the butter/cream combination in very small batches.
What Exactly is Caramel?
Caramel is just sugar (or sugars), butter, and cream. The process of caramelization happens when sugar is heated to 340 Fahrenheit. As the sugar heats, the molecules break down and re-form into caramel.
Caramel is incredibly versatile. It can stand on its own as a candy, used as a topping or filling. Different variations of caramel include sauce, toffee, nougat, praline, flan, creme brulee,
Caramel is very easy to make, but a few steps will help ensure a successful batch.
- Always read the recipe through twice
Making caramel requires working at high temperatures. It helps to be well aware of all the steps before starting.
- Measure all ingredients before starting
This is always good practice whenever baking. Especially true when making caramels because specific steps must be taken at precise temperatures.
- Add the sugar slowly to the center of the pot
This step is necessary to avoid crystallization. (Crystallization is where the sugar clumps, and the result is a gritty caramel) Once the sugar is added, use your whisk and move the sugar just enough to moisten it. In this step, be careful to avoid splashing sugar on the side of the pot. This can also cause crystallization.
- Once the sugar starts to boil, cover the pot with a lid for one full minute
This step traps the steam and helps to stop any crystallization that has formed on the side of the pot.
- Use a candy thermometer
You can make caramel without a thermometer, but using the thermometer helps to get a great result every time.
– The temperature should be between 240 and 245 degrees.
– 240 degrees, the caramels are very soft and chewy.
– 245 degrees, the caramels are much firmer.
– 250 degrees is closer to a hardball stage (hard candy.)
- Add the cream and butter in small batches
When you add the cream and butter, the sugar mixture will react violently to the temperature change by bubbling intensely. By adding the cream and butter in small batches, you avoid the risk of the caramel bubbling over the pot, which would be very dangerous.
- Clean-up is easier than you might think
One of the reasons I avoided making caramel is I did not want to clean up the mess. However, you must fill the pan with water and the utensils used (candy thermometer, whisks, etc.) and bring it to a boil. Then pour the water out and wipe clean. It’s that easy!
Stages of Caramelization
Once you are done making the caramel, they can last for one month refrigerated in an air-tight container.
Caramel, like chocolate, can melt when shipped. However, it is possible to ship caramels. To this, cook the caramels to 245 degrees. Wrap each caramel individually in wax paper. Place the caramel in an airtight plastic container. It is not necessary to pack a cooler in the colder months.
In the warmer months, you will want to keep your caramel cold to avoid melting. To do this, place dry ice or frozen gel packs, inside an airtight plastic container. Place the corrugated box containing the candy on top and cover the container with its lid. Wrap the outside in cling wrap. If you used dry ice, mark “Contains Dry Ice” on the box.
The FDA also recommends shipping food items overnight so they arrive at a temperature at which they are safe to eat (but we never do this in the winter).
Sea Salt Caramels
- 1 Whisk
- 1 Candy Thermometer
- 1 small heavy saucepan
- 1 Bread pan or small casserole dish
- 1 Parchment or wax paper
- 1 tsp oil (olive, canola, etc.)
- ½ cup butter (one stick)
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup corn syrup
- 3 tbsp water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tsp sea salt
- Line a bread pan or casserole dish with parchment paper. Oil both the pan and the parchment paper. Set aside to use later.1 tsp oil (olive, canola, etc.)
- Cut the butter into 6 – 10 small pieces and combine with heavy cream. Microwave for one minute until the butter is melted. Set aside to use later.1/2 cup butter (one stick), 1/2 cup heavy cream
- In a small saucepan, over medium heat, add the water and corn syrup.3 tbsp water, 1/4 cup corn syrup
- Slowly pour the sugar into the middle of the pan. Use caution not to have the sugar splatter on the sides of the saucepan.1 cup sugar
- Using a whisk, gently mix the sugar with the water and corn syrup. The sugar only needs to be slightly wet.
- Heat the sugar over medium heat until the mixture begins to boil. Place the lid over the sugar for one minute. This will create moisture, which will help any sugar on the sides of the saucepan to melt down to the rest of the mixture.
- Remove the lid and insert the candy thermometer. Allow the sugar to boil without stirring (it's hard, but don't stir) until the sugar reaches 320 degrees. This will take between 5 and 10 minutes.
- Quickly whisk together the butter and heavy cream if they have separated.
- SLOWLY add the butter and heavy cream mixture to the sugar in quarter increments. Note: Adding butter and heavy cream to the sugars will cause the mixture to bubble intensely. Take this step slowly and carefully and slowly to prevent the mixture from bubbling over the sides of the saucepan and possible burns.
- Once the butter and cream have been added the overall temperature will drop. Continue to cook until the caramel reaches between 240 and 245 degrees. 240 would be a softer caramel.
- Pour the caramel into the bread pan or casserole dish. Wait fifteen minutes and dust with sea salt.1 tsp sea salt
- Allow caramel for at least 3 hours to cool.
- Always use caution when adding the butter and heavy cream
- Always add butter and heavy cream in small batches.
- Adding all the butter and heavy cream at once can result in the caramel bubbling over at a very high temperature.