I love to cook. I have a blog. Today, and probably a few more times in the future, I will post about cooking on my blog. Questions, concerns, and hangups may be directed to the management.
I once had a friend who didn’t understand the fetishization of chocolate. He so resented its common acceptance as The Best Sweet that he systematically avoided it in almost all of its forms.
For this, I thought he was a fool. We argued about it now and then. I’d sulk whenever he ordered apple crisp; he’d turn up his nose at my black-bottom pies. Then, for his birthday one year, I got him a pile of premium, pedigreed chocolates. He ate, kibitzed, and then confessed that some selected chocolates–especially those with inventive flavor combinations–were actually pretty good.
As good friends do, I shamed him for his error at every opportunity.
A few years later, as thanks for a favor, I sent him chocolates. Because I knew he’d appreciate their weirdness, I chose chocolate-covered sea salt caramels. And for a little extra humiliation, I made them myself.
They were remarkable: smoky and rich, with a lush texture a few shades shy of chewy. Rather than distract from the flavors, the salt brightened the fruitiness of the chocolate and made its low notes deeper. I knew he would love the caramels, and he did. To prove it, he spewed vitriol. Delicious.
Unfortunately, we’re no longer friends. But me and this caramel recipe, we’ll be together forever.
Chocolate-covered Fleur de Sel Caramels
Adapted from Gourmet, October 2004
I have used Callebaut dark chocolate with excellent results. Other good options include Valrhona and El Rey. If you prefer a sweeter taste, you may use milk or semi-sweet chocolate instead, but the results will lack the depth of the dark chocolate caramels, and your friends will think you a Philistine.
1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 teaspoons Fleur de Sel or another carefully-chosen salt of your choice
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
12 oz. dark chocolate
Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, then lightly oil parchment.
Bring cream, butter, and 1 tsp of your chosen salt to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside.
Boil sugar, corn syrup, and water in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil, without stirring but gently swirling pan, until mixture is a deep, dark shade of gold.
Carefully stir in cream mixture (mixture will bubble up) and simmer, stirring frequently, until caramel registers 248°F on thermometer, 10 to 15 minutes. Pour into baking pan and cool 2 hours.
Turn out onto a flat surface and cut into 3/4-inch squares (I use a pastry cutter dipped in cold water for this). Place squares in freezer. Melt chocolate in a double boiler (you may temper it first, if desired). Dip squares in chocolate (I do this by impaling each on the tip of a knife, dipping in the chocolate, tapping lightly once or twice on the edge of the double boiler to remove excess chocolate, then pushing off the knife onto the cooling surface with a toothpick). Place each square on wax or parchment paper to cool. Sprinkle each with a pinch of Fleur de Sel while warm. Wrap individual pieces in wax paper when cool. Mortify.