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
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
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.