My first attempt at making candy resulted in packaging them in a jar, tying on a piece of fabric with baking twine from Divine Twine, and taking them to a friend's house
I'm a big fan of combining salty and sweet flavors. A few years ago, while in Miami, I had the chance to dine at Michy's, and one of the appetizers we had was the most incredible foie gras on top of a corn cake, drizzled with maple syrup. It was heaven.
Anyway, last month, a reader asked me if I knew of any good recipes for making gray salt caramels after I raved about Fran's from Seattle. Fran's is truly an exceptional chocolate caramel, but it's extremely expensive; three small caramels can run you $8 or more, so learning to make them seemed like not only a fun afternoon activity, but also a way to get my sweet-savory kick without having to shell out major bucks (and figuring a way to ship chocolate from the US into a hot, sticky climate).
After searching around on the internet a bit, I decided that duplicating Fran's chocolates would be taking on a little more than I could chew, figuratively. Dipping caramels in chocolate requires tempering the chocolate to make it glossy with that crisp snap to it. Since I've never made candy beyond the chocolate truffles that my sister and I make every Christmas, I was a little nervous about having to measuring the temperature of the chocolate perfectly and monitoring the temperature of the caramel.
Finally, I settled on a recipe that would allow me to have the benefit of chocolate but that called for the chocolate to be added to the caramel, which would make it significantly easier to monitor the temperature, since I'd only have to deal with one pot. This recipe was fairly easy, except that I was so paranoid about scorching sugar on my tiny, doll-sized electric range here in Malaysia that I deliberately kept the heat fairly low and ended up standing up in my kitchen, dripping sweat and stirring sugar for almost an hour. Next time, I'll trust myself and my candy thermometer a little more.
I also had a little trouble locating gray salt here, so I ended up using Maldon smoked sea salt flakes, and they added a beautiful, subtle smokiness. The caramels were soft but not gooey, and after they cooled I pressed a few additional salt flakes into each one for aesthetics and additional saltiness. Since I'd decided I was going to gift them to a friend, I wrapped each caramel in wax paper and put them in a jar. I then cut a small piece of fabric and wrapped the lid with my new favorite baking twine, Divine Twine.
I'd make these salted caramels again, but I can't keep these around the house. I kept a handful of caramels for the hubby and me to snack on, and the other day I found a little one stuck to one of our kitchen drawers. I hate to admit it, but I paused for a good 30 seconds thinking about whether or not I should eat it.
I didn't, in the end. I mean, I do have some standards.
(And no, no baby yet. But he liked the caramels, too.)