Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sea Salt Caramels and a cute appetizer

Happy New Year!! Last weekend we had a small party at our house on the 31st. We decided to make dinner be a whole bunch of appetizers instead of having a big sit-down ordeal, and it worked out great. I was in charge of dessert and decided to keep with the theme of bite-sized food and make various little sweets. I made a variety, and these were probably the most popular; sea salt caramels. I had never made caramel before but it was something I always wanted to try, so I was glad to have the chance. The recipe says that it will take about ten minutes for the sugar to turn a dark honey color, but mine took about eight, so I guess it depends on the stove/pan. I cut them just as soon as they were cool and they were EXTREMELY chewy and could pull out a tooth, but once it was time for dessert a few hours later they had softened and were perfectly chewy and delicious. I had no flakes of sea salt so I used regular table sea salt (less than a tablespoon though) and they were a bit too salty - I would stick to the flakes. Either way everyone loved them, and they were a definite hit!
Homemade Sea Salt Caramels (source: Baking Bites)
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup corn syrup
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 – 2 tbsp sea salt (rec. Maldon brand)

Lightly grease a 9×9 -inch glass or pyrex baking dish with butter or a thin coat of vegetable oil.
In a large saucepan, combine water, corn syrup and sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat, then continue to boil until caramel turns a deep honey color (10-14 minutes).
While sugar cooks, combine cream and butter in a microwave-safe bowl and cook for 1-2 minutes on high heat, until butter is melted. Set aside.
When sugar is a deep honey color, pour in cream mixture. Caramel will bubble up vigorously. Stir until bubbles subside slightly, then stir in salt. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and continue to cook, stirring regularly with a silicone spatula, until caramel reaches 260F (5-10 minutes).
Pour caramel into prepared dish. Allow caramel to cool completely, then sprinkle evenly with sea salt.
Cut caramels into small squares or rectangles with a warm, sharp knife.
Caramels can be served immediately or wrapped in small squares of wax paper. Caramels will keep for a few weeks at room temperature.
Makes about 3-4 dozen, depending on the size of your caramels. <-- i cut mine into 36 and they were pretty large

This was one of our appetizers, and I thought it was such a cute idea. You just put little balls of fresh mozzarella (we couldn't find them so we just cut chunks) and cherry tomatoes on toothpicks, and set them out with a bowl of pesto for dipping. We made it ourselves using this recipe, which was delicious, and we added a little extra oil to make it thinner for dipping. (The little bowl is garlic-free for a friend who's allergic). Yummy!


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