Monday, December 22, 2014

Bourbon Salted Caramels

I started making caramels around the holidays a couple years back, just on a whim. It seemed easy, and the homemade caramel I'd eaten was delicious, so I knew the payoff would be worth the effort. And it is.

Patience isn't my strong suit, and it does take a little while for the caramel to reach the perfect temperature. Like 45 minutes. The sugar mixture hits 220°F pretty quickly, but it takes f  o  r  e  v  e  r for it to get another 20 degrees hotter. I usually try to find something else to do in the kitchen to pass the time, like work on dinner. It's not a good idea to leave the room while sugar is cooking, because sometimes it rises up while boiling, and hot sugar spilling all over the stove top would be bad news. I have found that caramels made with sweetened condensed milk, rather than heavy cream, are a bit less likely to boil over, but I still watch that pot like a hawk.

These caramels have a rich, dark, flavor, because of the brown sugar. You can use white sugar instead, if you want, for a lighter flavor. And I suppose, if you don't like bourbon, you can use another type of liquor. Rum might be nice, for example, or Kahlua.

Brown Sugar Bourbon Salted Caramels

1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup water
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
1 stick butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons bourbon
1/2 teaspoon salt
Sea salt

Cut a length of parchment to fit the bottom of an 8" square metal baking pan, with about 6" overhang on each side. Set aside.

Put both sugars, corn syrup, and water in a 2 quart saucepan. Turn heat to medium and stir sugars to combine. Cook until bubbly, 3-4 minutes. Add the can of sweetened condensed milk and the butter, and stir until the butter is melted. Clip a candy thermometer to the pan. Make sure the tip of the thermometer is in the syrup, but not touching the bottom of the pan.

Close, but no cigar. 
Continue to cook syrup over medium heat until thermometer reaches 240°F. It's likely the temperature will jump to 220° pretty quickly, then take half an hour or so to get the rest of the way to 240°.

Once the syrup has reached temperature, remove from the heat, remove the thermometer, and quickly stir in the bourbon and salt.

After pouring into pan. The stuff sets up pretty quickly, but should be completely cool before cutting.
Pour into prepared pan, sprinkle with sea salt, and allow to cool completely before cutting into squares. Wrap each in waxed paper and store in a zip top bag in the fridge (they'll stay fresher that way). Allow to come to room temperature before eating.

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