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