Aztec Caramels

By • December 23, 2010 • 24 Comments



Author Notes: I added ceylon and cassia cinnamon, chipotle chile, and some unsweetened chocolate to these caramels to give them some kick. I was pretty lazy with the chocolate, but it worked out fine. If you want you could use either ceylon or cassia cinnamon alone, but I like the more complex flavor of the combination. If you want a fancy presentation you can apply some edible gold leaf to the caramels after you cut them. I based my recipe on Ina Garten's fleur de sel caramel recipe. hardlikearmour

Makes about 100 caramels (9- by 13-inch pan)

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (Diamond brand preferred)
  • 1/2 of a 5-inch ceylon cinnamon stick, broken up
  • 1/2 of a 3-inch cassia cinnamon stick, broken up
  • 1 whole dried chipotle chile
  • 2 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate (I used Ghiradelli)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  1. In a medium sauce pan heat the cream, butter, cinnamon, chile, chocolate, and salt over low heat for 20 - 30 minutes. The goal is to infuse the cream with flavor, but keep it below a simmer. You will need to stir it occasionally to keep the chocolate from scorching. The mixture will be salty, should taste of cinnamon, and have a little heat from the chile. Remember to occasionally stir as you proceed with the recipe.
  2. While cream mixture is heating, line a 9- by 13-inch pan with parchment paper, so the paper is only going up 2 opposite sides (essentially forming a sling to remove the caramel with later). Spray with neutral flavored cooking spray.
  3. Dissolve the cream of tartar in the water in a 6-quart stock pot. Add in the sugar and corn syrup, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat swirling pan occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Once sugar is dissolved and mixture is boiling you will need to keep a pretty close eye on the pan. If you are using a candy thermometer you will notice the mixture hovers near the boiling point for a while then starts to climb fairly rapidly. As the mixture approaches 310º F, you will want to start swirling it fairly frequently as caramelization is imminent. Once caramel color is to your liking remove pan from heat. The pan will retain some heat so I like to remove the caramelized sugar mixture from the heat at about 325º F, or when it is a golden brown color.
  4. Slowly pour the warm cream mixture through a fairly fine mesh strainer into the the sugar mixture. It will boil violently and create hot steam, so use caution. Stir with a wooden spoon until sugar has all dissolved into the cream.
  5. Return caramel mixture to medium to medium-high heat and bring the mixture up to 244-245º F, or lower end of firm ball stage (if you drop about a 1/2 teaspoon of the mixture into a bowl of refrigerator cold water it should form a ball, that is not soft but still malleable.) Stir often, scraping the bottom of the pan. As you get close to your target temperature you may want to turn the heat down to low if you are using a gas stove, or off if you are using electric to slow things down. Your caramels can go from too soft to tooth breaking within a short time frame. You will also want to stir close to continuously as you get close to your target temp to prevent burning.
  6. Pour caramel mixture into prepared 9- by 13-inch pan. Allow to cool at room temperature until barely warm to the touch. Use parchment paper to remove from the pan, then cut caramel into 1-inch squares, or whatever size pieces you prefer. Wrap individually with waxed paper, and store in an airtight container.
  7. Note: Caramel making is a bit trial-and-error based on humidity and other factors. If your caramels come out too soft, modify the final temperature up 1-4 degrees. If they come out too hard, modify down. This recipe scales down by half to an 8-inch square pan if you want to make a smaller amount or feel like experimenting!
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Comments (24) Questions (1)

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over 1 year ago AllyKrue

Made these yesterday and they were a big hit! The flavors combined perfectly for an interesting and delicious caramel. I'm adding this recipe to my holiday candi-making repertoire! Thanks HLA!

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over 1 year ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

Yay! I always love to hear stories of caramel success. Glad you enjoyed them.

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over 2 years ago em-i-lis

Emily is a trusted source on General Cooking.

stunning photo, HLA!

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over 2 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

Thank you, em-i-lis!

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over 2 years ago LE BEC FIN

hla, in my continued cross- comparison of various caramel recipes (6 recipes incl david L., bittman, martha stewart) only you and Davil L do the 2 part process, taking up to 310 , adding ingredients and taking back up to approx 250/260. I'm wondering what effect that technique has over the other method of taking everything together up to 250/260. He didn't explain why he chose his method; did you choose that technique for a reason? thnx again for your help.

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over 2 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

I think (but don't have any scientific proof) the caramels have a better flavor if you caramelize the sugar before you combine it with the cream. Sugar itself caramelizes starting at about 320º F, so with the other technique I think you're getting more color from the cream caramelizing than the sugar itself caramelizing. Ina Garten also caramelizes the sugar first, as does Alton Brown. Using most of my recipes 250º will make a very hard caramel.

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over 2 years ago LE BEC FIN

p.s. what is the cream of tartar for? do these have a deep dark chocolate flavor or a lighter chocolate? thnx again!

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over 2 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

The cream of tartar is to help prevent crystallization. I wanted to minimize the amount of corn syrup I used so scaled it back and added the cream of tartar. Cream of tartar inverts (i.e. breaks) sucrose molecules into glucose and fructose molecules. Having some glucose and fructose in the mix helps to prevent the sucrose from binding together into sugar crystals.

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over 2 years ago LE BEC FIN

armour, what a beautiful recipe and presentation! I wonder if you could help me with a chocolate caramel question? It is in the Hotline section and is titled 72% Chocolate Caramels possible? would you take a look and answer if you can? much appreciated.

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over 2 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

I'm not sure I know the correct answer, but I know what I'd do to try to solve the problem, and have answered your question.

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over 2 years ago jenniebgood

Wow do these look good!

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over 2 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

Thanks, JBG!

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over 2 years ago TasteFood

I am so happy that this contest brought these to my attention. They look incredible!

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over 2 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

Thank you, TF!

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over 2 years ago Midge

These look beautiful. You've piqued my interest about ceylon or cassia cinnamon now -- will have to do a taste test.

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over 2 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

Ceylon is true cinnamon, but most marketed cinnamon is cassia. You can get both of them at Penzeys.

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over 2 years ago lapadia

WOW! Your caramels are to "die" for!! (haven't a clue why I didn't see this a year ago)

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over 2 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

Thank you, lapadia! I assure you, no dying is required ;-)

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over 3 years ago monkeymom

This is gorgeous!

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over 3 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

thanks, monkeymom! i think the gold adds some pizazz.

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over 3 years ago Homemadecornbread

I feel faint!

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over 3 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

Don't faint. Despite the name, no human sacrifices are required.

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over 3 years ago Nora

OMG. I will be doing this. Or can you send me some? Should I alert my dentist?

You're a vet? I'd like a survey of the Food52 crowd. We must all be pet people. My entry: a mere 3 dogs. Had 2. Was happy. The puppy found us.

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over 3 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

Message me your address, and I'll send you some. I like having guinea pigs to test my recipes.