For the last decade, I have been making caramels as a holiday gift for friends and family. They have a rabid following. This year, I decided to develop a couple of new flavors: a vanilla version with cardamom and this chocolate one infused with chile. Top quality ingredients make a difference here, as does a hit of espresso to punch up the chocolate flavor. I wrap each one in foiled or wax paper and pack them in small kraft boxes tied with a ribbon. (An elf comes in handy!) —gluttonforlife
- Makes about 250
- CHILE-INFUSED CREAM
dried chiles de árbol (or substitute 2-3 teaspoons red chile flakes)
chile-infused heavy cream
2 1/2 cups
light corn syrup
4 1/2 cups
instant espresso, dissolved in 2 tablespoons hot water
plus 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped in small pieces
unsalted butter, cut into 16 pieces
Textured sea salt, like Maldon or grey fleur de sel
Vegetable oil cooking spray
- CHILE-INFUSED CREAM
- Pour cream into a large saucepan over medium heat.
- Crumble in chiles de árbol (or red chile flakes) and gently simmer for 15 minutes. DO NOT BOIL.
- Remove from heat and allow to sit, covered, for 2 hours.
- Dip your finger in to test spiciness. You should feel a rather intense heat at the back of your throat. If not, infuse longer. When it has reached desired spiciness, strain thoroughly, discard chiles, and set cream aside.
- Spray an 11 3/4-by-16 1/4-inch baking pan with vegetable-oil spray. Set aside in a spot where it will not be moved.
- In a heavy 4-quart saucepan, combine 2 cups cream, corn syrup, sugar, and salt. Clip on candy thermometer. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, 15 to 20 minutes. Wash down sides of pan with a pastry brush dipped in water to remove any sugar crystals.
- Cook, stirring constantly, until temperature reaches 220 degrees, 6 to 8 minutes; watch so mixture doesn't boil over. Continue stirring, and add chocolate and butter. Keep mixture boiling, and slowly add remaining 2 cups cream and instant espresso. Cook, still stirring, until temperature reaches 245 degrees (firm-ball stage), about 60 minutes, keeping mixture at a low boil.
- Without scraping pot, pour mixture into prepared pan. After it has cooled slightly, about 15 minutes, sprinkle a thin layer of salt over the entire sheet, pressing very lightly to set salt into caramel. Let stand uncovered at room temperature for 24 hours without moving.
- To cut, unmold caramel, salt side up, onto wooden cutting board. Using a large, sharp knife, cut into 1 1/4-by-3/4” pieces, or whatever shape you like. Wrap each piece in foiled or waxed paper.