Beautiful Day

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Salted Caramel Chocolates

I remember discovering the sweet-salty-chocolate combination at Starbucks in their hot chocolate.  I was immediately hooked.  However, I make it a point to only visit Starbucks on occasion, usually on a date with my  husband or as a place to talk with one of my children or a good friend.  We have a family joke about Starbucks now as a result of a funny tour we took in Seattle during festivities surrounding a family wedding.  On that tour every time we passed a Starbucks (which you can imagine is VERY often in downtown Seattle), the bus driver said we all had to say in a loud sing-songy voice, "Starbucks....Cha-Chiiiing!"  I guess you had to be there.  All of that to say, I didn't want to spend any small fortunes on Salted Caramel Hot Chocolates and any time I go out and find something I like, I get busy and get to work trying to copy it at home!  Which has been very successful, by the way.

Then I went to Trader Joe's and discovered their chocolate-covered caramels.  Again, I didn't want to make it a regular habit or anything.  But it gave me an idea...and something I wanted to try.  You see, I am that person who would gladly pick through a box of chocolates trying to find the one that was a covered caramel.  And I would not be so happy if I happened to get a creamy-centered one or worse, a chocolate-covered cherry!!  (My husband still teases me anytime we walk down a candy aisle and he sees chocolate-covered cherries because he knows how it makes me squirm).  So, back to the test kitchen.....

In honor of Valentine's Day I decided I would do two things:  a.) make my own caramels and b.)cover them in chocolate.  Then, I had a brilliant thought....let's try salted caramel chocolates!

Here's my recipe:

Salted Caramel Chocolates

1 cup unsalted butter
2-1/4 cups brown sugar
1 cup organic light corn syrup
1 (14-oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
3/4 to 1 tsp. salt
1 lb. good quality dark chocolate

Grease an 8x8 inch square pan.  

In a heavy 4-quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat; add brown sugar, corn syrup and milk.  Stirring constantly, heat to 242 to 248 degrees F (116 to 120 C) or until a small amount of syrup dropped in cold water forms a firm but pliable ball.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract and salt.  Pour into prepared pan. 

Let caramel cool and set on counter.  You can put it into the refrigerator after a bit, but when you cut it you want it to be soft enough to actually cut.  If it stays cold too long, it will be very chewy and hard to cut.  Cut into 1-inch squares and place on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper.  Chill in refrigerator until firm.

Chop chocolate into small pieces or shavings.  Melt chocolate in the top of a double boiler.  Stir until smooth.  Dip caramel squares in chocolate and return them to the wax paper-lined cookie sheet to cool.  Sprinkle them with just a little coarse salt.  

My whole family LOVED them.  I might have to make them more than once in this year.  And I would like to try making my own sweetened condensed milk next time too.  I don't favor corn syrup in anything, but I did use organic in hopes it was healthier.  I wasn't ready to experiment with maple syrup or honey as a substitute and I'm still not sure I would.  But I was happy with my adaptations and delighted with the results. They make a very special treat for dear ones.

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