25 February 2011

bourbon caramels (salted, chocolate covered, with pecans, or not)

One of my favorite things in this world is caramel. Another one of my favorite things is bourbon. So, it only made sense for me to make bourbon caramels. I also like pecans and chocolate and sea salt, so I threw some of those in too. Of course if you don't like bourbon, or don't have any around like I always do, you can just use vanilla. Easy-peasy.
I made a few iterations of these candies and love them all! I was going to do a taste off and tell you which is my favorite, but I can't. I really can't; they are all so good!! I love chocolate so, so much, and the caramel-pecan covered in chocolate is so pretty, but then there is the salted caramel, which, oh, is just amazing. Luckily, I took photos of them all, so you can decide which (if not all) you want to make! Each photo follows with a short description, in case it isn't obvious.
 Nuts sprinkled on warm caramel (before caramel set), then when set submerged in chocolate & topped with a few pecans.

Original caramels, caramels sprinkled only with sea salt, and caramels topped with pecans before caramel set.

Caramels with tops dipped in chocolate then sprinkled with pecans.

Caramels either submerged in chocolate or not. Both drizzled with chocolate with a fork and both without nuts.

I don't know what to tell you other than that these caramels are to die for. They aren't too terribly hard to make or even very time consuming, and it is so rewarding in the end to have that little pretty piece of candy you know you made yourself. What isn't rewarding is when you realize you ate them all in record time (I'm not giving numbers here, people)... but it felt so rewarding along the way. Enjoy and happy weekend!

p.s. tweet me and let me know what you think!!

bourbon caramels
notes: If you want to make traditional caramels (as in not bourbon flavored), add 1 tsp vanilla instead of the bourbon. To decorate, see tips in the recipe and below the photos in the post above. Also, I love the salty-sweet combination, but I know everyone doesn't (i.e. Kevin), so salt as little or as much as you prefer on all of the different iterations (chocolate or not).

for caramels:
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 tsp sea salt + more for sprinkling (I used pink Himalayan)
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c light brown sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 Tbsp whiskey (or 1 tsp vanilla)
1/2 to 1 c toasted pecans, optional

for dipping chocolate:
4 oz semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1/2 tsp canola oil

Line the bottom and sides of a 9-inch square baking dish with parchment paper and lightly oil the paper. 

Combine all ingredients except whiskey (or vanilla) and nuts in a medium pot and head on medium-high until it begins to boil, stirring frequently. Once boiling, insert a candy thermometer into mixture, turn heat down to medium and cook until mixture reaches 245 degrees F, gently swirling but not stirring occasionally. Monitor temperature closely at the end, so mixture does not reach 250 degrees F.

Remove pot from heat, and gently stir in whiskey (or vanilla). Pour into prepared dish. If using, sprinkle pecans on top while caramel is still warm. Let cool at least a couple of hours or until set. Cut caramels into bite size pieces. If not dipping in chocolate, sprinkle with extra sea salt (if desired) and serve.

To melt chocolate, place chocolate in a bowl set over simmering water. Stir occasionally until completely melted. Stir in canola oil. 

To cover caramels in chocolate, place caramel on a fork and quickly roll in chocolate to completely coat. Do this as quickly as possible. Using two forks may help. Once coated, remove from chocolate with fork, shake off excess and place on a piece of parchment or on a silpat. Alternatively, dip just the top of caramel into chocolate then place on parchment or silpat. Once all chocolates are covered, top with any extra nuts, salt, or other topping, then place in refrigerator about 30 minutes to let chocolate set.
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