Sage Dark Chocolate Caramels with Sea Salt (Fleur de Sel)


I’ll be the first to admit that this was a really tricky recipe to figure out.  It isn’t hard to do, it just took me a couple tries to get the relative quantities right.   For the sake of other experimenters, I’ll share the things I learned.  The first time I made the caramel part, I let it get too dark and it tasted burned (that’s why there are so many pictures under step 1).  The second time I made it, I added some chocolate to the caramel mixture before letting it set.  While this tasted okay, the chocolate overpowered the caramel.  I also over-melted the chocolate that I was using to coat the candies, so it didn’t set right.  As the saying goes, third time’s the charm- so that’s the recipe below.

Ingredients

8-12 oz. dark or semisweet chocolate (I use 72% dark from Trader Joe’s)
2/3 cup sugar
4 tablespoons water
6 drops lemon juice
2/3 cup whipping cream
1/4 teaspoon sea salt (fleur de sel)
1/2 tsp sage
Additional sea salt (fleur de sel) to sprinkle on top

Preparation

1.  In small saucepan, mix the sugar, water, and lemon juice.  Stir over medium heat until the sugar dissolves (~5 mins, see first picture below).  Increase the heat to medium high and boil until the syrup is a medium amber color (~15 min, see second picture below).  While the syrup is boiling, do NOT stir (I know it’s hard, but it messed up when I stirred it the first time I tried).  As soon as the syrup turns a medium amber color, add the cream- be careful because the syrup will bubble a lot.  Stir it over low heat until the caramel thickens and is smooth (~30 mins, third picture below).

2.  In a mortar and pestle, grind the salt and sage together until it’s a fine powder.  If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, use a small bowl and the backside of a butter knife to grind it.


3.  Mix the salt/sage powder into the caramel mix until it’s uniform.  Coat a 7 x 5 inch glass container with a thin layer of butter.  Pour the mixture in and refrigerate until it hardens (2-3 hours, see first picture below).  Once the caramel is firm, remove it from the fridge and cut it into ~1/2 inch squares (see second and third pictures below).


4.  Place 4 oz of chocolate in a small bowl.  Melt it in the microwave for 10 seconds and stir it.  Continue to do this in 10 second increments until it’s completely melted.  Using a fork, dip a caramel square in the chocolate, coat it well, and let the excess chocolate drain off.  Try to do this quickly, so that the caramel isn’t in the chocolate for too long.  Transfer the square to a piece of wax paper and sprinkle the top with the a little bit of sea salt.  Repeat with remaining caramel squares.  As you run low on the melted chocolate, add more to the bowl and melt it in the microwave as described above.


6.  Let the caramels set for 1-2 hours.  You can store them in the refrigerator if you want to, but serve them at room temperature.


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