Caramel can be daunting the first time you make it. The two things that will help the most when making this recipe are a candy thermometer and a Silpat (also known as a silicone baking mat). Both are easy to find. A candy thermometer will help prevent overcooking the caramel. If your caramel is slightly undercooked, it’ll be soft but that’s not a huge problem. You can always refrigerate it to firm it up. If you overcook the caramel, it’ll break your teeth! If you’re in doubt, take the pan off the heat. Make sure you have all of your ingredients ready and measured out before you start. Once the caramel starts bubbling, the cooking process will happen very quickly and you’ll keep to keep an eye on the thermometer.
125 g/4.5 oz Collection Etienne 91% Cacao Nocturne Extra Dark Chocolate Bar
300 g/1 1/2 cups sugar
1 Tbsp plus 1 tsp light corn syrup
2 tsp honey
1/3 cup [80 ml] water
165 g/3/4 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled
1/2 vanilla bean (see NOTE)
1/4 tsp baking soda
65 g/1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp salted butter, softened
Fleur de sel for sprinkling
Oil a 8 x-by-8-inch in [20-by-20-cm] cake frame and set on top of a a large piece of parchment paper or Silpat baking sheet. If you don’t have a cake frame, place an 8 x-by-8-inch in [20-by-20-cm] of parchment paper on top of a sheet of aluminum foil that’s about 4 inches in [10 cm] longer on either side. Then roll up the extra foil on all four sides to form a sort of tray around the Silpat.
Set up a hot water bath and melt the chocolate, stirring occasionally, (or microwave the chocolate in 30-second intervals) until the chocolate is smooth. Set aside. In a large saucepan over high heat, whisk together the sugar, corn syrup, honey, and water. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the cream, vanilla bean, and baking soda to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer. Stir the sugar mixture to ensure the sugar has dissolved. Continue cooking until the sugar mixture reaches 293°F [145°C] on a candy thermometer. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the butter. Once the butter has completely melted, pour the hot cream mixture into the sugar syrup in two additions, making sure to not break the boil. Stir well until combined. Stir in the melted chocolate. Turn the stove off and keep stirring until the chocolate is completely mixed in, about 2 minutes.
Pour the hot caramel into the frame or foil. When the caramel has cooled, about 1 to 2 hours, remove the frame, or peel back the foil, and transfer the caramel to a cutting board. (If your caramels are still too sticky to cut, refrigerate for 30 minutes to an hour.) Cut the caramels into the desired shapes and wrap in plastic wrap, wax paper, or in candy wrappers to give as a gift.
Store individually wrapped caramels in a cool place for up to 1 month.