Sea Salted Caramels

You could say that when it comes to candy, my childhood was deprived . Sure, I had halwas, ladoos (sweet lentil balls), gulab jamuns (fried sweet milk balls, soaked in a thick, rose water flavoured sugar syrup) and the like but…no candy. I didn’t know what a dolly mixture was, much to the amusement of British mates. Or pastilles, toffee and fudge. Caramel was a dark, burnt, chemically sweet tasting, thin sauce that sat on top of a conical  creme caramel made out of a Foster Clarks packet.

So, I had a lot of catching up to do when I lived in Aberdeen. My first taste of a traditional British sweetie of sorts was the scottish tablet, served on a wee plate with the coffee, after my first meal at a real pub (that was interesting!!). My mother-in-law explained what it was and beckoned me to try some. I will never forget that buttery, sweet scent that reached my nostrils, or the grainy, uber- melting texture on my tongue. I had two fat squares and was eyeballing the one sat on the rim of my father-in-law’s saucer. Bless him, he gave it to me.

Then, my Mother-in-law took me to a sweetie shop in a fishing village of Stonehaven on the coast of Aberdeen. There, bottles and jars and tumblers of sweets and candies stood  blinking at me…all pastel and bright rainbow colours! She bought a bag of a few of them and it was there, I had another first, a caramel. It was superb and I sooked away at it while walking up the high street on a rare, sunny, warm afternoon, feeling the pleasurable freedom of a five year old child.

It was not long after that, at Lakeland, that I bought a sugar thermometer on an impulse. I had no idea what to do with it, so I bought Annie Rigg’s Gifts from the kitchen. And Lordy, here was a recipe for Sea Salted Caramels. Now, you’re talking!

Whenever I want inspiration for edible gifts, I turn to  this book. Page after page of beautifully photographed pictures of tasty and tastefully packaged foodie gifts cannot fail to inspire you. Recipes are divided according to season, though a lot of them are certainly not restricted to the seasons or just candy making. I find myself going back to it again and again, gazing at the beautiful kitchenalia in the photos and wondering when I can fix another time to try something else out of this book.

Nothing makes me feel more like a conjurer than using a sugar thermometer. I get an adrenaline rush looking in a pot of ferociously bubbling caramel, stabbing at it with the thermometer. For me, this inexpensive piece of kitchen kit, has opened up another edible world in my saucepan. I have to admit, that I am prone to feeling rather smug when I accomplish something as divine and decadent as caramels. It’s heady stuff! Particularly, the look on someone’s face when you have made them Sea-salted Caramels; it is worth the bother of scrubbing sugary tar from your saucepan.

So, one fine, bright morning, I decided to make these for my excellent neighbours, whose two young girls are LilLassie’s playmates. They have been extremely helpful, giving us information on day to day things that are so valuable to relative new comers to Doha, like us. It was the best excuse to wield my sugar thermometer around!

Word of warning. Do not make these if the kids tend to run about the kitchen. Sugar heats to an exceedingly high temperature and a mishap could mean a painful trip to the emergency room, pronto. So I would advise scheduling a time when little, flailing, mobile limbs are not in action around the kitchen. I, am a clutz of extraordinary merit, but am uber-careful when it comes to anything related to heating sugar.

That’s the health and safety bit done…now…

These aren’t difficult to do, at all. You just need a little bit of time, get organised and have all the ingredients out in handy reach and have a tin ready to pour the boiling hot caramel into. The sticky bit is the cutting. Really, do try to wait until it cools fully and hardens a bit overnight before you cut it. They are rich, so small, one inch squares are good enough for me. An oiled pizza slicer or an oiled carving knife, do the job nicely. They are terribly pretty when wrapped in squares of baking parchment and placed in glass jars.

Buttery, chewy, with the treacle flavour of muscavado sugar and the sea salt balancing the creamy sweetness, this is a candy of some class. One is never enough and that’s why I make it to give away. Well, some of it, at least. You are warned. Once you have the experience of making a candy under your belt, you will be itching to have another go. It’s addictive, this candy creating lark. Keep a good dentist’s number handy.

For recipe, please click here.


23 thoughts on “Sea Salted Caramels

  1. Thanh @ eat, little bird

    Beautiful photos, as always!! I really love the first photo. Judging from the bowl in the background, this batch must yield a lot of caramels, which sounds perfect to give as gifts around Christmas. I absolutely love salted caramels, which might explain the few cavities which I think I have … I’m too scared to go to the dentist who might prescribe a no-sugar diet!

    1. thePatternedPlate

      Thanks Thanh! Yes this batch does yield a fair bit. The recipe states 20 but I get at least double that! Also originally its made in a small square tin. I don’t have anything under 20cm square tin, so used by 20 x 30…so the caramels are spread out more, hence the higher yield. Its no big deal really, any which way you do it. And yes its excellent to give as presents. The books says its good for 4-5 days but I mean I am sucking away at it into the second week to be honest!

    1. thePatternedPlate

      Hi Sreelu! Golden Syrup is kinda like a pale treacle (molasses) and a by product of turning sugar cane juice into sugar. It has an appearance similar to honey, though its thicker and a proper golden colour. You could say its similar to corn syrup but much better in my opinion! Its used extensively in baking in the U.K.

      In the States, I believe its used a fair bit in Cajun cuisine, but can be hard to source outside of Louisiana. I think its getting more popular now.

      If you do want to substitute it, then mix 2 parts of light corn syrup to one part molasses. However, considering this is a sugar caramelisation recipe, I am not sure what the outcome would be or if there would be a change in the process.

  2. The Teenage Taste

    Salted caramel is my latest obsession. I’ve made salted caramel sauce from scratch but never the actual caramels. I’ll have to get on that ASAP – thanks for the recipe!

  3. jobakes

    Hehe, you’ve got the number for this good dentist fortunately Carrie! 😉

    But as for your post, I love the child-like exuberant abandon you describe discovering sweeties with. I can just imagine you with a cheeky grin on your face, like a child who’s been caught doing something naughty – like nicking salted caramels! ;). I love your step by step montage photo in the middle – that really is something I aspire to produce but never quite get there.

  4. Liz Headon

    I’ve only just discovered the joy of salted caramel, but I definitely approve. I didn’t think I liked caramels much… till now ! I used little nuggets of salted chocolate caramel to tuck inside the choc truffles I made for Paul’s birthday.

  5. NYinRome

    these look like something i could get addicted too. i don’t have a thermometer, maybe i should leave it that way? Looking good as ever Carrie, great stories as usual girl…thanks;)

    1. thePatternedPlate

      Hah! NY I assure you a thermometer is a good investment. Just make sure you make things only when you have a reason to give them away. I am not responsible for any levels of over-indulgence!

    1. thePatternedPlate

      Umm, I would say no Jacqui hun! You can try, it has to reach the hard ball stage and there are various tests online for it, like dropping it into cold water and it should be exactly that, a hard ball. Considering caramels have been around for a while, perhaps a thermometer isn’t necessary, but it certainly makes it failproof!

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  8. julie

    Is there anyway I could ask that this also be converted into U.S. equivalents for easy reference? This is my first ever attempt at making candy but after seeing your caramels – I am flat-out determined to do this! Beautiful photos, fabulous storyline, lovely blog.

    1. thePatternedPlate

      Julie, thankyou very much for your kind words. As for conversions; I will try to convert them to US measures, simply because these are worth making! May I also offer the idea of using scales? Its not an expensive piece of equipment and offers precision to the utmost. Plus, no recipe shall be restricted to you! I will amend the recipe itself and post it up.

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