I don’t think I’m alone when I say there is something about salted caramel that sends me weak at the knees. I’m totally addicted.
Several months ago, Suzanne and I made D a surprise gingerbread house while he was at a conference one Saturday. We made many of the things from Adriano Zumbo’s Hansel and Gretel house, including the jubes, freckles, marshmallows and salted caramel chocolate bars. The salted caramel chocolate bars were by far my favourite element of the house.
I’ve since made the bars and salted caramel filling many times as I think that this caramel recipe is the best, both in terms of flavour and technique. It produces a thick and rich caramel that is not only good to fill chocolates with, but can be bottled up and used as a spread – or you can simply eat it with a spoon straight out of the jar. I might be guilty of doing that once or twice, but who’s counting! It’s a bit thick to pour straight out of the jar (say onto ice cream), but that’s nothing a little bit of gentle re-heating can’t fix!
Be sure to use the best quality butter/cream/salt you can find/afford. It will make a difference to the final product.
To make the chocolates, you’ll need chocolate moulds that are deep enough to be filled – we used the bar ones from Choc Art at the top of this page, and these round Silikomart ones – I don’t have a preference for either the silicone or plastic moulds – I guess it just depends on the shape(s) you want. As you’re going to have to temper the chocolate, you’ll also need a palette knife, a thermometer and a clean benchtop!
I’ve suggested 500g of chocolate as a starting point – the number of chocolates you make will depend on the moulds you use. I’ve found this is a good quantity to start with and you can always temper more if required.
Salted Caramel – makes about 3 cups
1.5 vanilla beans, seeds scraped
195g thickened cream
300g unsalted butter, cut into approximately 25g pieces
6g sea salt/fleur de sel
Place the sugar and vanilla bean seeds into a clean saucepan and heat very gently over a low flame. Let the sugar take its time to melt. Try not to stir it too much. If the sugar does clump, continue to let it heat and the sugar should all melt. Add in the cream and whisk until combined. When you add the cream, it is likely to start bubbling, so you need to be ready with a whisk when you pour the cream in.
Reduce the heat and add the butter block by block, mixing well after each addition. Don’t try to add too much butter at once as your mixture is likely to split (I learnt this one the hard way!). Add the salt, stir and allow it to cool. As the caramel cools it will thicken. Either pour into sterilized jars for safekeeping, or place into a piping bag to use to fill the chocolates.
500g of your favourite, or the best quality you can afford, milk or dark chocolate
Finely chop/grate your chocolate and place it in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water – be sure that the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl. Stir with a rubber spatula until 80-90% of the chocolate is melted and continue to stir off the heat until smooth and shiny. The temperature should be around 50 degrees celcius (don’t let it get hotter than this or it will ruin the chocolate).
Pour 2/3 of the chocolate onto a cool work bench – keep the rest of the chocolate warm by sitting it over the warm water but off the heat. Using a large palette knife, work the chocolate from side to side on the bench until it reaches 26 degrees.
Scrape the chocolate off the bench back into the remaining 1/3 chocolate and stir – the temperature should be between 30 and 32 degrees. The chocolate is now ready to use.
Fill the moulds completely with chocolate and then turn the moulds over onto a bowl to catch the chocolate that will drip out. Place the moulds in the fridge for a minute or two to harden, then pipe the caramel inside (be careful not to overfill) before pouring more chocolate over the top and smoothing over the top with the palette knife.
Place in the fridge to set completely before turning out.