Sunday, January 5, 2014

Buttery Vanilla Bean Caramel with Sea Salt

Maybe it should be named "I can't stop eating this" caramel!

I just made caramel from a recipe that worked fine before. The recipe calls for honey, and I used some nice local stuff. Unfortunately, the honey flavors intensified while cooking, detracting from the true caramel flavor. Back to the drawing board!

After discovering how amazing fancy imported butter is in shortbread cookies, I wanted a recipe with a lot of butter. Other criteria were salt, vanilla, no honey, no sweetened condensed milk, but with corn syrup (the non-fructose kind). The closest recipes I found were these two, which I combined: and

This caramel is simply amazing! Use heavy whipping cream, vanilla bean, and the expensive foil-wrapped imported butter, and you won't be sorry.

At the lower temperature (240°F), it was very soft, still on the oozy-side until refrigerated. At 250°F, it should be on the tooth-grabbing side. Theoretically, 245°F would be in the "sweet spot" where it cuts nicely and holds its shape, without gluing your teeth together.

Buttery Vanilla Bean Caramel with Sea Salt


  • 1/2 cup salted, imported butter (1 stick)
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 vanilla bean or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse or flaked sea salt, + 1/4 tsp


  1. Generously butter a 9 x 5 inch loaf pan; set aside.
  2. Combine chopped butter and cream. Heat just enough to melt the butter. Scrape vanilla bean into the butter/cream mixture, if using. Set mixture aside.
  3. In a small (~2 quart) lidded saucepan, combine corn syrup and water. Slowly add the sugar, avoiding contact with the sides of the pan. Wait for the sugar to become fully moistened, stirring slightly if necessary.
  4. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce to medium. Cover for 1 min, to wash any sugar crystals off the sides of the pan. 
  5. Remove the lid and insert a candy thermometer. Cook until 320°F, then remove from the heat; it will be a light amber color around the edges. Carefully add some of the butter and cream mixture. The candy will bubble and foam up as the water in the cream boils. Stir with the candy thermometer to incorporate. Continue adding the remaining cream and butter; the foaming will decrease as the candy cools.
  6. Return to medium heat until the caramel reaches a temperature of 240°F for a soft caramel, 250°F for chewy. Immediately remove from heat, stir in 1/2 tsp salt and vanilla extract (if using), and pour into the prepared pan.
  7. Cool an additional 3 1/2 hours, then unmold. If the caramel is too soft to work with, refrigerate to firm up. Cut into desired pieces with a large sharp knife. Wrap caramels in plastic wrap or waxed paper.

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