Aztec Caramels

By • December 23, 2010 24 Comments

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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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