Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Kicking it with Caramel: Lavender Fleur de Sel Caramels

I was talking to a neighbor (and fellow baker) recently who was telling me she had been on a candy making kick lately. I nodded knowingly as I’ve been on that “kick” before myself. I’ve long been smitten with Michael Recchiuti’s Chocolate Obsession cookbook and break it out from time to time to try another of his delicious recipes for chocolate truffles, caramels, and other indulgent treats. His recipe for Fleur de Sel Caramels was the first iteration of sea salted caramels I ever made. I highly recommend trying his recipe, or even better, if you’re in San Francisco, look up his store at the Ferry Building Marketplace.

Around the time that I first fell in love with Mr. Recchiuti’s cookbook, I was shopping in Cissi’s Market and happened upon a local chocolate maker, Fat Turkey Chocolate Company, offering tastings of their handmade chocolates. I tried the Lavender Caramel with Black Sea Salt from the Dolce de Leche Collection. It was so good I couldn’t get it out of my mind. So I looked up Fat Turkey’s website to check out all of their chocolate offerings and was excited to see all of the amazing and varied flavors. Before I could help myself, I had clicked on the Contact page of the website and sent an email praising their scrumptious chocolates and asking if they ever accepted volunteer labor.
Happily, Jennifer emailed back shortly and graciously offered to let me come and work with her and her husband, Steve, for an afternoon. Flattery will get you everywhere! On the appointed date, I donned an apron and joined them to make varied caramel fillings and learn to dip and coat truffle shells. Steve offered good advice on making caramels and Jennifer counseled me on tempering chocolate. Plus, I got to sample plenty of chocolates and made a new favorite- the lemon basil caramel is amazing! When I left I was covered in chocolate and a little queasy from all the sugar I had ingested, but I had a blast and was sent home with a goodie bag of chocolate pools and barks. I wish all work days were so productive and rewarding!
Inspired by Fat Turkey’s Lavender Caramel, I decided to attempt a home version. I found a recipe on Desserts Magazine and the result was delicious. When the candy conversation with my neighbor reminded me what a treat these caramels are, I decided to make another batch. I’ve coated these caramels in chocolate in the past but they are just as yummy naked. Either way, I guarantee you won’t be able to eat just one! 

Lavender Fleur de Sel Caramels
Dessert Magazine
*I deviated from the original recipe a bit and increased the amount of cream and lavender

1 1/2 c heavy cream
3 t lavender buds
2 c sugar
1/2 c light corn syrup
1/3 c honey
6 T unsalted butter, cubed
1 t vanilla extract
1 t + 2 t fleur de sel
vegetable oil

1. Line an 8 x 8 inch baking pan with parchment paper, crisscrossed and extending over the sides of the pan. Grease the parchment lightly with vegetable oil.
2. In a heavy 4 quart sauce pan, bring the cream, lavender, and 1 t fleur de sel to a boil.
3. Add the sugar, corn syrup, and honey and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture reaches 257 degrees Fahrenheit on a candy thermometer, approximately 15 to 20 minutes.
4. Remove the sauce pan from heat and carefully stir in the butter, vanilla, and remaining 2 t of salt. Pour into prepared baking pan and let cool. Sprinkle additional fleur de sel on top of cooled caramel.
5. When completely cool, invert the caramel onto a cutting board and peel off the parchment paper. Coat a chef's knife lightly with vegetable oil and cut the caramel into eight 1-inch wide strips; then cut each strip into 1/2 inch pieces. 

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