It’s been way too long since I’ve posted, mostly due to the lack of my own kitchen and giving up sweets for Lent. Yes, I gave up sweets for Lent…or did my best, anyway.
So I’ve decided in the last few months that I’d like to learn how to make candy. This, of course, necessitated perusing Amazon and then Barnes and Noble to find the perfect book on making candy. The first book that caught my eye was SugarBaby by Gesine Bullock-Prado (yes, sister to Sandra). Unfortunately, the book hadn’t actually come out yet, which made paging through it a bit difficult. I moved on to Chocolates and Confections: At Home with the Culinary Institute of America next, which is what I ultimately purchased. Candy, here I come! Except, it was still Lent, so instead I made plans to make candy (ie. tortured myself by looking at really pretty pictures of the candy I would soon make).
A few weeks later, Andy and I were moving out of our New York apartment. We were wandering around the city on our “day off” and walked through The Strand (If you’re in NYC, go. Seriously.) and came across a single copy of SugarBaby – 1/2 off! Score! That’s how I came to make these Fleur de Sel Spirals – because even though SugarBaby isn’t as technical, I couldn’t resist the pull of caramel and cream. This recipe is a bit complicated, but totally doable, even for candy virgins. As long as you’re a precise candy virgin. Go buy a candy thermometer – now! The link is to the thermometer that I own, but if you want one less…digital, try this one.
These caramels are absolutely fantastic. They’re along the same lines as a Cow Tail or a caramel creme, which I ate a lot of growing up. This version is definitely a little more grown up – there’s salted caramel involved, as well as some really excellent vanilla fondant. Although they’re a little complicated, I did the entire recipe in about 2 hours, start to finish…that’s not bad for a recipe I had never done before, with techniques I was unfamiliar with. An excellent start to my candymaking journey, for sure.
Fleur de Sel Spirals
Adapted from SugarBaby by Gesine Bullock-Prado
Caramel ingredients (get out your scale!):
360 ml (1 1/2 c.) heavy cream
400 g (2 c.) sugar
240 ml (1 c.) light corn syrup
55 g (1/4 c.) unsalted butter – cut it into small pieces
5 ml (1 tsp.) vanilla extract
10 g + 5 g (2 tsp. + 1 tsp.) sea salt/fleur de sel
1. Prepare an 11″x15″ sheet pan by lining it with parchment paper and spraying it with nonstick cooking spray. I used a 10.5″x15″, which worked, but my caramel was a little thick. I’d even use something a little bigger than 11″x13″ if you have it.
2. Attach a candy thermometer to a large, heavy saucepan (I used a 4.5 qt. stockpot, and it still made me nervous). Over medium-low heat, combine the cream, sugar, and corn syrup. Heat, stirring occasionally. When the sugar has melted, raise the heat to medium and continue stirring until the mixture boils.
3. Once the mixture boils, STOP STIRRING. Cook the caramel to 257 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not stir. You! With that spoon in your hand! Put it down!
4. When the caramel reaches 257, remove it from the heat and stir in the butter. Add the vanilla and 2 tsp. salt, stir, and then pour into the prepared pan. Spread the gooey mess around until it’s a rectangle about 1/8″ – 1/4″ thick. Sprinkle the last 1 tsp. salt on top, then set it aside to cool.
Marshmallow Fondant ingredients:
400 g (2 c.) sugar
120 ml (1/2 c.) water
30 ml (2 Tbs.) light corn syrup
1.5 g (1/4 tsp.) salt
55 g (1/4 c.) unsalted butter
2.5 ml (1/2 tsp.) vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste (I used extract due to lack of vanilla bean paste in my pantry.)
8 g (1 Tbs.) cornstarch, plus extra for dusting
1. Attach your trusty candy thermometer to a small, heavy saucepan (I used the 4.5 qt. pan again, and that was way too big. Maybe a 2 qt.). Combine the sugar, water, corn syrup, and salt over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, and then use a damp pastry brush to wipe down the sides of the pan. I’ve also had some luck with a wet paper towel and tongs when I’ve been sans pastry brush, but please be careful if you try it.
2. STOP STIRRING once the sugar has dissolved. Cook until your thermometer reads 245 degrees Fahrenheit.
3. Pour the syrup into the bowl of your stand mixer, and attach the paddle. Add the butter. Start the mixer on low and raise the speed to medium (I didn’t and about scalded myself with sugar. HOT SUGAR BURNS). Mix until the syrup starts to become translucent. This took very little time at all…maybe a minute or two, but will probably vary on your mixer.
4. Add the vanilla extract or paste, and raise the mixer speed to high, until your syrup starts to thicken and become white and shiny. Reduce the speed to low and add the cornstarch. Beat until the mixture starts to thicken – it’ll look dry and maybe crumble a bit. Stop mixing.
5. Dust a work surface with cornstarch, and dump the fondant out of the bowl. Knead the fondant on the work surface until the fondant is soft and smooth.
To make the spirals:
1. Lay a piece of parchment on your work surface and dust with cornstarch. Using your fingers a a rolling pin, press/roll the fondant on the parchment into a rectangle a little smaller than the caramel. Using the parchment, flip the fondant onto the caramel and center it as best you can…or, if you’ve used enough cornstarch, you may be able to sort of scootch the fondant off the paper and onto the fondant, without the need for a flip. Leave a gap of about 1/2″ on the long sides of the caramel.
2. Using a sharp knife, cut the slab of caramel/fondant in half lengthwise. Starting on the long side of one of the slabs (the side with the 1/2″ gap with no fondant), start rolling the caramel towards the center, like you were rolling up a piece of paper. Repeat with the other slab.
3. Once your caramel/fondant logs have been rolled, transfer one to a cutting board. At this point, my logs were too thick, so I carefully stretched them a little longer, to make them thinner. I kind of pressed them and rolled them on the cutting board until they were a thickness that I liked. I know that’s not a super-scientific direction, but I just made them the size that worked for me.
4. Using a VERY sharp knife, slice your caramel log into 1/4″ – 1/2″ slices. This is easiest if you make very long slices…don’t saw your knife back and forth, but start at the end of the blade closest to your hand and run the entire length of the knife through the caramel, then pull the knife out and do another slice. Once you get the hang of it, it doesn’t take long to do the slices. It took 3 or so runthroughs of my knife for each slice. If your knife starts sticking, run it under hot water to clean off the sugar, and start again.
5. Wrap each slice in a parchment paper square (I had my husband cut a bunch for me while I was slicing the logs). You can store these in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks, but ours lasted about 4 days. We (and our friends, family, and co-workers) ate them really quickly…because they’re AWESOME.