* 8" square baking pan
* Parchment paper
* Candy thermometer (or a deep-fat thermometer)
* Wax paper for wrapping or paper candy cups
Yield: About 40 caramels.
* Line the bottom and sides of the pan with parchment paper and lightly oil the paper.
* Bring the cream, butter and sea salt to a boil in a small saucepan; remove from heat and set aside.
* Boil the sugar, corn syrup, and water in a heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a boil, without stirring but gently swirling pan; then cook without stirring until the mixture reaches 248°F, the firm-ball stage.
* Carefully stir in the cream mixture—the mixture will bubble up. Simmer, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes. The temperature should not go higher than 250°F.
* CANDYMAKER TIP: To get the caramel consistency you want, test by dropping a spoonful of caramel into a bowl of cold water. It will form a ball, which you can test with your fingers. Stop cooking when the ball is the consistency that you want.
* Pour the mixture into the baking pan and cool 2 hours.
* OPTIONAL: You can enrobe your caramels in tempered melted chocolate; sprinkle the top with some grains of sea salt (pretty salts make a difference); or press in some culinary lavender buds.
* Cut into 1-inch pieces, then wrap each piece in a 4-inch square of wax paper, folding ends or twisting to close like taffy.
* ALTERNATIVE: Pour the caramel into individual candy cups.
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Un-Gift Guide 2007: Wrapping Homemade Candy
Candy-Making Basics: How to Work with Sugar
Un-Gift Guide 2007: Old-Fashioned Candy Goodie Bags