In honor of Presidents' Day, we'd like to highlight our Commander-in-Chief's favorite snack, Smoked Salt Caramels. This recipe is sure to leave your head spinning with delight, trying to catch up with your taste buds. This treat has the 3 S's that are the key to pure unregulated joy: Sweet, Salty and Smokey.
The keystone of this standout recipe is the smoked salt. It's easy to do but does take an investment of time. Take sea salt (also known to fancy francophiles as 'fleur de sel'), however much you want to smoke, and spread it out on a tray and smoke in your Traeger for about 24 hours, stirring the salt around every 8 hours or so. Make you sure you keep an eye on those pellets so you don't end up wasting time trying to smoke with an empty hopper. Been there, done that.
After it's done smoking for 24 hours, put the salt in a jar and you're ready to start smokin' up some delicious dishes!
Making caramels isn't as difficult as it seems, but it takes a keen eye. The patience completely pays off when these delectable morsels melt down your throat.
- Prep an 8x8 inch square pan by lining it with parchment paper, allowing it to hang over each of the sides by a couple inches. Brush the paper with oil. Don't skimp on the oil because if they stick, you'll spend a whole lotta time trying to free those caramels.
- In a deep saucepan, combine 1/4 cup water, 1 1/2 cups sugar and 1/4 cup light corn syrup. *Good tip - if you coat the measuring cup with cooking spray before you measure the corn syrup, it will all come out like a slip-n-slide. And it makes cleanup a lot easier too!
- Bring them to a boil over medium-high heat. Don't stir the pan -- just swirl it. (Stirring it disrupts the caramelization.) Boil until the mixture is a warm golden brown, looking something like this:
- In the meantime, in a small pot, heat 1 cup heavy cream, 5 tablespoons of butter and 1 teaspoon of the Smoked Sea Salt. Simmer over medium heat until the butter is melted. Turn off the heat and set aside.
When the sugar mixture is golden brown, turn off the heat and slowly add the cream mixture to the sugar mixture. Be careful because it will bubble and spit like an angry cat.
Stir in 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract with a wooden spoon and cook it over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes or until the mixture reaches 248 degrees F. This is where the patience and good observation comes into play. Keep an eye on that candy thermometer. If it's under temperature, the caramels will be too soft and if it's over temperature, the caramels could crack your tooth. But, don't worry because the temperature creeps up slowly, so catching it at the right temp is totally doable.
- Pour the gooey, bubbly and very hot caramel mixture into the prepared pan and refrigerate for a few hours, until firm.
- When the caramel is cold, pry the caramel sheet from the pan and onto a cutting board. Cut the caramels into bite-size pieces.
- The best part is letting your creative side take control. If you're not a chocolate-lover (it can happen!) you can simply sprinkle some more Smoked Sea Salt on top of each piece and then wrap them with parchment paper to prevent them from forming a massive caramel clump.
If you are a chocolate-lover, melt some chocolate and drizzle it over the top of the caramels. (Try using bittersweet to balance the sweetness of the caramels.) Then sprinkle the hot chocolate with Smoked Sea Salt.
No matter what you do, it's really hard to go wrong with these beauties. The smell alone is intoxicating and probably should be illegal. Although we don't have his official seal, I'm pretty sure the President would approve this message.