Christmas Candy Recipes: Chocolate Covered Caramels with Sea Salt

by Pamela

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The Christmas candy recipes parade marches on and chocolate covered yummies is definitely trending this week (at least on this site).  On Monday, you saw chocolate covered strawberries and today I give you chocolate covered caramels – with sea salt.  Wait until Friday’s drink post.

Last year I posted a recipe for sea salt caramels that was pretty popular.  Not only was this one of the most popular candy recipes on the site, but the people who received the caramels in their gift packages were begging for more, long after the holidays.  So I had lots of opportunities to play with the recipe and the technique of making them.

I started dunking some of the sea salt caramels into bittersweet chocolate.  Sure, I’ve had my share of caramel and chocolate candies over the years, but after realizing that homemade caramels took me to nirvana I thought giving them a bath in some bittersweet caramels and put the salt on top of the chocolate.  Little did I know that I would be creating a monster a Chocolate Covered Caramels (with sea salt) monster.  It got to the point where I had to get them out of the house soon after they cooled.  Craig would come home from work and find the tell-tale chocolate crumbs that I had been snacking (ok, making a meal out of) chocolate covered caramels.  I would strongly advise against doing this…but then I would be a hypocrite, wouldn’t I?

Updates from the original recipe:

  1. Added a tablespoon of vanilla extract to give a more distinct flavor when dipping in chocolate.
  2. Stir, stir, stir.  Stirring continuously after adding the cream and butter gives a softer/chewier caramel that’s perfect for coating.

Tips for making the best caramels:

  1. Use a heavy saucepan.  You need something that conducts heat evenly. (Don’t use a non-stick pan…you don’t need it.)
  2. Use a good, clip on the pot, candy thermometer.  Temperature is critical when making caramels.  Don’t use one of those probe thermometers, you’ll break it because the cord will (at some point) get too close to the flame or bottom of the hot pot and be nuked.
  3. Do not use ultra pasteurized heavy cream.  You can use pasteurized cream.
  4. Use the freshest cream and butter to get the very best flavored caramels.
  5. If you are having some difficulty cutting the caramels, you can slightly heat the blade of your knife before cutting.
  6. I’ve made a video so that you can see what it’s like when you make the caramel: How to Make Caramels Video

Relationship Advice

Speaking of sticky stuff…and no, I’m not going there.  I’m talking about situations.  Sticky situations seem to be a bit more prevalent this time of year. You can print this out and keep it in your purse and think of it as a reference guide to get you through the holidays.

Your male co-worker or boss is drunk at the company holiday party and keeps making passes at you – Convince him to go into the copy room with you.  Get him to drop his drawers and put his business on the copier.  Push the button (the copier button) make 3 copies…give him 1 as a little momento of your precious time together and you keep the other 2.  You may just have gained job security, a promotion or a cash settlement that will keep you in Louboutins for at least a couple of years.

You’re out with your friends and your best friend’s guy kisses you or puts his hand up your skirt – Of course your girlfriend didn’t see this so you must scream at the top of your lungs (and in stacatto)”What-in-the-hell-are-you-doing-you-pervert!”  Next, either stomp on his foot (really hard with your 5″ heel) or throw your drink over his head.  I give you the option of foot stomping in case you’re drinking one of those $15 cocktails and he’s not even worth the ice that’s in the glass.  Then get out of the way and let your girlfriend take over the demasculinizing that’s about to follow.

As a favor to one of your friends, you’ve gone to a holiday party with one of their co-workers and he talks non-stop about Star Trek – Since it’s obvious no Klingons are coming to your rescue and your friend is hanging out with his date and has left you to fend for yourself you don’t have many options.  First of all, always make sure you’ve got enough money on you to take a cab home or have another friend available to come pick you up.  Try bowing out gracefully with any one of 100 different pat excuses such as: headache, early morning meeting, tired due to a heavy workload from the week.  If none of those work, you will be forced to bring out the big guns.  There’s 2 that always work like a charm – starting your period and diarrhea.  He isn’t going to question either one of those things because guys don’t want to even know about those things and women.  Don’t try and use the upset stomach excuse because he’ll just suggest that you sit down and sip on a ginger ale. He’ll then be at your side asking you, incessantly, if you are feeling any better.  Unless you can back up your queasiness with an actual vomiting on his shoes while he sits there with you…you’ll be stuck for the night. A couple of nights later invite your friend over for dinner and give him food poisoning for putting you through Star Trek hell.

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Chocolate Covered Caramels with Sea Salt Recipe

Makes 50 – 75 pieces

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups Light Corn Syrup
  • 2 Cups Granulated Sugar
  • 1/2 Cup Water
  • 2 Cups Whipping Cream (NOT ultra pasteurized)
  • 1/2 Cup Evaporated Milk
  • 1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter
  • 1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
  • 1 11.5 Ounce Package Chocolate Chips (Bittersweet or 60% Cocoa)
  • Coarse Sea Salt

Directions

Line a 9×13 pan with foil.  Make sure that the foil is fitted well into the corners and sides.  Liberally butter the foil, covering the bottom corners and sides.

In a small saucepan, over  low heat, combine whipping cream, evaporated milk and vanilla.  Whisk to thoroughly combine cream and milk.  Mixture should become hot, but DO NOT BOIL.  Occasionally whisk mixture as long as it is on the heat.

In a heavy 4 quart saucepan (over medium heat) combine corn syrup, water and sugar.  Stir mixture with a wooden spoon until sugar is completely dissolved.  Increase heat and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium low, cover and boil for 3 minutes.

Remove the cover and attach candy thermometer to the saucepan.  Turn heat up to medium.  Continue to gently boil sugar-syrup mixture until it reaches 250 degrees Farenheit.  Do not stir the mixture while you are bringing it up to temperature.  Add the butter and hot cream and milk mixture-slowly.  Combining these will cause some serious bubbling (don’t panic-it’s fine).  The temperature will also drop.  Bring the temperature back up to 244 degrees Farenheit.  After adding the butter and milk mixture, continuously stir the mixture, until it gets to 244 degrees, your caramels will be the soft and chewy kind.

Remove from heat and carefully pour the hot mixture into prepared pan.  Do not scrape the saucepan.  Gently rap the pan to remove any air bubbles.

Let pan sit to cool for at least 12 hours.

To cut, remove caramels from pan by lifting the foil.  Place onto a cutting board.  Use a large heavy knife to cut into desired piece size.

In a medium size glass bowl, melt the chocolate by placing it into the microwave and heating it on high for 30 seconds.  Take it out and stir the chips.  Put it back in for another 30 seconds.  Again, stir the chips.  Continue this process until chips are melted.  It should take around 2 minutes total.  Make sure you stir the chocolate thoroughly each time.  It will probably all melt in the bowl while you’re stirring it on the 3rd of 4th time.  You don’t want to overheat the chocolate or it will break and get all grainy.

Line a sheet pan with wax or parchment paper.

Drop 2 or 3 of the caramels into the melted chocolate at a time.  Using a fork, flip the caramels over to coat all sides.  Lift caramel from the chocolate and let the excess drip off. Carefully lay the chocolate onto the sheet pan.

Sprinkle a few grains of sea salt on top.

Let candy sit for at least 6 hours to harden.

Caramels will keep up to one month in a tightly sealed container.

* You may need to melt another bag of chocolate chips, depending on how thick you coat the caramels.

** I made this recipe and used a 9″ x 13″ pan. You can use an 8″ x 8″ pan if you want the caramels a lot thicker. Just remember, it’s difficult to eat a really thick caramel, so you’ll need to cut them into smaller pieces.

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48 comments

Chocolate society May 12, 2014 at 3:02 am

Book marking this for when the weather cools down. And I can’t believe I’m saying this considering how long this past winter lasted.

Sunni December 22, 2012 at 1:09 pm

Made these using King Syrup instead of regular corn syrup. WOWZAH! Yummy! Yummy! Yummy! King Syrup just adds a deeper flavor.

Pamela December 27, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Hi Sunni,

I’m going to have to try making these with King Syrup. They sound really good.

Sarah December 21, 2012 at 4:56 pm

This was my first attempt and worked out amazingly well. Brought a huge batch to work today and now the office hero! Although I wonder what the diff is in the video link where you bring the sugar, corn syrop and water to 310 and this recipe you only bring to 250 – before adding the cream& butter. It took a long time though to get the temp to creep up and I was tempted to crank the heat but glad I didn’t! Anyway, thank you – it was great fun. I will make these again!

Pamela December 21, 2012 at 7:10 pm

Hi Sarah,

I’m positive you were a GIANT hero at work today since you were willing to share those caramels of yours. I recently added a comment to that video that I have been having to get the temperature much hotter than 250 to get the right color in the sugar before adding the cream. But I still believe that 250 is the best temp. It is quite bizarre how the temp will steadily rise then just stall for a long time. It’s just that last bit of water that needs to leave the pan before the temperature starts to rise again.

I’m so happy the caramels came turned out for you and that you’ll be making them again. I’ve got another batch to make tonight.

Happy candy making! CHEERS!!!!

Nicole December 18, 2012 at 11:21 am

This recipe did NOT work for me. My caramels turned out rock hard and I followed the recipe to a T (even went to 3 grocery stores to find heavy cream that is not ultra-pasturized). Wasted time and money.

Pamela December 18, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Nicole, I am sorry to hear that the caramels came out hard. All is not lost though. You can smash up the hard caramels and use them as an ice cream topping or mix-in for ice cream (the bits will soften more sitting in the moisture of the ice cream). I know that was not your original intention for the caramels.

Rock hard caramels can happen for a variety of reasons and some are out of our control.

Weather and altitude can affect the outcome
An inaccurate thermometer can cause issues (I’ve had this problem before)
and
A too thin pot can cause areas of the caramel mixture to be much hotter than where your thermometer is getting its temperature reading from (this is a big culprit in hard caramels). Using a heavy bottomed pot will definitely help with this.

Don’t give up on making caramels…homemade caramels are really good and making candy, of any kind, takes some practice. Maybe try making 1/2 a batch (and pouring into an 8×8 pan), so that you aren’t spending as much on ingredients. There are lots of other recipes out there for you to try. You may try something from Epicurious. Read through the comment section before you begin to see what others have said about the recipe and many have offered tips too.

Madeline January 12, 2012 at 1:12 pm

I just added this to my recipe binder. Brilliant! My mom LOVES caramel and sea salt, and also loves chocolate, so this will be a perfect thing to make for her! That is, if I don’t eat them all first ;)

Noms December 21, 2011 at 11:32 pm

Thanks for all the awesome recipes! I made a bunch of your stuff for Christmas. The truffles came out great and are beautiful. I made the Mayan spice ones, coated them in cocoa powder and then dusted them lightly with edible gold-colored powder. They are gorgeous! The caramels, well, those are a different story. My caramel came out really soft and gooey. It basically kept melting whenever I tried to handle it. I stuck it in the freezer for a bit to try and harden it up, but it kept melting into a gooey mess. I was able to get them dippable by dipping them while still partially frozen, but when they thawed all the way from the warm chocolate, they flattened out like little pancakes. They were the ugliest caramels in the world- not at all presentable- and I was forced to eat them myself…they tasted yummy, though.

Anyway, since many others have tried the recipe and had great success, I am sure my caramel failure is my own fault. Any ideas what happened to make my caramel all melty and gooey and delicious?

Pamela December 22, 2011 at 9:05 am

Those Mayan spiced truffles are the favorite around here too.

The caramels….sounds like a temperature thing. Caramels are a fickle beast. Cooking them slightly over or under the temperatures leaves them a gooey mess or hard as rocks. I made 2 batches this year that went over the 250 degree mark and had to toss them because they were hard as rocks. Of course they made great hard candies, but that’s not quite what people expect from something that looks like a caramel. Husband almost broke his teeth.

Double check that your thermometer is tracking properly. Put your thermometer into a pot of water. Bring the water to a good rolling boil. Water boils at 212 degrees F at sea level. Keep it in the boiling water for 5 mins and check the temp. Make sure that you are at eye level with the thermometer. (Don’t look at the reading from above) It should still read 212 degrees. If not, your thermometer is off. Just note the number of degrees off that it is and keep this in mind when you use it again.

Merry Christmas to you and your family.

Barb December 20, 2011 at 5:48 pm

I am very upset–followed the recipe exactly but the 12 x 17 inch pan was way too big–the caramel mixture was only about 1/4 inch high- I don’t think I will even be able to dip in chocolate as they are too thin!!! Was the pan size a misprint??????????/

Pamela December 21, 2011 at 10:11 am

Hi Barb,

The pan size wasn’t a misprint but since I’ve heard from a couple of other that they would like them thicker, I will change the pan size (in the recipe to 9×13). If you would like them thicker, to make dipping easier, cut them about 1″ wide by 2″ long. You can then roll them and dip a thicker piece. Use a large, smooth knife, or sharp pizza cutter to make cutting easier.

Marina December 12, 2011 at 11:46 am

Hmm… I made these caramels but substituted golden syrup for the corn syrup due to allergies. It works fine and tastes good… but it will be hard to work with unless you at the very least chill the caramel for a bit before you try to cut it up and send it for its chocolate swim. Tasty recipe though. :)

Nifty Thrifty Me! November 29, 2011 at 5:39 am

I am SOOOO making these again this year (they were such a hit). Again, thank you for the inspiration!

Karl Arcuri November 25, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Is the 12×17 pan correct? We just attempted this recipe and while the caramel came out fine, it spread across the entire pan and looks very thin (like a caramel fruit roll-up). We are thinking now we will have to cut and stack several together before dipping in the chocolate to get a caramel of a decent height like in your photo.

Pamela November 25, 2011 at 1:23 pm

Hi Karl, For this recipe I did use a 12/17 pan and cut the caramels into squares for dipping. The caramel was about 1/2″ thick when poured out. If they’re too thick, they become a bit difficult to eat (chewy, chocolate crumbles…you get the idea). My goal was to make these so that they could be eaten in just one or two easy bites.

You could definitely make this in a 9×13 pan to get thicker caramels and the recipe would work just fine. Including the cooling time.

If you want to make the caramels thicker, using the recipe you just made, you could cut them into pieces and roll them into a thicker width (rather than stacking) which may be a bit easier to manage.

KO December 7, 2011 at 11:37 am

I used a 9×13 pan–my suggestion would just be to cut them smaller, because she’s right–they’re chewy!!! I got lazy cutting and the big ones were a challenge to eat (but at least you’re burning more calories while chewing???).

Also–I used pink Himalayan salt–so pretty!

Terry October 28, 2011 at 7:22 am

Have you ever made the caramels in a mold? If so, any tips? With the holidays coming, I thought it would be fun to make shapes.

Pamela October 28, 2011 at 11:09 am

Hi Terry,
I haven’t made them in molds. But as long as you oil the molds up, really well, before putting the caramel in there you should be able to do it. I wouldn’t use any molds that have a lot of detail to them because the caramel is on the softer side (they aren’t hard caramels), so the details won’t really be there. I’d practice with a batch, or 2, before going with your “official” run.

kimberly taylor October 19, 2011 at 3:07 pm

loved your site! i love to cook & feed my man’s hunger.
i’ll be back for more ideas.
thanks, kimberly :)

Katie March 20, 2011 at 3:27 pm

Hi! I just tried your caramel recipe. Everything was going well until about 200 degrees, when all of the sudden the sugar just started darkening like crazy and ended up just being a big pile of burn-flavored caramel. The heat was on medium, the thermometer was going ok….any ideas why this might have happened? I am so disheartened!

Nifty Thrifty Me! December 31, 2010 at 10:37 am

Success! Thank you so much. It was my candy thermometer that was the problem not me (thankfully). They are so yummy.

Nifty Thrifty Me! December 30, 2010 at 11:06 am

If only I could spell! Must be a bit early for my fingers!

lisaiscooking December 30, 2010 at 10:19 am

I love caramel, and I love caramel with chocolate. Sea salt just perfects it. Wish I had a few of these for a decadent snack this morning!

Nifty Thirfty Me! December 30, 2010 at 9:57 am

I blew this recipe somehow. I’m going to buy a new candy thermometer today and try again! I will not let this failure get me down! I will prevail!

kim December 18, 2010 at 6:49 pm

I could only find ‘ultra pasturized’ heavy cream – though the recipe specifically states not to use that kind. How will it affect the caramels?
Thank you!

Pamela December 18, 2010 at 7:53 pm

You can still make them with the ultra pasteurized. The ultra pasteurized doesn’t get to the same thickness as pasteurized. You’re caramels should be just fine. Make sure you keep stirring the mixture once you add the cream. :)

kim December 19, 2010 at 1:34 pm

Thank you for your help!

Andrea @ Fork Fingers Chopsticks December 10, 2010 at 6:06 pm

I think the hardest part of the recipe is the waiting 12 hours, then 6 to eat. I’m going to try this and will report back. Got to get the thermometer.

Nancy@acommunaltable December 9, 2010 at 9:21 pm

Confession time.. have never made salted caramels but you have inspired me with this post. Have a cookie swap coming up and these would be perfect and a great excuse to (like I need one!) to make them!!

saltyseattle December 9, 2010 at 12:10 pm

while the caramels look divine, i especially appreciated the thoughtful advice! xo, funny, love loved!

tasteofbeirut December 9, 2010 at 11:04 am

Wonderful recipe and I also enjoyed the entertaining writing that accompanied it!

Pamela December 9, 2010 at 11:56 am

Thank you. I hope you make and enjoy them.

fooddreamer December 9, 2010 at 9:34 am

After making sea salt caramels, dunking them in a chocolate bath was the next logical step! Mmmm good!

Pamela December 9, 2010 at 11:56 am

That’s what I thought too!

Brian @ A Thought For Food December 8, 2010 at 9:00 pm

First, I want to know why you weren’t “going there”. Too dirty for you? ;-)

And I’m also a lover of sea salt caramels. It’s one of those foods I find completely sexy.

The Food Hound December 8, 2010 at 8:03 pm

LOVE LOVE LOVE salted caramel! I will have to hang on to this recipe and save it for a gray, cold weekend :)

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