Make Ahead

Rosemary Pecan Caramels

October 17, 2011
3 Ratings
  • Makes about 100 caramels (13- by 9-inch pan)
Author Notes

As the holidays approach I start thinking about making caramels. This year I found inspiration from a sundae at the Ruby Jewel Scoop Shop called the Rosemary Langer. The sundae tops vanilla ice cream with dulce de leche and rosemary pecans - an easy leap to caramels in my mind. —hardlikearmour

Test Kitchen Notes

If you’re a caramel lover, drop everything you’re doing and go make these right now. They’re quite simply the perfect caramel -- rich, creamy, and slightly salty. But it’s the pecans and rosemary that take these caramels from good to sublime. The technique of infusing the cream with rosemary results in just the right amount of rosemary flavor in each piece. (And just try to eat one piece!) When following her thoughtful, well-written instructions, it feels like hardlikearmour is right beside you in the kitchen, quietly supporting you through each and every step. Of special note, these caramels would make a wonderful homemade holiday gift since they keep and travel well, are relatively inexpensive to make, and will make you look like a candy-making genius. —EmilyC

What You'll Need
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 7- to 8-inch stems rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
  • fleur de sel (or other coarse finishing salt)
  1. In a medium sauce pan heat the cream, butter, rosemary, and salt over low heat for 20 to 25 minutes before proceeding. This will infuse the cream mixture with rosemary flavor.
  2. 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. If you want your pecans buried in your caramel, distribute them evenly over the bottom of the pan.
  3. Dissolve the cream of tartar in the water in a 6- to 8-quart stock pot. Add in the sugar and corn syrup. Cover the pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Once mixture is boiling, uncover the pan and increase the heat to medium high. You will need to keep a pretty close eye on the pan, and swirl the pan occasionally. 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 310 degrees 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 325-330 degrees F, or when it is a golden brown color.
  4. Slowly pour the warm cream mixture through a mesh strainer into the the sugar mixture. It will boil violently and create hot steam, so use caution. I like to wear an oven mitt while stirring until the boiling has settled down. 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 244-248 degrees F, the 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 - the lower end of the temperature range should produce a somewhat gooey caramel and the upper range should produce a firmer texture - see cooks note at end of recipe.) 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 almost continuously as you get close to your target temp to prevent burning.
  6. Remove from heat and quickly stir in vanilla extract, then proceed with pouring the caramel into your prepared pan. If the pecans are in the bottom of the pan you will want a thinner stream, that moves over the surface of the pan to help keep an even layer of pecans.
  7. If you want your pecans to remain somewhat separated on the surface of the caramel, evenly distribute them over the freshly poured caramel mixture. Wait about 10 minutes, then gently and carefully press them into place. Sprinkle with fleur de sel about 10 minutes after pouring the caramel in either case; attempt to get several salt grains per piece of caramel.
  8. Allow to cool to room temperature. Use parchment paper "sling" to remove from the pan, then cut caramel into 1-inch squares, or whatever size pieces you prefer. I periodically spray my knife with non-stick spray to help cut the caramels. Wrap individually with waxed paper, and store in an airtight container.
  9. 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!

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • lapadia
  • Ms. T
    Ms. T
  • EmilyC
  • lorigoldsby
  • Couldn't Be Parve
    Couldn't Be Parve
I am an amateur baker and cake decorator. I enjoy cooking, as well as eating and feeding others. I live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest with my husband and our menagerie. I enjoy outdoor activities including hiking, mushroom hunting, tide pooling, beach combing, and snowboarding.

34 Reviews

pantryhero December 5, 2015
I made these yesterday, and they were amazing. They were for a friend's birthday treat, and I wanted to keep them all for myself.
lapadia December 17, 2011
Fabulous taste and texture, love the earthy rosemary flavor, thanks for sharing your recipe, HLA!
hardlikearmour December 17, 2011
Thanks, lapadia! I'm thrilled you like them.
Ms. T. November 11, 2011
Congrats on the CP! Glad to see so much love for the rosemary caramel combo :)
hardlikearmour November 11, 2011
Thanks! It's a surprisingly delicious combo. Can't wait to try your brittle - just need to get some pine nuts.
EmilyC November 3, 2011
I can't wait to try these -- they look divine!
hardlikearmour November 3, 2011
Thanks, EmilyC! I really love these caramels, and have trouble only eating one!
lorigoldsby October 27, 2011
Just curious--the cream of tartar--is this ingredient helping the caramel to solidify at cooling? Does CoT go "bad" or loose its efficiacy like baking powder can? I've made lots of caramels but not used the CoT before.
hardlikearmour October 27, 2011
I wanted to use a minimum of corn syrup, so added the cream of tartar to invert some of the sugar to help prevent crystallization. You could alternately use some lemon juice for the same effect. I don't think it goes bad as long as it's dry.
Couldn't B. October 25, 2011
These sound fantastic!
hardlikearmour October 26, 2011
Thanks! I just bought cocoa nibs so I can make your brittle.
Niknud October 24, 2011
These look fantastic! Love the savory aspect to the rosemary and sea salt which probably balances out and complements the tooth-cracking sweetness we all love about caramels!
hardlikearmour October 24, 2011
Thanks, Niknud! The rosemary and salt do go quite well with the caramel.
Niknud October 24, 2011
These look just fantastic - love the savory aspect of the rosemary and sea salt which probably helps balance out the teeth-cracking sweetness that we all love about caramels!
Spork October 20, 2011
Recipe did not say how much corn syrup to add or when to add the vanilla, so, I guessed :). Used 1/2 c corn syrup and added the vanilla right before pouring it into the pan. Not sure if it is going to set up (just finished making it) but the taste is amaaaazing! If it does not set, will be wonderful for ice cream topping. Thanks for sharing!
hardlikearmour October 20, 2011
Oooh.... Thank you, thank you, thank you for catching my errors & you guessed exactly right. I have made them (and other caramels with the same base recipe) on multiple occasion and they seem to set up w/o much trouble. Fingers crossed & I'm thrilled you gave them a try!!
Spork November 10, 2011
shhh! I'm making it again :) it vanished before I could see how long it lasted...think that that is a good sign!
hardlikearmour November 10, 2011
This comment has made my day! I'm so glad you (and everyone else) enjoyed them. I see another batch in my near future, too.
gingerroot October 20, 2011
I feel very lucky to have tasted these and they are divine. The rosemary adds a wonderful dimension to the nutty, vanilla notes. YUM!
hardlikearmour October 20, 2011
Thanks, gingerroot! I'm glad you enjoyed them. I really love what the rosemary adds, too.
fiveandspice October 19, 2011
Ooooooooh. These look mmmmmmmmm!!! And what a gorgeous photo!
hardlikearmour October 19, 2011
Thank you and thank you!
wssmom October 19, 2011
hardlikearmour October 19, 2011
Thanks, wssmom! These are possibly my favorites of the caramels I've made.
boulangere October 19, 2011
You are the caramel queen.
hardlikearmour October 19, 2011
I don't know if I'd go quite that far, but I do love making caramels!
lapadia October 18, 2011
Heaven on Earth!
hardlikearmour October 18, 2011
Thank you, Lapadia! There's a good chance they will show up at the Portland potluck.
drbabs October 17, 2011
oh. my.
hardlikearmour October 17, 2011
You crack me up! & thanks!
drbabs October 19, 2011
And your timing was impeccable!
hardlikearmour October 17, 2011
Thank you, sdebrango! I really love making caramels. It's a bit like doing a chemistry experiment in the kitchen. (There is a glitch that won't allow me to reply to the first comment for some reason.)
SKK October 17, 2011
Oh My - this is a most amazing recipe! I am going to get my daughter to make them and learn from her. You are an incredibly talented woman, HLA!
hardlikearmour October 17, 2011
*blush* Thank you, SKK! I hope you and your daughter have fun with it.